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Q&A with Ron Faiola, author of Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round

Author and award-winning filmmaker Ron Faiola's new book, Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round, is the highly anticipated follow up to his first book, Wisconsin Supper Clubs (Agate Midway, 2013).

Featuring interviews with club proprietors and loyal customers, funny anecdotes, as well as beautiful full-color photography, Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round is a second helping of everything that made the first Wisconsin Supper Clubs such a hit. To celebrate the book's publication, we are sharing this Q&A with the author below.

Your first book, Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old-Fashioned Experience, is a runaway hit. In what ways was it different to travel and research the clubs after the success of the first book? Did you approach anything differently? Did you have any encounters with fans?

Obviously the supper clubs I went to for the new book were happy to be in the second book, with some owners giving me some good-natured ribbing about not being in the first book. There were two things I did differently this time around. The first was to only visit one supper club per night. For the first book, I was on a tight deadline and would have to do two or, on the rare occasion, three supper clubs per day. This time, doing one per night meant I was there when the kitchen was active and customers were there. The second thing was that I asked the owners to invite customers, friends, and family to be at the club while I was doing the profile so they could socialize and enjoy the food. It worked out great in that I was able to get plenty of food photos and try a bit a food myself while the people that were invited got to enjoy some great meals.

 

Why did you decide to go back for “another round”?

I had originally wanted to visit 100 Wisconsin supper clubs for the first book, but I just didn’t have the time, so I ended up visiting 50 clubs. Once the book was released, the reaction was so terrific that I realized I needed to update my master list and visit 50 more.

 

Let’s say that Ron Faiola is going to open his own supper club. Where would you open it and what items would be must-haves for your menu?

I’d reopen an old supper club, maybe the former Pyramid Supper Club in Beaver Dam.

Who could resist an Egyptian-themed supper club housed in a pyramid in the middle of a cornfield? The menu would have the classic supper club dishes like prime rib, fish fry, and a relish tray with cheese and liver spreads, homemade salads, raw veggies, and ripe green olives. The olives are hard to find, but they are very tasty and unique (and available in Italian grocery stores under the Cento brand).

 

What is the mark of a good supper club?

A full parking lot and a two-hour wait for a table.

 

Why is the cocktail so synonymous with supper clubs? Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that so many clubs seemed to have been friendly with bootleggers during Prohibition?

Supper clubs as we know them today didn’t exist during Prohibition, especially in Wisconsin. They were dance halls or resorts or former taverns that served whatever was available from the bootleggers. After Prohibition ended, the food as well as the cocktails got more sophisticated, especially at supper clubs. Cocktails were a more upscale choice than the usual shot and a beer that was served at a tavern. Of course, in Wisconsin, the supper club cocktail of choice was and still is the brandy old-fashioned, which is enjoyed by both men and women.

 

As in your first book, this book is full of anecdotes about the history of each supper club. What is your favorite story from this round of clubs?

I love the ghost stories because I’m sort of on the fence about ghosts. I’ve never seen one, and I’ve never had a spooky encounter—yet there are lots of people that have these very detailed and very similar experiences at the supper clubs. So I’m like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz . . . I’m all bravado until I meet up with a ghost.

 

This book includes a few reader polls related to traditional supper club offerings, such as relish trays (though we won’t give the results away here). What’s your favorite element of a supper club dining experience?

I enjoy walking in, sitting at the bar, relaxing with a drink, reading the menu, and deciding what to order.

 

You’ve now produced and directed a documentary and published two books—all about Wisconsin supper clubs. How did it all begin?

It started with the economic collapse in late 2008 and 2009. All my corporate video production work disappeared in 2009 and instead of panicking, I decided to shoot a documentary on the Wisconsin Friday night fish fry tradition. No one had done that before, and the film, Fish Fry Night Milwaukee, was immediately licensed by both Milwaukee Public Television and Wisconsin Public Television for broadcast in 2010 and beyond. During production of the fish fry movie, I was looking for a supper club fish fry to feature in the film and realized that no one had documented Wisconsin supper clubs either. That topic became my second film, which was licensed to PBS nationwide. Rick Kogan who is on WGN Radio and writes for the Chicago Tribune wrote a glowing review of the film, which led to a book deal from Doug Seibold at Agate Publishing in Evanston. I agreed to write the book, and the result was huge—both for the book and supper clubs.

