Goodreads Giveaway for Lincoln Road Trip: The Back Roads Guide to America’s Favorite President

Indiana University Press is running a Goodreads giveaway for my new book Lincoln Road Trip (due out this spring) from now until December 19th. If anyone is interested, here is the link:

Lincoln dined at the Log Inn in 1844 when he returned to Indiana to campaign for Henry Clay. The inn, once a stagecoach stop has been in continuous operation since opening in 1825. You can dine in the room where Lincoln ate. 

America’s favorite president sure got around. From his time as a child in Kentucky, as a lawyer in Illinois, and all the way to the Oval Office, Abraham Lincoln toured across the countryside and cities and stayed at some amazing locations.

In Lincoln Road Trip: The Back-Roads Guide to America’s Favorite President, Jane Simon Ammeson will help you step back into history by visiting the sites where Abe lived and visited. This fun and entertaining travel guide includes the stories behind the quintessential Lincoln sites, but also takes you off the beaten path to fascinating and lesser-known historical places. Visit the Log Inn in Warrenton, Indiana (now the oldest restaurant in the state), which opened in 1825 and where Lincoln stayed in 1844, when he was campaigning for Henry Clay. You can also visit key places in Lincoln’s life, like the home of merchant Colonel Jones, who allowed a young Abe to read all his books, or Ward’s Academy, where Mary Todd Lincoln attended school.

Pierre Menard House SHS

Along with both famous and overlooked Lincoln attractions, Jane Simon Ammeson profiles nearby attractions to round out your trip, like Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, a third-generation family-owned amusement park that can be partnered with a trip to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial and Lincoln State Park. Featuring new and exciting Lincoln tales from Springfield, IL; Beardstown, KY; Booneville, IN; Alton, IL; and many more, Lincoln Road Trip is a fun adventure through America’s heartland that will bring Lincoln’s incredible story to life.

The Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, KY where the Lincoln family stayed when Abe was about six. Still in operation, it’s one of the oldest stagecoach stops in the country.
The dining room at the Mary Todd Lincoln House, now a museum, in Lexington where Lincoln ate with his wife’s family when he visited.

Jane Simon Ammeson is a freelance writer and photographer who specializes in travel, food, and personalities.She writes frequently for many newspapers, magazines, websites, and apps and is the author of 13 books, including Hauntings of the Underground Railroad, Murders that Made Headlines, and How to Murder Your 3 Wealthy Lovers and Get Away With It.


Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg

            It’s a dark world at times and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg feels compelled to make it just a little nicer through her novels. In her latest, Night of Miracles (Random House 2018; $26) she takes us back toMason, Missouri, an imaginary town where kindness reigns and there are happy endings.

Author Elizabeth Berg

            “I just needed to create a perfect place in my books since I couldn’t find one on planet Earth or at least a place where,though people have issues, they are nice to each other and treat each other with kindness,” says Berg whose voice on the phone when I call sounds as cheery as her popular books.  Night of Miracles is both a stand-alone novel as well as a sequel to her previous novel The Story of Arthur Truluv.

            “When I finished that book, I liked being in Mason so much that I felt the need to go back there,” says Berg, who is driven by her imagination to write stories and whose plots often derive from just one brief vision or illusory thought. The character of Arthur developed because  of an image she had of an old man sitting on a lawn chair in a cemetery eating lunch by the grave of his wife.

            “I wanted to know who this man was and what his life was like,” says Berg. “I felt he had something to teach me and I was right.”

            Then it was Lucille’s turn to inspire. A cantankerous character who played a prominent role in The Story of Arthur Truluv, she returns again in Night of Miracles  following a glimpse Berg had showing Lucille washing dishes while looking out her kitchen window and seeing stars.Interestingly, Lucille is a stellar baker and while Berg says she doesn’t live up to that standard she does make a mean pie using a crust recipe she garnered a long time ago listening to “The Phil Donahue Show.” As for Mason, she’s returned to it once more, she’s just finishing her third book in the series,  The Confession Club.  Berg thinks of her writing as inspirational.

            “One of the things that I hope formy reader is that if your definition of what a miracle is can expand into ordinary life, you’ll see miracles everywhere,” she says. “When I see a cardinal, I gasp in wonder. It’s not that I want people to turn away from the problems of the world as we have a lot of work to do, but I want them to see a good side of life as well.”

            Pausing, she then continues with a slight laugh, saying “call me the schmaltz queen, but these times, for me, call for something like that.”


What: Elizabeth Berg will be doing several reading and signings in the Chicago area:

Thursday, November 29th at 12:00 noon, University Club luncheon, 76 E. Monroe,Chicago, IL . Cost is $25. Call The Book Stall to make a reservation. 847-446-8880.

