I forgot to mention another one of Chicago's greats: Susie's home cooking. She loves to eat and cook; a girl after my own heart. After a hectic week in New York, I arrived to a home cooked meal at Susie's. How nice is that? It was simple and SO delicious. We had baked chicken with bread crumbs, roasted broccoli, mashed potatoes (with soy milk; couldn't taste the difference), and dinner rolls. There were very few ingredients yet there was so much flavor. While I had eaten at some fairly nice restaurants during my NY travels, this meal by far was the best meal I had all week. I devoured it.
I have to say it is quite the treat and such a luxury when any one cooks for me. Among my friends, I cook the most. So generally when I have people over I cook, otherwise we go out. And while I definitely love to cook and share food with friends, it is so nice to eat meals prepared by others. They taste better when you haven't slaved away! At Susie's, there was nothing to be done. I walked in and dinner was served. No prep, no dishes, nothing. It was just what I needed.
Being with Susie made me think about my other cooking friends and influences. Certainly my mom. She always prepares great food. Among friends, I can count all my cooking friends on one hand: Susie, Sam, Dustin, and Roneil. Come to think of it, all them live in the Midwest, except for me. All but one attended the U of C. I'm the outlier. What does that say?
All my cooking friends have been doing so since at least college, if not before. I was the late bloomer. Dustin knows more about Indian cooking than I do though he can't tell the difference between 2 T and 2 tsp to save his life! In our final two years of college, he lived one block away which was great for me. Once, he came over with two pots in hand because he was in the middle of cooking, and his stove quit working, could he use mine. Then there's Sam, the baker extraordinaire. I remember when her folks sent her a pumpkin they had grown in Maine for our Thanksgiving meal. She baked it and used the puree to make pumpkin muffins which I promptly stuffed myself with. Roneil was the king of vegetarian cooking and he never ever looked at a recipe, not once! He fed me happily and regularly when we lived in DC. He just threw things together and the food always tasted good!
I cook fairly regularly now, and when I reflect on how it is that I got to here, I look at my family and friends. It's not like any of them sat me down and said that I had to cook more. They did what they always did with passion, flare, humor, and style. They shared; it rubbed off and completely inspired me to do the same. I tip my hat to all of you.