Chicago Bears book draft-day discount and first draft pick in team history

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Chicago Bears book draft-day discount and first draft pick in team history

 

In honor of the NFL Draft Day celebrations that are overtaking Chicago, we're offering a Bear-sized discount on our newly published book, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE BOOK OF THE CHICAGO BEARS: A Decade-By-Decade History. The hardcover edition, normally $35, is now only $16 (plus shipping & tax) and the ebook edition is only $12.99.

The Bears have the 11th pick of the first round in tonight's draft, but who will they select? How will the pick match up against previous first-round picks? Who was the team’s very first draft pick?

While no one know who the Bears will pick tonight, we can answer that last question. The Bears' first official draft pick was lineman "Jumbo" Joe Stydahar, selected seventh overall in 1936. He went on to play for the Bears for nine seasons, make four straight NFL All-Pro teams, and earn a spot in the Hall of Fame. He also chose his college by getting in the wrong car and hiding in a fraternity house. See the excerpt on Joe Stydahar from the book below.

Joe Stydahar

Part man, part mountain

Joe Stydahar's football career was interrupted by a stint in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Joe Stydahar's football career was interrupted by a stint in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

The Bears had not yet become the fabled “Monsters of the Midway” in 1936. But they took a giant step in that direction when they selected “Jumbo” Joe Stydahar in the NFL’s first-ever college draft that year.

Stydahar was considered a bit of a reach at the seventh overall pick. His college team at the University of West Virginia was hardly a powerhouse, but George Halas—relying partly on a tip from a Bears end (and West Virginia alumnus) named Bill Karr—grabbed the 6-4, 260-pound tackle. Halas never regretted it.

“Joe was something special for me,” Halas said upon Stydahar’s death in 1977. “Football fans know him as the first lineman drafted in the first round in 1936, as a true All-Pro, as a great football player, as one of the Bears all-time greats and a Hall of Famer. But more important . . . Joe Stydahar was a man of outstanding character and loyalty.”

Stydahar was born March 17, 1912, in Kaylor, Pa. and grew up in Shinnston, West Virginia. He began his football career at the University of Pittsburgh, but left the school under unusual circumstances. An alumnus steered him to Pitt for a week of freshman workouts, after which Stydahar returned home to Shinnston. He was waiting on a street corner for a car from Pitt to pick him up when a car from West Virginia showed up instead. Stydahar was driven to the Mountaineers’ campus in Morgantown, where coach Earle “Greasy” Neale hid him at a fraternity house until Pitt gave up on looking for him.

During 1933–35, under Neale and Charles Tallman and with Stydahar as captain during his senior year, West Virginia’s record was 12-13-5. He played in the East-West Shrine Game and College All-Star Game in 1936 before becoming the first draft pick in Bears history.

Stydahar starred for the Bears during the 1936–42 seasons, making the NFL All-Pro team for four straight years from 1937 to 1940. He spent 1943–44 as a Navy lieutenant, a gunnery officer aboard the U.S.S. Monterey, then rejoined the Bears for the 1945 and ’46 seasons.

Joe Stydahar (13) practices a running play with halfback Bronko Nagurski (3).

Joe Stydahar (13) practices a running play with halfback Bronko Nagurski (3).

 

From there, he went to Los Angeles as an assistant coach for the Rams and in 1950 he took over as the club’s head coach. That year the Rams lost the title game 30-28 when Cleveland’s Lou “the Toe” Groza kicked a last-minute field goal.

“I’ve found out one thing already,” Stydahar said of his early experience as a head coach. “Coaches aren’t supermen. As I see it, there are three basic factors for success. First, you must have the horses, or players. Second, you must keep abreast of the times in the game’s ever-changing strategy. Third, you must have players who want to play for you.”

The next year, the Rams rebounded and beat the Browns 24-17 in the championship game thanks to Norm Van Brocklin’s 73-yard touchdown pass to Tom Fears. It was the Rams’ first title since 1945—when they were based in Cleveland—and the only one the franchise would win in Los Angeles before moving to St. Louis in 1995.

Stydahar and Rams owner Dan Reeves had a falling out and Stydahar quit after the first game of the 1952 season.