Thursday, November 29th at 6:30 p.m.,  Book Stall, 811 Elm Street, Winnetka, IL. 847-446-8880.

Monday, December 3rd at 7 p.m.,  Frankfort Public Library, 21119 S. Pfeiffer Rd., Frankfort, IL. 815-534-6173.

Wednesday, December 5 at 7 p.m., Women And Children First, 5233 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL. 773-769-9299

Bill Kim “Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill inSeven Sauces”

Seoul Buffalo Shrimp

            My friend  Kimiyo Naka asked if I’d like to interview Bill Kim, a Chicago chef/ restaurateur and James Beard Award nominee who had a new cookbook out on grilling Korean-style who would be doing a demonstration at the Japan Pavilion at this year’s National Restaurant Association. I’ve wanted to learn more about Korean cooking and because I was writing about grilling, the whole thing seemed like a perfect fit. To make it even more interesting, Kim is a fun interview,humorous, friendly and knowledgeable plus he makes Korean cooking sound easy.         

            It turns out that Kim’s first cooking experience was making instant ramen over seogtan(burning coals) at age six a year before his family moved from Seoul, Korea to Chicago. Fast forward four decades and Kim, who owns several restaurants in Chicago including urbanbelly, a communal-seating restaurant featuring creative noodle, dumpling and rice dishes, Belly Shack featuring menu items blending Asian and Latin flavors and bellyQ, a modern Asian barbecue concept, recently authored Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces (Ten Speed Press 2018; $28).

            His career path to culinary heights and James Beard Award nominations began with experiences feeding siblings and cousins while his parents worked and worries about not being able to make it in a traditional college atmosphere when attending a college recruitment event at his high school. That all changed when he saw a giant wedding cake. It was a lure and when he approached the table, a representative from a culinary school asked if was interested in a cooking career. 

            Attending Kendall College where he studied classic French and worked at several prestigious French restaurants and was also the chef de cuisine at Charlie Trotter’s but when it came time to open his own restaurants, he decided to focus on his own heritage as well as that of his wife who is from Puerto Rico in a style he calls Kori-Can. There were, of course, many remnants from his French culinary background and world travels in the mix as well and his American upbringing. For the latter, check out his recipe for Kimchi Potato Salad. He also wanted to get away from the rarified world of cuisine and open up his food to everyone.

            “My parents were very humble people who owned their own dry cleaning business for 35 years,” says Kim. “I wanted them to see their sacrifice pay off by taking all the things that I learned and being able to use it. My parents had only eaten at one restaurant I worked and that made me sad, I saw  because I knew how hard they worked. As I got further in my career, I was cooking for fewer people—only those people who had  he means to eat in the restaurants I worked in. But those weren’t the people I grew up and I wanted them to have restaurants to eat at.”

            “BBQ itself is engrained in the Korean culture says Kim.”

            “We didn’t have a lot of things when I was growing up in Chicago, we didn’t have a grill,” he says. “So when we wanted to barbecue, we had to go to park where there were free grills. I remember how the aroma of the foods we were cooking always attracted by people who weren’t part of our family. that someone from a different country could come up to you and ask what it was we were cooking.  My mom would give even strangers food. It was pretty powerful watching them when they tried it, the way their eyes opened and they smiled.  That’s when I learned food doesn’t speak a certain language.”

Chef Bill Kim and Jane Ammeson at the Japan Pavilion at the 2018 National Restaurant Association

            Making Korean barbecue accessible was one of the inspirations behind Kim’s decision to write his cookbook.

            “I think I had a lot to say,” he says. “I really didn’t think there was a cookbook out there written by a chef, sharing the experience of being born in Korean and growing up here and adapting to a culture that was a very foreign to me.”   

            He also sees it as a way of giving back and to make Korean food accessible.

            “I think we take for granted that food is an entry level to a different culture,” says Kim. “I want people to look at the book and know the history behind it. And I wanted people to be able to cook Korean barbecue at home.”

            Indeed, with a wonderful, heartfelt introduction and seven master sauces and three spice rubs that make his dishes easy and simple to recreate at home, Kim takes away the mysteries of Korean food.

            “The thing that I want people to understand is that you can cook without borders now more than ever because the borders have crumbled,” he says.  “Even though the food is not 100% Korean it’s these flavors that can come out.”

Seoul to Buffalo Shrimp

1½ cups Lemongrass Chili Sauce (see below)

⅓ cup unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted

2 tablespoons sambal oelek

3 pounds extra-large peeled and deveined shrimp (16/20 count)

¼ cup Blackening Seasoning (see below)

FEEDS 6 people

Heat the grill for direct heat cooking to medium (350°F to 375°F).

