Cheers to the Publican, Repast and Present: Recipes and Ramblings from an American Beer Hall

Invited by a friend to dine at Blackbird, Paul Kahan’s first restaurant, when it first opened in 1997, I was somewhat taken about upon first entering about how totally different it was from many of the restaurants of the time. The menu was farm-to-table way before the term had become a cliché, the setting minimalist with long communal tables (like a high school cafeteria I remember thinking) and menu items including an endive salad with pancetta and a poached egg on top which when punctured dripped a wonderful ooze of yolk into the dressing. It was, in other words, unique. Other restaurants opened in Chicago that year and many of those are gone but Blackbird remains and chef/restauranteur Paul Kahan has expanded his restaurant empire with such additions as Avec, Big Star, the wonderfully named The Violet Hour and the Publican.

With all this success, you’d think that during the last two decades Kahan would have come out with a cookbook or two or even more. Surprisingly though, his first, barbecued-carrots.jpg (Lorena Jones Books 2017; $40) was just released this fall. And in keeping with the eclectic concepts of his restaurants, which he describes as speaking to a place and not a time, it’s definitely different–an amalgam of recipes, insights, reminiscences, paeans to local food producers and autobiographical. It even contains poems.

So, what took you so long, I ask?

“I waited 20 yeas because I didn’t want it to be a half-assed,” was Kahan’s response. “We’re not run of the mill and I wanted the book to be unique, to follow the path of the Publican, include poetry.”

Kahan’s mantra it that he’s just a small part of the business and its success.

“We’ve all been here together since day one,” he says about his One Off Hospitality Group. “We’re all about the culture, the relevance and the continuity and the book is about that. I think our success has truly been about us, about trust, nurturing. We like to be innovative and approach things differently.”

Indeed, Avec, he says, was inspired by his first trip to France with his wife.

“She was in a real horrific motorcycle accident there and end up recuperating in Switzerland,” he says. “The culinary experience of Avec was built by the experience of going there.”

If each restaurant has a story, so do the recipes.  Take the barbecued carrots.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a dish at The Publican that people have freaked out about so much. Even chefs,” writes Kahan in the introduction. “We did a charity event last year and served these, and there was a table of 25 big-name chefs just losing their minds over them. We’ve tried new variations, adding different spices, experimenting with other preparations, but it always comes back to this recipe. We use a barbecue rub that I ‘borrowed’ from Chris Lilly, the owner of Big Bob Gibson’s in Georgia and a world champion of barbecued pork shoulder. He came in to eat once, and we got embarrassed about ripping him off, so we quickly changed the name of these to Chris Lilly Carrots. We like to serve them with pecans that we get from Blain Farms in California, which are creamier than any other pecan, and then we top it off with an herbed dressing.”

Sourcing ingredients is, of course, super important as is forging relationships with farmers and food artisans. Finding them often takes Kahan to less exotic places than a trip to France.

One out of the way journey lead Kahan to tiny Medora in Southern Indiana, best known for its 1910 round barn and covered bridge—built in 1875 and the longest historic covered bridge in the United States. It’s also the hometown of Burton’s Maplewood Farm, owned by Tim Burton, a producer of highly valued maple syrup which is much used by chefs in both Chicago and throughout the U.S.

“I think I was the first guy Tim hooked up with at the Green Market,” says Kahan, a James Beard Award winner in the following categories Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America, Best Chefs in America 2004 and Outstanding Chef 2013.

Growing up in Chicago, Kahan was influenced by his father who owned both a Jewish deli as well as the Village Fishery and King Salmon, a small smoked fish business. He still remembers the slow cooked corned beef, the hanging sausages and the smoked chubs. Following in those footsteps might seem a given, but Kahan diverged at first, studying applied mathematics until the lure of cooking over took him.

Will it take another 20 years before we see another cookbook, I ask?

“I’m already working on a second cookbook,” Kahan says, noting that it’s already two years in the making. But then true to form, he goes from I to we, noting that Cheers to the Publican wasn’t just his work.

“There are a lot of people who worked hard on that book,” he says.

Barbecued Carrots

Recipe courtesy of Cheers to the Publican, Repast and Present by Paul Kahan.