“I used my pride instead of my mind,” Stydahar said years later. “I thought I was so big I couldn’t be replaced. Nobody’s that big—not in football, not in anything.”

Late in the 1952 season he hooked on as an assistant coach at Green Bay, then suffered through the 1953–54 seasons as head coach of the Chicago Cardinals, when they posted records of 1-10-1 and 2-10.

Stydahar entered private business in 1955, returned to the Bears as defensive line coach in 1963–64, then retired from the NFL for good,

Once asked what his biggest thrill in football was, he replied:

“Easy. Bears 73, Redskins 0. Nobody who ever played that game (the 1940 NFL championship) will ever forget it.”

In addition to playing tackle, his usual position, Stydahar also doubled as a placekicker and booted an extra point in the 73-0 game. Over the course of his career he attempted 31 extra points in the regular season and converted 28 of them.

 

Stydahar, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, was not one of those old-timers who insisted the good old days were the best old days. He recognized how much the game had changed—for the better—in the modern era.

“I don’t care what the old guys say, I was there,” Stydahar said late in life. “I know, and it’s better now.”

While appearing calm on the outside, Stydahar was a bundle of nerves on the inside, according to Halas.

“He could never eat breakfast on the morning of a game,” Halas said. “In fact, Joe couldn’t even stay in the locker room with the players because he always suffered a series of stomach eruptions starting about one hour before kickoff. The players called Joe’s stomach ‘Old Faithful.’ You could set your watch by it. If some last-minute detail came up, one of the assistant coaches would have to run down to the lavatory to tell Joe about it.

“What Joe needed to quiet his stomach was a couple of good hard tackles—and he always got plenty once the game started.”

 

Jumbo Joe

Born March 17, 1912 in Kaylor, Pa.

Starred at West Virginia University 1933–35

First draft choice in Bears history

Played tackle and occasionally kicked extra points

Member of three Bears championship teams (1940, ’41 and ‘46)

Served in the Navy in 1943–44

Was an NFL head coach with Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Cardinals

Elected into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967

Died March 23, 1977 in Beckley, W.Va., at age 65

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Q&A with Patty Pinner, author of Sweet Mornings

Acclaimed cookbook author Patty Pinner's newest release, Sweet Mornings, compiles 125 of Pinner's favorite sweet and savory breakfast and brunch recipes. These authentic, generations-old recipes hark back to the wholesome basics, helping new bakers build their repertoire and reminding more experienced of the heritage dishes they've made with loved ones. Years of wisdom and kitchen experience are amassed in Sweet Mornings, making it a perfect addition for any home cook in need of reliable morning recipes.

 

Add a little sugar to your mornings with your own copy of Sweet Mornings. A Q&A with Pinner is below.

 

Your family has southern roots, but you grew up in Michigan. How do these recipes combine southern comfort with your midwestern lifestyle?

My family does have southern roots—Mississippi, Tennessee, and New Orleans, to be exact. On the weekends, when time was less structured, the women in my family prepared breakfast and brunch meals that were reminiscent of the morning meals that they grew up eating in the South. 

As I recall, the first "southern" breakfast that I ate was my aunt Frances's. It was large and resembled a full-course dinner more than it did a breakfast. I had never had a breakfast like Aunt Frances's—it included eggs, bacon strips, smothered potatoes with onions, fried chicken, smoked ham, buttermilk biscuits, gravy, fried apples, a berry cobbler, and various home-canned fruit preserves. Before that, I had only heard about the magnitude and diversity of a country breakfast—how they were prepared big and hearty to sustain farmers and their workers while they plowed through their daily farm chores. Now, I was actually living, eating, and enjoying the wonders of one. When I'm cooking breakfast or brunch for company, I often use that meal as my guide. 

My cooking and entertaining rituals are also influenced by my mother and her southern roots. I like to cook savory dishes that are seasoned with chopped onions, garlic, and bell peppers; my mother used to call it the "Trinity" of southern cooking. No good cook prepared a meat dish without her vegetable Trinity. I like to add lots of sugar and butter to my desserts. It was what I was used to, what I have always seen the women in my family do. My mother would call me into the kitchen to see her adding secret seasonings and performing her secret methods to her cooking. This is how I learned to cook, watching the techniques of other cooking women.