Combine the Lemongrass Chili Sauce, butter, sesame seeds, and sambal oelek in a large bowl and whisk until well mixed. Set aside.

When the grill is ready, season the shrimp with the Blackening Seasoning, coating them evenly. Place the shrimp on the grill grate, close the lid, and cook for 2 minutes. Flip the shrimp over, close the lid, and cook them for another 2 minutes, until they turn an opaque pink color.

Remove the shrimp from the grill, add to the sauce, toss well, and serve.

Lemongrass Chili Sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced, peeled fresh ginger

¼ cup minced lemongrass

1 cup sweet chili sauce

¼ cup fish sauce

¼ cup sambal oelek

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

PREP TIME 10 minutes

MAKES 2¼ cups

Combine the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chili sauce, fish sauce, sambal oelek, and oil in a bowl and whisk until blended. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months (see note).

Blackening Seasoning

¼ cup sweet paprika

¼ cups granulated garlic or garlic powder

¼ cup chili powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Makes ¾ cup

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to mix. Store in airtight container in a cool, dark cupboard for up to six months

NOTE This sauce won’t fully harden when frozen, so you can spoon out as much as you need whenever you want to use it.

Sesame Hoisin Chicken Wings

½ cup Soy Balsamic Sauce (see below)

¼ cup Magic Paste (see below)

¼ cup hoisin sauce

½ cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts

3 pounds chicken wings and drumettes

Korean chili flakes (optional)

FEEDS 6 people

In a large bowl, combine the Soy Balsamic Sauce, Magic Paste, hoisin sauce, and green onions and mix well. Measure out ½ cup of the marinade and reserve for basting the wings on the grill. Place the chicken wings and drumettes in a large, shallow dish, pour the remaining marinade on top, and turn the wings and drumettes to coat evenly. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Heat the grill for indirect heat cooking to medium (350°F to 375°F). (If using a charcoal grill, rake the coals to one side of the charcoal grate; if using a gas grill, turn off half of the burners.)

Place the wings and drumettes on the grill grate away from the heat, close the lid, and cook for 5 minutes. Flip the wings and drumettes over, baste them with some of the reserved marinade, close the lid, and cook for another 5 minutes. Flip the wings and drumettes over two more times, moving them directly over the fire, basting, and cooking for 5 minutes on each side. Sprinkle on some Korean chili flakes, if you like things a little spicier.

Transfer the wings and drumettes to a platter and serve.

Soy Balsamic Sauce 

1 teaspoon cornstarch, or as needed

2 tablespoons water

¼ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

½ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup soy sauce

MAKES 1 cup

In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and water until the cornstarch dissolves and the mixture is the consistency of heavy cream, adding more cornstarch if the mixture is too thin.

Combine the brown sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir the cornstarch mixture briefly to recombine, then stir it into the soy-vinegar mixture and simmer over low heat for about 3 minutes, until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove from the heat, let cool completely, then refrigerate in an airtight container. This sauce will last for months without going bad.


1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

5 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

½ cup fish sauce

¼ cup toasted sesame oil

¼ cup Korean chili flakes

MAKES 1 cup

Combine the ginger, garlic, and fennel seeds in a food processor and process until minced, periodically scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure all of the ginger gets chopped. Add the fish sauce, oil, and chili flakes and process for 30 seconds.

Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months. Or freeze in standard ice-cube trays, then transfer the cubes (about 2 tablespoons each) to plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to 2 months.

Reprinted with permission from Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces, copyright © 2018 by Bill Kim with Chandra Ram. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.Photographs copyright © 2018 by Johnny Autry.

Jane Ammesoncan be contacted via email at

Art Deco Chicago: Designing Modern America

sleek and glorious as any Art Deco masterpiece whether it be the grand Palmolive Building built in 1922 or the much lowlier but still spectacular Bell telephone Model 302 designed not by a noted artist or architect but instead by George Lum, a Bell Labs engineer in 1937,  Art Deco Chicago: Designing Modern America (Yale Press 2018; $47.75 on Amazon) showcases 101 key works coupled with more than 300 photos as well as critical essays and extensive research. Altogether, they comprise a wonderful, extensively curated and chronologically organized tome about the many facets–architecture, advertising, household objects, clothing, and food design–of a style that has fascinated so many of us for more than a century.

Robert Bruegmann, a distinguished professor emeritus of architecture, art history, and urban planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was first asked to write the introduction to the book

thought I’d knock it out in a week,” says Bruegmann, a historian of architecture, landscape and the built environment.