Makes 4 servings

1 gallon water

1 cup plus

1 tablespoon BBQ Rub (recipe follows)

1⁄4 cup kosher salt

1 pound carrots, cleaned and halved

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

11⁄2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1⁄4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

2 sprigs dill, torn

1 batch Ranchovy Herb Dressing (recipe follows)

In large pot, add 2 gallons of water, 1 cup of the BBQ rub, ¼ cup of salt.  Bring to a boil.

Add the carrots and cook until ¾ done, about 5 minutes.

Drain the carrots, reserve for the grill.

To Finish:

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

In a bowl, toss the blanched carrots with 1 tablespoon of BBQ rub and extra virgin olive oil.

Arrange on a grill screen, and grill over direct heat until finished.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.

Arrange carrots on a plate, drizzle with lemon juice, garnish with crushed pecans and dill yogurt sauce.

Dress the carrots with the Ranchovy Herb Dressing and serve.

BBQ Rub

Makes 1.5 cups

½ cup dark brown sugar

½ cup kosher salt

4 tablespoons hot smoked paprika

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 tablespoon onion granules or onion powder

½ tablespoon celery salt

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon ground cumin

Combine all in bowl, mix well, store in an airtight container.

2 cups mayonnaise (we like Hellman’s/Best Foods)

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1½ teaspoon white vinegar

1½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1½ teaspoon granulated sugar

1½ teaspoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1 ½ teaspoon chopped tarragon

1½ teaspoon chopped oregano

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Whisk all the ingredients in a bowl and season with the salt and pepper. Taste and add more salt and pepper. Transfer the dressing to a glass container with a lid and refrigerate. The dressing will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week. Give the jar a good shake before using.

 

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The Faerie Handbook: An Enchanting Compendium of Literature Lore, Art, Recipes and Projects

To me, fairies have always been about the holiday season—think the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker Suite ballet and Tinkerbelle, the blonde-haired imp who wore a green outfit with matching translucent green wings in the 1904 play Peter Pan and knew how to handle a wand and pixie dust—both a job requirement. Imagine then my delight when my friend Lily Lopate sent me a copy of The Faerie Handbook: An Enchanting Compendium of Literature Lore, Art, Recipes and Projects by Carol Turgeon with Grace Nuth and the Editors of Faerie Magazine (Harper Design 2017; $35). And yes, there is a Faerie Magazine.lavender-shortbread-cookies_smalll-credit-sara-ghedina-2.jpg

This beautifully illustrated book containing all things faerie (the archaic literary spelling) is divided into chapter including Flora & Fauna with such headings as “A Select List of Fairy World Inhabitants” and their history, a “Fairy Herb and Flower Almanac,” as well as instructions on making such fairy necessities as houses, furniture, pressed flowers, and terrariums. In the section on Fashion & Beauty we learn about such style icons as Morgan Le Fay, Titania of the Fairy Realm and La Belle Dame Sans-Mercy—a woman with eyes that mesmerized helpless, handsome men (way to go, La Belle, we say).  The Fashion & Beauty chapter gives us the low down on fairy couture including fairy shoes which are totally inappropriate for walking particularly the ones with five-inch heels made of flowers. It also contains directions on how to make a fairy crown—a clothing item no one should be without.

It isn’t easy being a fairy. You have to get up early to gather the right beauty ingredients. After all, according to Samuel Pepys, the great 17th century diarist, his wife was a big believer in maintaining her looks in a faerie manner by collecting early morning May dew. Another requirement is being able to make fairy dust. That’s what Tinkerbell used to get Peter Pan to fly. You wouldn’t want to be without it.

Want to hang with the faeries? The authors tell about how to find fairy portals and pathways. You’ll need to read the chapter, but we can give some hints. Look for a strange circle of mushrooms (those are fairy rings), bridges (but be careful of the trolls, country crossroads are good places to run into fairies (but devils hang out there too) and natural portals like ocean cliffs and tangled branches with an open center in the middle.frosted-cranberries-1.jpg

Of course, what interested me the most was fairy food. As one might expect, fairies love parties and the authors show us how to host a Midsummer Night’s Dream Garden Party. Fairies main ingredient when it comes to cooking seems to be edible flowers. Their menus consist of such goodies as Flower Lollipops, Honey Ricotta Tart with Lavender Scented Crust, Candied Violets and Lavender Shortbread Cookies.