When I bake, I like foods that are quick and easy to prepare, recipes that require ingredients that I already have. I actually find comfort in foods that take me back to the security of my childhood. Savoring comfort in everyday life, and in food, is the hallmark of midwestern living.

Patty Pinner, author of Sweet Mornings

Patty Pinner, author of Sweet Mornings

 

Why do you particularly love sweet treats for morning meals?

I grew up in a family that considered breakfast the most important meal of the day. My father was famous in our family for saying things like, "A waking body benefits greatly from the nourishment that a morning meal provides." My mother expressed similar thoughts and so did my extended family. I was surrounded by people who preached the value of good morning nourishment. The pleasure and necessity of a good breakfast are rooted in me.

Growing up, our meals included the usual savory fare—smoked bacon or homemade sausage, eggs, pan-fried potatoes—and a slice of something sweet was almost always included. Those meals were plush, warm, cozy, and welcoming. The coffee cake, bread pudding, sweet loaf, or drizzle of pancake syrup really put a Sunday hat on breakfast or brunch.

A sweet treat displayed on a morning table gives everything a bright, special air. I love the way a sweet addition jazzes up a breakfast. We're all used to the typical breakfast of bacon and eggs, but the addition of sweet pie or cake redefines it.

Cherry Granola

Cherry Granola

 

Have the women in your family impacted your baking?

Even though Sweet Mornings includes a huge selection of recipes and culinary techniques that I've picked up here and there, I am always drawn to the classic recipes and old-fashioned cooking tactics of the women in my family. My mother created moods with food. My grandmother said that good cooking was a woman's glory, and my mother's eldest sister, Marjell, told wonderful food stories. 

I love to make mornings special, just like the women in my family have. I cherish the recipes that were passed down to me. Most of my maternal relatives are wonderful cooks, and when we're together, we talk about food and recipes. We talk about flaky pie crusts, moist cakes, heirloom cookies, and how food was gathered and prepared back in the day. Sometimes that's all we do—on the phone and in person—exchange recipes and talk about food. I don't think anyone would admit it, but we all have a competitive cooking spirit.

Aunt Bulah's Brown Sugar-Hazelnut Biscuits

Aunt Bulah's Brown Sugar-Hazelnut Biscuits

 

Many home cooks are intimidated by making breakfast and brunch. How do you keep it quick and easy in the morning?

I know that many people are rushed in the mornings; there's work, school, and other vital appointments. There are four things that I do when time is of the essence. First, I try to maintain a supply of baggies and storage containers. I use these to store prepped foods for easy access. Second, anything that I can prepare the night before—cutting up fruits or vegetables, for example—I do. Third, when I know that I'll be short on time in the morning, I set out the utensils that I'll need the night before. Last, there are some morning treats that require effort and time no matter what you do. These recipes are better left for mornings when you aren't so rushed. When I want to give my family a quick and easy breakfast with some spark, I serve cereals—hot or cold—in nice dishes, topped with chopped nuts, fresh fruit, or a dollop of whipped cream. It's nothing short of magic, how nice china can add a lilt to a mundane meal.

 

What's next for you as an author?

I am working on a book featuring chocolate desserts: cakes, candies, cookies, pies, and puddings. I've seen many chocolate cookbooks but never one from a black chocoholic's perspective. The proposed manuscript features some of the same people as my previous cookbooks. It is similarly nostalgic, but it highlights stories of chocolate cravings.

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Q&A with Maureen Schulman, coauthor of The Eli’s Cheesecake Cookbook

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Q&A with Maureen Schulman, coauthor of The Eli’s Cheesecake Cookbook

Today is the publication date for The Eli's Cheesecake Cookbook, a title that is 35 years in the making. This book celebrates the anniversary of a signature Chicago dessert and the restaurant where it all began. Opened by Eli Schulman in the late 1970s, Eli's The Place for Steak quickly became a pillar of Chicago's culinary community, a noted celebrity watering hole, and much beloved for its rich and creamy Chicago-style cheesecakes.

The Eli’s Cheesecake Cookbook celebrates the 35th anniversary of Eli’s Cheesecake. Why do you think Eli’s Cheesecake has stood the test of time?