That was back in 2011 and Bruegmann, author of several other books including The Architects and the City: Holabird & Roche of Chicago, 1880-1918 (Chicago Architecture and Urbanism), quickly realized that it would take much more than that. He ended up editing and shaping this complex book, a task which included overseeing 40 writers and researchers, helping to find and collect photos and defining Art Deco and its impact on the city through design. He would spend the next five years, working 50 to 60 hours a week to do so.

One of the first questions we asked is how do we define Art Deco recalls Bruegmann.

“Should it be narrowly like the French-inspired luxury goods, which is the narrowest to the big tent which we ended up doing,” he says noting that many products (think as blasé as refrigerators, bicycles, radios and mixmasters) created in Chicago by companies like Motorola, Sunbeam and Schwinn, changed the world in a way that other forms of Art Deco didn’t.

It many come as a surprise that the term Art Deco wasn’t invented until the 1960s and came about because of its association with the Decorative Arts Fair Exposition of 1925 in Paris. But in Chicago, Art Deco, even before it was so named, was often about both beauty and usefulness.

“If I had to pick a single object to suggest what we tried to do in Art Deco Chicago, I would probably choose the Craftsman brand portable air compressor sold by Sears starting in 1939,” says Bruegmann about the cast iron aluminum machine which used, as described in the book, “a series of cooling fins that functioned as a heat sink while adding a streamlined visual flair to the product…This product alluded to themes of speed, transportation, and movement while remaining stationary.”

“It was related to the avant garde work of the Bauhaus who thought they were going to save the world through their designs,” says Bruegmann. “But they were too expensive. But Sears on the other hand made things affordable.”

Indeed, Bruegmann says that companies like Sears and Montgomery Ward did change the world.

“Up until the Sears catalogue, a lot of clothes outside of big cities, were handmade,” says Bruegmann. “Because Sears sold so many outfits through their catalogue, they could afford to send their designers to Paris to study the latest design and then come back and change them so they were less expensive, creating one of the most important social and political movements by making  designs for the masses. For a $1.99 a woman working in a packing plant or a farmer’s wife could wear a knockoff of a Paris dress.

Art Deco Chicago serves as the companion publication to the exhibition “Modern by Design: Chicago Streamlines America” organized by the Chicago History Museum, which runs October 27, 2018–December 2, 2019. Proceeds from sales of and donations to Art Deco Chicago, which explores and celebrates Chicago’s pivotal role in the development of modern American design, will be used to support ongoing public education, research, and preservation advocacy of this critical period of modern American design.


What: Newberry Library presents Meet the Author: Robert Bruegmann, Art Deco Chicago

When: Thursday, November 29 from  to 7:30 p.m.

Where: Newberry Library, 60 West Walton Street, Chicago, IL

Cost: Free and open to the public

FYI: 312-943-9090;

8/18/06 University Scholar- Robert Bruegmann

Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free

An important must read to understand a significant segment of our society.

Shelf Life

Inside the purity culture, girls and women are not only responsible for their own sexual thoughts and actions but also those of the boys and men around them says Linda Kay Klein, author of Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free (Touchstone 2018 $26).

Linda Kay Klein Author Photo by Jami Saunders Photography            “Because women are seen as the keepers of sexual purity which is a necessary part of their living out their faith, when men or boys have lustful thoughts about them, then it’s about what they were wearing, were they flirting,” says Klein, who grew up in the evangelical movement in the 1990s before breaking free. “It creates a tremendous amount of anxiety because your purity is assessed by others around you. It makes you worry about when you’re going to fall off the cliff and no longer be considered pure and no longer part of…

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The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Susan Orlean’s newest book, The Library Book (Simon & Schuster, $28), is about a fire and a library but like all things this New York Times bestselling author writes (The Orchid Thief, Rin Tin Tin), it’s so much more. A lover of libraries since she was very young, Orlean had been toying with the idea of writing about the subject when her son, then six-years-old, announced that his class assignment was to write about a city employee and instead of the typical fireman or policeman interview, he wanted to write about a librarian.Susan Orlean_credit Noah FecksSusan Orlean_credit Noah Fecks         Then, after moving to Los Angeles, Orlean was at the Los Angeles Central Public Library when the librarian opened a book, took a sniff and announced that you could still smell the smoke. Orlean asked if that was from a time when smoking was allowed. The answer was no, instead the aroma dated back to April 29, 1986 when an inferno blazed for seven hours, reaching 2500 degrees. It took half of the Los Angeles’s firefighting resources to extinguish the blaze and by then flames and water had destroyed 400,000 books and damaged another 700,000.
“It was the combination of all of these that gave me the final push; it was as if I was being nudged, repeatedly, to look at libraries and find a narrative about them to write,” says Orlean, a staff writer at The New Yorker and author of seven books. “Learning about the fire was definitely the final nudge that made me sure this was the story I wanted to tell.”