Faeries also love tea parties—ones with lots of flowers in pastel colors of pink, lavender, violet, pale blues and even moss. What to eat at such a party? Fairy Tea Cakes and flower teas.

Candied Violets

40 fresh violets, pesticide free, with stems intact

1 egg white

1 cup superfine sugar

Special Equipment:

Fine-tipped paintbrush, preferably new

Small sharp scissors

Place a wire rack over a parchment-lined baking sheet and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy.

Holding a violet by the stem, dip the paintbrush in the egg white and carefully coat each petal, front and back.

Sprinkle the superfine sugar over the violet and shake off any excess. Sprinkle again until the whole flower is lightly coated.

Gently place the violet on the drying rack. Repeat with the remaining flowers.

Allow the violets to dry for 24 hours, then use the scissors to cut off the stems. Candied violets may be stored in an airtight container for up to eight weeks.

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon dried lavender, pesticide-free

1 stick plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons whole milk (optional)

½ cup sanding sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the sugar and lavender in a food processor and pulse to achieve a fine texture.

In a large bowl, combine the lavender sugar, butter, and salt. Use the electric hand mixer to cream the ingredients until light and fluffy.

Gradually add the flour, mixing until the dough comes together. If it’s too crumbly, lightly wet your hands with water and knead the dough in the bowl until the flour is completely absorbed, and the dough is smooth.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a ½-inch thickness.

Use a cookie cutter to cut out the dough. Transfer the cookies to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

If desired, use the pastry brush to lightly coat each cookie with milk, then sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Transfer cookies to the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes, rotating the pan once, until the cookies are golden brown.

The cookies will be very soft when you remove them from the oven, but will set once cool. Allow them to cool completely on the baking sheet before transferring them to a plate.

Frosted Cranberries

1 ½ cups water

1 ½ cups granulated sugar, plus 1 cup for dusting

1 cinnamon stick

4 whole cloves

2 cups fresh cranberries

In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. Cook over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes before stirring in the cranberries. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, set a wire rack over a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the berries onto the rack and set aside for 1 hour. Meanwhile, line another baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the remaining 1 cup sugar in a shallow dish. Working in small batches, roll the cranberries in the sugar until they are completely coated, then transfer to the clean parchment-lined baking sheet. Make sure berries are in a single layer and not touching each other.

Allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour or until dry. Frosted cranberries may be stored in an airtight container for several days.

The above recipes are from the book: THE FAERIE HANDBOOK by Carolyn Turgeon and the editors of Faerie Magazine. Copyright © 2017 by Carolyn Turgeon. Reprinted courtesy of Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Horseshoe Casino exec pens book about supportive women

Region resident Dawn Reynolds, drawing upon the early loss of her mother and the encouragement of others, has written “The Highmore Circle,” a novel chronicling six women who learn to navigate life together.

Writing as Cricket (her nickname) Reynolds, she tells the story of Gracie Anderson, a single college professor in her 30s with a severely lacking personal life whose best friend signs her up for a support group at a local community center.

“The group consists of women with diverse careers and personalities — one is a librarian, one a college professor, others include a fashion consultant, dominatrix, blue collar worker and housewife — who have very little in common except they are motherless,” Reynolds said.

The book, while dealing with complex life issues, also has a lot of humor and a touch of romance in the story plot, she said.

Reynolds, a Dyer resident and vice president of Human Resources at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, started the book 20 years ago but struggled with numerous obstacles — twice her laptops crashed, erasing the entire manuscript. The third rewrite disappeared when a jump drive became corrupted.

“Also in the meantime I got married, had two sons and got divorced,” said Reynolds, who graduated from Highland High School. “But I’ve always realized the importance of all the women in my life, including my sister, who helped me so much and died of cancer 10 years ago, and my friends. The core theme is the importance of having a circle — whatever the circle means to you whether it’s friends or family — that helps you get through difficult times and who are there for you.”