Eli’s has stood the test of time because, plain and simple, Eli’s Cheesecake is a great dessert. We have always put quality first and maintained the standard of excellence put forth by Eli himself. Whether it was at Eli’s The Place For Steak, purchasing the best cuts of meat, or testing sour cream as it went through the culturing process every hour for 18 hours—great quality, excellent ingredients, talented pastry chefs, and dedication to detail always stands the test of time.

Also, Eli’s Cheesecake is different than most cheesecakes in terms of taste and texture. If you like it, you’re a fan for life because nothing else tastes quite like Eli’s. It’s like a souffléed custard on the inside, a little firmer and golden on the top and sides, and not too sweet. My father-in-law is credited with creating Chicago-style cheesecake, and that’s what Eli’s is: richer and creamier than its New York counterpart and baked on an all butter-cookie crust instead of graham. 

 

In the book, you share stories as well as recipes. Which is your favorite anecdote?

When President Clinton came to Eli’s The Place For Steak for dinner and the Secret Service told us we couldn’t tell anyone about his arrival, even the staff. I suggested telling Hal Roach, our great piano bar entertainer, so that he wouldn’t react. The SS said that they would have the President at his table so fast, Hal wouldn’t even notice. The President wasn’t in the doorway for more than a second, when we all heard “Hail to the Chief” being played on the piano!

I also really like the Shrimp Marc story, when my husband was being interviewed for a job at a law firm. After looking at a fairly impressive resume, the interviewer asked him if he was Shrimp Marc.

 

Beyond the obvious differences you describe above (texture, crust), what sets Eli’s Cheesecake apart from other cheesecakes?

I guess you could say we’re control freaks. We do everything ourselves, from having ingredients made to our specifications and selecting certain fruits from specific groves at specific farms to making all our caramels, ganaches, and fruit compotes in house. So basically, nothing goes into or on top of an Eli’s Cheesecake unless we’ve made it, tested it, and tasted it. 

We still do a lot of things the old-fashioned way. There is handwork on almost every cheesecake and dessert we make. We have a decorating line that looks a lot like the candy scene from I Love Lucy. If a cheesecake has a swirl, decorators literally stand there with the skewer and make sure every swirl is beautiful. They dust the cocoa, smooth the tops, pour the caramel—real pastry artists are working on every cake.

 

Why did you include some savory favorites in addition to the many cheesecake recipes?

Eli’s The Place For Steak was a very popular restaurant and had a loyal following. It closed ten years ago, when the building was torn down to make room for Lurie’s Children’s Hospital. People ask us all the time if we will reopen Eli’s because they miss certain dishes. Since the book has a timeline theme to it and the cheesecake was created in Eli’s kitchen as the signature dessert for the restaurant, we thought it would be fun to include the most requested recipes. By far, Liver Eli is the most beloved.   

 

The book discusses how Eli’s took a scientific approach to cheesecake. What’s the secret to creating perfect cheesecakes at home?

Baking is a science, so we felt the best way to approach the recipes was to address the issues that affect the outcome of baking a perfect cheesecake. In the “Demystifying the Cheesecake” chapter, we call out the “Must do’s”: tempering ingredients, adding one ingredient at a time, scraping the mixing bowl after each ingredient addition, mixing slow and long, baking hot and fast, and letting the cheesecake rest at room temperature for an hour before releasing it from the pan. Once you understand those elements, you’ll be able to troubleshoot if your cheesecake turns out to be less-than-perfect and adjust your process for next time.

 

What do you hope readers gain from The Eli’s Cheesecake Cookbook?

Confidence. Cheesecake is traditionally considered an intimidating dessert to make at home. If you do everything outlined in these recipes, the cheesecake will turn out perfectly. And if, for example, the cake cracks, the reader is now armed with the scientific knowledge to address the problem. I think our approach empowers the home cook to not only make a great cheesecake, but to understand the principles behind successful baking. The book provides a jumping-off point to be creative. 

 

What’s next for Eli’s Cheesecake?

Continuing the year-long 35th anniversary celebration and, of course, the sequel to this cookbook. We’re also planning to expand the bakery to meet demand and create new desserts. 