But how to tell the story? For Orlean, who is obsessive about details and research—it took her almost as long to write the book as it did to rebuild the library—she had to figure out her focus.

“That’s exactly what the challenge was–it was a topic that was both broad and deep, with so much history and so many ways I could pursue it,” she says. “I finally decided to treat it as a browse through a library, with stops in different ‘departments’ of the story, such as the history, the fire, the present day, my own library memories. By visualizing the story that way I was able to move through the topic and engage as many aspects of it as I could.”

Her attention to details, both past and present is amazing and intriguing. We learn that Mary Foy, only 18, became the head of LAPL and also, because the fire was set by an arsonist, she delves into previous book burnings such as when in 213 B.C. Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered any history book he didn’t agree with be destroyed. The act, says Orlean, resulted in over four hundred scholars being buried alive.

In keeping with her compulsive exploration, Orlean even tried burning a book herself, just to see what happens and how it is done.

Asked to name her favorite library, Orlean mentions the Bertram Woods branch library in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

“That’s where I fell in love with libraries and became a passionate reader,” she says. “Of course, I’ll always feel a special attachment to the L.A. Public Library, because of the book, and it’s a great library to be in love with.”

Orlean also hopes people appreciate the gifts library give us.

“I want people to think about the nature of memory, both individual memory and common memory,” she says. “Our individual memories are as rich as a library, full of volumes of information and vignettes and fantasies. And our common memory is our libraries, where all the stories of our culture reside. I love reminding people of the value of both.”


What: Susan Orlean discusses her new book followed by a book signing.

When: November 13th at 6 pm

Where: Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago Public Library, 400 S. State Street, Chicago IL

Cost: Free

FYI: (312) 747-4300;



A Greek immigrant with a love of books and a degree in engineering, Jim Roumbos decided to open Miles Books in downtown Highland in 1986. Since then big chain stores like Borders went bankrupt and closed their doors, but Roumbos remains open.

“My dad, who at the time, couldn’t speak English and worked 70 hours in the mill, used to take me to the library so I could check out books,” says Roumbos who grew up in Gary but has called Highland his home for the last 40 years. “Being in the book business, I love talking to people and finding out their interests and hearing their stories.”

Over the years, he’s heard a lot of tales of Highland and so several years ago, he approached Dan Helpingstine, a frequent customer, about writing a book about the history of the town.

“Dan has written a number of books and we’ve had book signings for him here,” says Roumbos. “So I said hey, Dan, you should write about Highland. I have lots of people asking for books about the town.”

In turn, Helpingstine, author of such non-fiction books as South Side Hitmen: The Story of the 1977 Chicago White Sox, Chicago White Sox: 1959 and Beyond and The Cubs and the White Sox: A Baseball Rivalry, 1900 to the Present, suggested Roumbos write the book. Finally, they decided to co-author Highland (Arcadia Publishing $21.99) which was published last December.

Part of publisher’s Images of America series, the book chronicles Highland’s history through images and captions.

“Dan did the majority of the text and I did text and caption editing as well as the full editing and technical work for the photos,” says Roumbos.

The majority of the 181 photographs in the books were from the archives of the Highland Historical Society and the rest provided by individuals.

While many writers often fail in their attempts to find a publisher, that wasn’t the case with Highland.

“Because Dan had written other books for Arcadia and they knew his work, all we did was fill out the application and within 30 minutes had the okay to go ahead,” says Roumbos.

The process slowed considerably and it took them about four years to complete the book. But their shared background, was an immense help. Like Roumbos, Helpingstine grew up in another city—Hammond—but has lived in Highland for three decades.

“The book starts off in the late 1800s and we did a chronological pictorial, with captions, ending up with a chapter on memories throughout the years,” says Roumbos. “The last photo in the book shows the fireworks at Main Square Park for New Year’s Day at midnight. The photograph itself is from the early 1960s.  The book embodies what Highland is, why people want to come to Highland and how welcoming it is. New residents come and they assimilate and Highland stays the same—a place offering a great town experience, one that is safe, friendly, charming with an emphasis on the arts.  The police and fire department are wonderful and the elected officials are motivated to make Highland better but still keep it as a place that people love and want to maintain.”

When asked if he could choose a favorite photo and text, Roumbos pauses to think about it and then says it’s the photo of President Calvin Coolidge speaking in Wicker Park.

“It was a big deal,” says Roumbos. “We had another president who spoke at Wicker Park and that was Barack Obama. That says something about Highland.”