Reynolds, who earned a master’s degree in organizational communications from Purdue University Northwest, is a recipient of Caesars Entertainment Excellence in Leadership Award and Northwest Indiana’s Most Influential Woman of The Year Award. She also is an active supporter in promoting women’s initiatives and is a Lean In Circle moderator within Caesars Entertainment as well as the Global Gaming Women organization.

Describing herself as an avid reader, Michelle Ryba, director of casino marketing at Horseshoe Casino, said she was very eager to read Reynold’s book.

“I absolutely adore Dawn,” Ryba said. “And I thought this is a book by someone I know, not just a big name author. From the first chapter, I was hooked, I stayed up reading it until 2:30 p.m. because I wanted to find out how it ended.”

Ryba describes “The Highmore Circle” as touching and humorous.

“I laughed when I read the book, but also I related to it emotionally. We’ve all loss someone in our lives, and so I understand the feelings you have. I’m impressed with Dawn’s writing. She’s just as good Janet Evanovich or J.D. Robb, two of my favorite writers.”

Since her book has been published, Reynolds has been a New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly featured author, appeared on “Fox Good Day Chicago” to discuss her book and received starred reviews from BlueInk, Clarion and Kirkus as well as wining iUniverse’s Editor’s Choice and Rising Star awards.

“The Highmore Circle” is available at Barnes & Noble and online book sellers. For more information, visit www.thehighmorecircle.com.

Searching for Ghosts Along the Underground Railroad

My latest book, Haunthautntings coverings of the Underground Railroad. Ghosts of the Midwest (Indiana University Press)is due out August 1. Researching the book took me into the small towns of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan where ghost stories abound about UGRR. Though I never saw a ghost myself, The Courtyards housed in a building dating back to the 1820s were said to be a stop on the Underground Railroad.

For more information:

http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=808927

 

 

 

 

Marisol Murano’s Valentina Goldman Books Now Available as Audiobooks

When Marisol Murano’s first novel Valentina Goldman’s Immaculate Confusion hit the shelves five years ago, readers were delighted at her heroine’s brash and completely unique voice that shone through in every short and sweet chapter. Reading the book is a lot like gossiping with your best friend–if your best friend is a no-holds-barred Latina who has recently moved to the US expecting the American dream. Oh, and for Valentina, she’ really dealing with the American nightmare.

As Goodreads describes it, “Since her arrival in the United States from Venezuela, Valentina Goldman isn’t exactly living the American Dream. She’s living the American Nightmare. Her late husband, Max, has left her a young widow, a step-daughter whom Valentina didn’t want, and a bi-polar ex-wife. And oh, having given up her dream job in New York, Valentina is also unemployed in Arizona. Part “Bridget Jones Diary,” part “Modern Family,” “Valentina Goldman’s Immaculate Confusion” is the story of a woman trying to get a handle on her whacky life in America. In breathless, blog-like snippets, Valentina compares her own story with that of her eccentric sister, Azucena, who has bizarre troubles of her own down in the tropics. “Valentina Goldman’s Immaculate Confusion” is a funny and moving story about what happens when a passionate South American woman moves to the USA and, like so many of us, ends up with a life she never imagined.”

Last November, Hipso published Murano’s follow-up novel, Valentina Goldman Ships Out, to even greater success. The book exposed another side of the beloved Valentina, vulnerable after the unexpected death of her husband. Despite tragedy, though, hilarity still ensues, as is always the case when Valentina (and in this case, her mother) is involved. Indeed, Valentina’s mother arrives on her doorstep to whisk her away on a 12-day Mediterranean cruise full of unexpected detours. If you’ve always longed to go on a cruise, ship out with Valentina. And if you’ve never wanted to go on a cruise, go anyway. You’ll likely find yourself alternately delighted and surprised by her quirky encounters at sea and alluring ports of call. In tightly wound language shimmering with wit and longing, Valentina Goldman Ships Out is a moving portrait of a woman looking for answers and coping with loss, even when the waters are deep.