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Q&A with Freda Love Smith, author of Red Velvet Underground

 

 

In Freda Love Smith's new book, Red Velvet Underground, the former Blake Babies drummer and indie-rock musician tells the story of how her rock-and-roll past grew into her family- and food-centric present. Loosely framed around cooking lessons she gave her eldest son, Jonah, before he left for college, Smith recalls behind-the-music stories with the likes of Juliana Hatfield, Evan Dando (Lemonheads), Henry Rollins, and more.

Over the course of the book, which includes 45 flexitarian recipes, Smith reveals how food has evolved into an important means for creativity and improvisation in her life. This memoir is an engaging exploration of the ways food and music have informed identity through every stage of one woman’s life.

To celebrate the book's publication last week, we are sharing a Q&A with the author.

When did you decide to write this book?  

It was an incremental decision, kind of a string of decisive moments. The first moment closely followed my decision to do a year of cooking lessons with my oldest son, Jonah. I was a few months out of finishing my creative writing MA, trying to figure out what to do as a writer. While Jonah and I planned our lessons and made our list of recipes, I thought, hey, I should write about this. The book began as a straightforward document of the lessons, but it quickly began to push against that constraint. I was writing about Jonah’s lifelong love of food and connecting it to his early childhood—when he spent a substantial amount of time on tour with me and my husband, Jake, in our band The Mysteries of Life—and I recalled a time that I observed Jonah, three years old, in preschool. He picked up the toy phone and started talking about strawberries and scrambled eggs—he wanted room service! I felt the book expand out of its framework with that image of my son, who’d moved between worlds, from backstage and sound checks and hotels to a normal domestic life in a small college town, and how I’d moved between those worlds myself, often struggling to reconcile and balance them. As the year of lessons and writing progressed, I couldn’t keep my own stories out of the book. When I’d been Jonah’s age, I had moved to Boston, started the Blake Babies, become vegetarian, and eaten my way across the country. All those stories wanted to interact with my experience as a mother. Once I had the title, the project finally crystallized, and I could clearly see the book I was writing.

Were your experiences with the Blake Babies after your reunion in 1999 (and after the birth of your sons) very different from your initial experiences with the band?

The Blake Babies reunion was mostly a breeze, with none of the intensity, pressure, or struggle that we felt in our earlier years. Not that those early years were all bad. There were plenty of high points, and I’m proud of how hard we worked back then. But the stakes were low for the reunion and we had all significantly mellowed. Recording was fun and easy, and every stop on our brief tour was an opportunity to reconnect with fans and friends. I suspect that I enjoyed it the most. It was a treat for me to play with Juliana and John again, to be able to appreciate them fully for the great musicians that they are, and to revisit my pre-motherhood identity. But I suspect it was also hardest for me. For the first out-of-town show, which was only a weekend-long trip away, I left the still- nursing Henry home with a weary Jake and Jonah and some bottles of milk. Henry was fine. But I was very uncomfortable, pumping every few hours, and when I couldn’t find a place to pump, I had to just do it in the van—modesty was not my primary concern. Poor John and Juliana. I’m not sure I’ve had a more surreal rock moment.

What are your sons’ favorite recipes to cook? What are your own?

Jonah is a senior in college now; he lives in a house in Chicago with three other guys, and most of them can cook, which makes my heart glad. Last year they prepared an entire Thanksgiving feast: turkey, stuffing, pie, everything. Jonah tells me that his specialty in the house is a kind of open-ended variation on the Pasta Fagioli recipe that I gave him when he was in high school, and that I once asked him to cook for me and Henry when I was solo-parenting and exhausted. Jonah calls his current version simply “Greens/Beans/Pasta/Sauce.” I hope he writes a cookbook of his own someday, one for broke 20-year-old college students.

Henry is sixteen and ferociously independent. Recently, Jake and I were going to be out for the evening, and I asked him what he wanted for dinner. I thought maybe we’d leave him money to order pizza. He asked me to buy him a whole chicken and a couple of potatoes, and he cooked himself a full chicken dinner from scratch, using the same recipe that I’d developed when I taught Jonah years ago.

Baking is my original and abiding pleasure in the kitchen. For me, baking is never about sustenance; I don’t bake because I have to, only because I want to. I’ve baked cookies at a couple of different bakeries over the years, and whipping up a batch is easy, almost automatic for me, and I love how excited it makes everybody. Pie is more of a project, but it is my favorite thing to make. There’s a big margin of error, and I’ve raged over my fair share of failures, but when pie is successful it’s absolutely magical. My favorite baking recipe in the book is the blueberry pie, an adaptation of a recipe from the legendary Grit restaurant in Athens, Georgia. I tell the story in the book about how it brought me to tears when I ate a slice on a Blake Babies tour.