Roumbos, a story teller at heart, likes to emphasize how independent bookstores reflect the values of the town.  He’s always one to share a cup of coffee and talk about whatever subject a person is interested in. And this summer, he was able to add one more tale to his repertoire.

“About two years ago a young Purdue student came into the store, she was studying to become a civil engineer and she met a guy here and they started dating and they’d often meet here on Friday nights,” he says.  “Last December, he comes up to me and says he’s going to propose to her and I say that’s wonderful, when, and he said in about ten minutes when she comes to the store. Last summer they walked in, she was wearing her wedding dress they’d just gotten married in Lansing and were stopping by between the wedding and the reception to say hi.”


What: Book signing with Jim Roumbos and Dan Helpingstine authors of Highland.

When: Saturday, November 10, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Where: 2819 Jewett Ave., Highland, IN

FYI: 219-828-8700;





Swedish Settlements on the South Shore

Northwest Indiana is famously known as a melting pot, a coming together of a vibrant amalgam of people from many countries and different cultures, making the area rich in diversity. But what may be surprising to those of us who grew up in the Region, the first non-English speaking people to move into the Indiana Dunes region and establish settlements were not from Eastern Europe, Germany or Mexico but were instead Swedish immigrants.Beam Street with a cow

“Many came first to Chicago which at one time had more Swedes than any city on earth except Stockholm,” says noted historian Ken Schoon, author of the recently released Swedish Settlements on the South Shore (Donning Company Publishers $30), noting that the legacy of these early Swedish immigrants can still be found throughout the Region even today.

“Swedes established more than a dozen local churches, most of which are still active today,” he says “They built homes out of logs, lumber, and bricks, cleared and farmed the land, worked for the railroads and the brick factories, and established businesses, some of which are still in business today.  Several of the early Swedes served in the Union army in the Civil War.  Nearly all got American citizenship, and some were elected to political office.”

Swedish settlements included neighborhoods in Hobart, Baillytown, Portage Township, Porter, Chesterton, and LaPorte as well as Swedetown in Michigan City. According to Schoon, Miller Beach, where Swedish families like those of my sister-in-law span five decades, was described in 1900 by Lake County historian Timothy Ball as mainly Swedish Lutheran.

Bethel Swedish Lutheran Church, 1907 low res

Other tie-ins with the Region’s Swedish past comprise Chellberg Farm, a historic farmstead, now part of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

“The Chellbergs were one of hundreds of Swedish families that immigrated to the ‘south shore’ area of Northwest Indiana,” says Schoon.  “They were the first non-English speaking immigrants to arrive in numbers large enough and lived close enough together to call the areas settlements.”

Close by to Chellberg Farm and further back in time, Joseph Bailly, a French fur trader who founded a trading post which is also now within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. According to Schoon, Bailly’s son-in-law Joel Wicker hired recently-arrived Swedes to cut down trees and prepare them for the railroads to be used as rail ties and as fuel for the steam engines.

“Logs were also needed to build and heat their homes and for cooking,” says Schoon.  “When enough trees were cut down, Wicker then sold the land to his Swedish employees who then cleared the land for farming.  Other Swedes found employment as farm laborers, and working for sand and ice mining companies, and as blacksmiths and carpenters.  As the immigrants had more money, many purchased their own farms or started businesses in town.  The first licensed embalmer in Indiana was carpenter John Lundberg, a Chesterton Swede.”

Chellberg Farm (1)
Chellberg Farm Today Photo courtesy of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore 

Many of the churches founded by Swedish immigrants still exist and for almost 70 years or so continued to offer Swedish-language services. Now services are in English and their congregations encompass more than those of Swedish ancestry.

“Bethany Lutheran Church in LaPorte is the oldest Swedish-founded church in Indiana,” says Schoon.  “Until it closed last December, the Evangelical Covenant Church in Portage was the oldest Covenant Church in the state.  The Michigan Avenue Methodist Church in Hobart still uses its original 1889 white frame building and Michigan Avenue used to be called Swede Avenue.”

Other churches are Bethany Lutheran and Grace Baptist  in LaPorte, Zion Lutheran in Michigan City, Bethlehem in Chesterton, Augsburg (Baillytown/Porter), Hope (Crisman/Portage), Bethel (Miller), and Augustana (HobartNordikids circle dance lowres

Though Swedes, whose last names are similar to common  “American names” such as Anderson and Carlson, quickly assimilated into American culture, descendants of Swedes still learn Swedish songs and dances and celebrate the traditions of their forbears says Schoon and we also have assimilated into their traditional ways.

“Even non-Swedes know about Vikings and may eat Swedish meatballs,” he says, noting that in 1952, 100 years after its founding, Chesterton still had more than 23 Swedish-owned businesses. “Smörgåsbord has become an American word—though to Swedes it has slightly different meaning.  Swedes and their descendants helped build the Calumet Area.”

Swedes celebrate July 4th but also honor their own customs as well including Midsummer, the first day of summer and the longest day of the year, a holiday featuring a Maypole, singing, dancing, eating and drinking.

“At least in Sweden,” says Schoon about the drinking part,  “but not at the Chellberg Farm where Midsummer is celebrated.”Vikings in the Hallway (1)

But it isn’t all just history for Swedes and those of Swedish ancestry along the South Shore. The newest lodge in the Scandinavian Vasa Order of America was started in 2006 and sponsors “Nordikids” a very active organization for children and youth that teaches primarily Swedish songs, dances, and customs.  The group performs every year at many venues including Chicago’s “Christmas Around the World.

Ken Schoon, the author, is not descended from Swedes, but he is married to the granddaughter of Swedish immigrants. His earlier works include Calumet Beginnings, Dreams of Duneland, and Shifting Sands, all published by Indiana University Press, and City Trees published by Stackpole Books.


Ken Schoon book presentations and book signings.

Sunday, November 11@ 3pm.   Calumet City Historical Society, 760 Wentworth Ave, Calumet City, IL.  708-832-9390;

Wednesday, November 14@ 6:30pm.  Augsburg Church, Augsburg Evangelical Lutheran Church, 100 N Mineral Springs Rd, Porter, IN. 219-926-1658;

Sunday, November 25 @ 10:30.  Westminster Presbyterian Church, 8955 Columbia Ave, Munster, IN. 219-838-3131;

Saturday, December 8 @ 9:30.  Brunch including Swedish pancakes and lingonberry syrup  and book signing, Dunes Learning Center, 700 Howe Rd, Porter, IN.  219-395-9555;



The Cookbook Library: Four Centuries of the Cooks, Writers, and Recipes That Made the Modern Cookbook

Still worried about that extra Halloween candy you gobbled down?  Imagine how many miles you’d have to spend on the treadmill after attending the 1450 banquet, held in England celebrating the enthronement of an archbishop where guests munched on 104 oxen, six ‘wylde bulles,’ 1,000 sheep, 400 swans and such game birds such as bustards (larger than a turkey), cranes, bitterns, curlews and herons?

“Our ancestors had gastronomic guts,” Anne Willan tells me as we chat on the phone, she in Santa Monica, California where there’s sunshine and me in the cold Great Lakes region.  I find it fascinating to read old menus and descriptions of banquets and feasts and for that Willan, founder of famed French cooking school École de Cuisine la Varenne, recipient of the IACP Lifetime Achievement Award and author of 30 cookbooks, is the go to person.

Even better, after collecting cookbooks for some 50 years and amassing a collection of over 5000 tomes, last year Willan and her husband, Mark Cherniavsky immersed themselves in their antiquarian cookbook library and came out with The Cookbook Library: Four Centuries of the Cooks, Writers, and Recipes That Made the Modern Cookbook (University of California Press $50).Anne Willan

“Seals were eaten on fast days along with whale, dolphin, porpoise and thousands of other fish,” says Willan. Hmmm…that’s different than the macaroni and cheese and fish sticks I used to eat at the homes of my Catholic friends on Fridays.

Here we peruse four centuries of gastronomy including the heavily spiced sauces of medieval times (sometimes employed because of the rankness of the meat), the massive roasts and ragoûts of Sun King Louis XIV’s court and the elegant eighteenth-century chilled desserts. One for the interesting detail, Willan also tells the story of cookbook writing and composition from the 1500s to the early 19th century. She highlights how each of the cookbooks reflects its time, ingredients and place, the  recipes adapted among the cuisines of Germany, England, France, Italy and Spain as well as tracing the history of the recipe.

Historic cookbooks can be so much different than ours, ingredients unfamiliar and instructions rather vague. For example, Willan points out the phrase “cook until” was used due to the difficulty of judging the level of heat when cooking a dish over the burning embers in an open hearth. It wasn’t until the cast-iron closed stoves of the 19th century that recipes writers begin were finally able to give firm estimates for timing.

For food historians and even those just appreciative of a good meal, the book is fascinating. For me as a food writer, I wonder about covering a dinner where birds flew out of towering pastries, seals were served and eels baked into pies and it was often wise to have a taster nearby in case someone was trying to poison you.

Anne Willan 1

The following recipe is from The Cookbook Library.