What sorts of things did you learn as a touring musician that you were able to apply to motherhood? Has there been anything you learned from being a mom that you were able to apply to your music?


Touring taught me to function on little sleep, to be adaptable to a constantly shifting reality, and to stretch a measly ten-dollar per diem over two meals. These skills proved valuable in parenting. Motherhood softened my heart, taught me that I’m not the most important person in the world, and made me more attentive and empathic, all beneficial attributes for a musician, I think. Motherhood also got me playing quiet and with brushes so as not to wake the baby!

What are you working on next?

I want to keep exploring my interest in the connections between music and food. I interview musicians about food for Paste, and I plan to develop this into a rockers’ cookbook, with musicians contributing their favorite dishes. My working title is Pasta Makes You Play Intense, which is something that bass player Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE), used to say often and with conviction in reference to his preferred pre-gig meal.

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For Julia Child at 101: riding the Wienermobile

 

Sanford "Sandy" D'Amato is a legendary American chef whose Milwaukee restaurant, Sanford, has been showered with praise and awards from outlets such as Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Zagat, and the James Beard Awards. His new memoir/cookbook, Good Stock, will be out from Agate Midway in November.

In honor of what would be Julia Child's 101st birthday, we're posting this advance excerpt from Sandy's forthcoming book, detailing the time he and Julia rode the Weinermobile.

It was quite a few years before I saw Julia Child again (in person) after Le Veau d’Or—about 15 to be more precise. It was six months into our first year at Sanford, and I was a cofounder of the original American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF) chapter in Milwaukee. We had planned a series of events, and the main part of the festivities, scheduled for September 4 to 7 of 1990, was to accompany Julia around the state to showcase the bounty of Wisconsin. Her first visit to the state was to conclude with the chapter’s inaugural dinner at Sanford on her last night.

After several days of stops around the state, we were humming along on the return flight when Julia’s aide, Gabrielle, called me to the jet’s window.

“Sandy—what is that?” she asked.

I peeked out. “Oh my God! It’s the Wienermobile! This is great! They sent the Wienermobile to pick us up!” I was enraptured, until Gabrielle replied, “I don’t think so.”

A flush of fear crossed my mind. Would this be the second time I missed the Wienermobile?

When I was about five years old working (hanging out) at my dad’s grocery, the Wienermobile used to make unannounced stops at local stores to promote their products. As it pulled up in front of our store, I jumped up on the front radiator to look out the window and saw the door rise. Out strode Little Oscar, all four and a half feet, dressed in his signature floppy-hatted chef outfit. He was headed for our front door when I panicked and ran screaming to the back room of the store. The rest of the neighborhood kids got a tour of the Wienermobile along with complimentary official wiener whistles. I always regretted missing my chance.

It seemed like the sun rose, as Julia leaned toward the window and said, “I think I’d like a ride in that wiener bus.” Julia, where have you been all my life? And so transpired as surreal an experience as I’ve ever had: riding down I-94 in the Wienermobile with Julia Child, as the Oscar Mayer theme song blasted through the interior and exterior speakers. We blew along with our de rigueur wiener whistles, as drivers in passing cars honked and waved.

As we pulled up to our destination, the Pfister Hotel, a large, wiener-curious crowd had already gathered, and as the DeLorean-style flip-up door rose, Julia majestically strode out— it was a vision of worlds colliding. The crowds, with their gaping mouths, surely thought this was the largest chef that had ever walked out of the Wienermobile. I think the aura of the Wienermobile even won Gabrielle over.

The most inspirational part of being with Julia for that trip was watching her passively educate everyone around her with the intuitive questions she asked. She had the enthusiasm of a food reporter and recorder, and as soon as she asked a question, I would think, Of course! Why didn’t I ask that? It is the same commonsense brilliance that any great chef has when they produce a dish that is so simple and delicious that everyone chides themselves for not coming up with it. She had an inexhaustible need for knowledge and was always learning—a consummate professional.

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