Rich Seed Cake with Caraway and Cinnamon

This recipe is based on a cake in The Compleat Housewife by Eliza Smith, published in London in the 1700s.  Willan, ever the purist, suggests mixing the batter by hand as it was done 300 plus year ago.

“The direct contact with the batter as it develops from a soft cream to a smooth, fluffy batter is an experience not to be missed,” she says. “If you use an electric mixer, the batter is fluffier but the cake emerges from the oven less moist and with a darker crust.”

At times, Willan needs to substitute ingredients. The original recipe listed ambergris as an option for flavoring the cake. “Ambergris,” writes Willan, “a waxy secretion from a sperm whale, was once used to perfume foods. As it is now a rare ingredient, I’ve opted for Mrs. Smith’s second suggestion, of cinnamon, which marries unexpectedly well with caraway.”

1 pound or 31⁄2 cups) flour

1 2⁄3 cups sugar

6  tablespoons caraway seeds

5 eggs

4 egg yolks

1 pound or 2 cups butter, more for the pan

11⁄2 tablespoon rose water or orange-flower water

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat the oven to 325ºF. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Sift together the flour and sugar into a medium bowl, and stir in the caraway seeds. Separate the whole eggs, putting all the yolks together and straining the whites into a small bowl to remove the threads.

Cream the butter either by hand or with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the yolks two at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the rose water. Whisk the egg whites just until frothy, then beat them, a little at a time, into the egg yolk mixture. Beat in the cinnamon. Finally, beat in the flour mixture, sprinkling it a little at a time over the batter. This should take at least 15 minutes by hand, 5 minutes with a mixer. The batter will lighten and become fluffier. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake until the cake starts to shrink from the sides of the pan and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean when withdrawn, 11⁄4 to 11⁄2 hours. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack until tepid, then unmold it and leave it to cool completely on the rack. When carefully wrapped, it keeps well at room temperature for several days and the flavor will mellow.




Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free

Inside the purity culture, girls and women are not only responsible for their own sexual thoughts and actions but also those of the boys and men around them says Linda Kay Klein, author of Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free (Touchstone 2018 $26).

Linda Kay Klein Author Photo by Jami Saunders Photography            “Because women are seen as the keepers of sexual purity which is a necessary part of their living out their faith, when men or boys have lustful thoughts about them, then it’s about what they were wearing, were they flirting,” says Klein, who grew up in the evangelical movement in the 1990s before breaking free. “It creates a tremendous amount of anxiety because your purity is assessed by others around you. It makes you worry about when you’re going to fall off the cliff and no longer be considered pure and no longer part of the community.”

But if being non-sexual before marriage is of utmost importance, afterwards the onus is on the woman to be extremely sexual, able to meet all their husband’s needs lest he cheat—which of course would be her  fault.

“Zero to 100 is extremely difficult,” says Klein, noting it’s better to ease into sexual experience. “I interviewed women who didn’t know what sex was and suddenly they’re expected to be a sexual satisfier.”

As far as sexual abuse, well, if girls and women were just pure, that sort of thing wouldn’t happen.

Klein was in her 20s when she left the evangelical church. The impetus was in part when she learned her pastor had been convicted of child enticement with intent to have sexual contact with a 12-year-old girl who was under his pastoral care. She was a senior in high school and as awful as it was to learn that, it was even more devastating when she discovered the pastor had been let go from two other evangelical institutions after he confessed to committing the same acts.  But her evangelical upbringing still bound her.

“I thought I would be free,” says Klein who during her teenage years was so obsessed with staying pure that she took pregnancy tests even though she was a virgin and resisted asking for help when dealing with what would later be diagnoses with Crohn’s Disease because she wanted to prove she was a woman of the spirit and not of the flesh. “But I wasn’t able to escape them, they were me.”

At least at first.

Writing her book, which took 12 years, was cathartic for Klein who interviewed many evangelical women and likening the fear and angst they experienced as similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Noting there’s a dominant gender teaching in the evangelical church—as well as many other churches, Klein says that patriarchy hurts both men and women except those at the top of the hierarchy.  There is also something else off putting about the purity culture and that is the profit motive in the development of products.

“The people on the ground are believers,” she says.

Others make money off of purity rings which can range in price from around $10 to $600 or more, abstinence education, Christian purity parties, father-daughter purity balls and clothing including t-shirts reading “Modest is Hottest.”

“Over the course of time I did a lot of healing through my research for the book,” says Klein, who. “There have been phases in this journey. I’ve been angry, but keeping my focus on healing, knowing I’m not alone—I think there’s something powerful that happens.”


What: Author Conversation: Linda Kay Klein & Deborah Jian Lee

When: November 7 at 7 p.m.

Where: Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: 773.769.9299;




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