Now both novels are newly released as audiobooks, narrated by the fantastic Ginger Roll. In audio form, these books are even more hilarious and more relatable. The short, narrative chapters lend themselves perfectly to audiobook form, making them the perfect listen for any busy reader.

http://www.hipsomedia.com

http://www.marisolchef.com

 

Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo

The spark for his second novel stems from what it means to be an adopted child from a land very far away says Boris Fishman, author of
(Harper/HarperCollins 2016 $26.99) which was just named as one of the 100 best books of 2016 by the New York Times,

Fishman, who was born in Minsk, Belarus and immigrated to the United States at age nine in 1988, knows the intense feelings of searching for where he belongs both emotionally and psychologically.  It’s the theme he explores in his humorous and touching story about Maya Shulman, a Ukrainian exchange student who marries Alex Rubin, a somewhat spoiled son of Russian immigrants.

The two adopted Max whose biological mother’s parting words were the “Don’t let my baby do rodeo” and up until age eight, Max has not been a problem. But then suddenly his behaviors become somewhat bizarre and indecipherable to the couple. Max begins acting somewhat feral-like. He consumes grass, sits face down in the river and hangs around wild animals.

Their own lives have also reached a point where they need to redefine things and in that very American way, Alex and Maya decide to take Max and hit the road to find his parents who live in Montana.

It’s a physical and spiritual quest told from Maya’s point of view. But for Fishman it also represents what many immigrants go through, including his own family.

The patriarchal roles for both men and women that many immigrants brought with them from their homeland change particularly for the next generation.

“I’m of their blood but not of their psychology,” says Fishman who graduated with a degree in Russian literature from Princeton University and a MFA in fiction from New York University.

Indeed, Fishman says that half way through writing his novel, he realized he was like Max.

“I was really feeling it,” he says about the catharsis of writing about Max. “You basically realize that neither of the places—the U.S. or Russia are home. And so you have to find a third place”

Ifyougo:

What: Boris Fishman has several Chicago events.

When & Where:

7:30pm, Friday, March 24
Women & Children First Bookstore, 5233 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL. (773) 769-9299.

7pm, Saturday, March 25, KAM Isaiah Israel Synagogue, 1100 E Hyde Park Blvd.,
Chicago, IL. (773) 924-1234.

6pm, Sunday, March 26.
Soho House, 113 N. Green St., Chicago, IL. (312) 521-8000.

 

Duck Season: Eating, Drinking, and Other Misadventures in Gascony, France’s Last Best Place

When David McAninch first moved to Plaisance du Gers, a small village in Gascony, with his wife Michele and their young daughter, Charlotte, he was going full-force Francophile by indulging a dream he’d nourished for years—to become part of French village life, a move he chronicles in Duck Season: Eating, Drinking, and Other Misadventures in Gascony, France’s Last Best Place (Harper 2017; $28.99). McAninch had lived in Paris and the South of France at various times in his life, but Gascony with its traditions centered around what was grown on the land or made locally, was in some ways like place time had overlooked. The nearest McDonald’s was in Toulouse, a two-hour drive away, very little processed food was available and tourists seldom seemed to find their way to this part of Southwestern France.

McAninch, an editor at Chicago magazine, had first discovered Gascony when researching a story on duck and was determined to return for a much longer stay. Getting an assignment, he started researching and was surprised to find how little was written about Gascony. Unlike other regions of France, there were few cookbooks and even fewer less restaurants focusing on Gascony cuisines. His bible became Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of Southwest France: Recipes from France’s Magnificent Rustic Cuisine.

 He became captivated with the old fashioned farmhouse practices of making the foods that define Gascony such as Armagnac (and please don’t call it Cognac in front of a Gascon)–a rich brandy made from a blend of white wine grapes. Among other regional specialties are Madiran, a blackish, tannic red wine and Pacherenc, the local white, dry cured ham and confit—where duck is first salted and then cooked in its own fat which then acts as a preservation method.

Of course, when living in Gascony, it helps to love duck which is always on the menu. At first Michele McAninch isn’t sure about this 24/7 duck thing but her husband says within two months she was eating skewers of grilled duck hearts and he realized Gascony had won her heart—and her stomach as well. Obviously they know how to cook duck in Gascony.

But then, when reading McAninch’s sweet and humorous memoir of the eight months the family spent there, it becomes apparent that the Gascons take their cooking very seriously indeed.

“Every meal is special,” says McAninch. “The cuisine of this corner of Southwestern France is very focused on having three wonderful meals a day—usually with wine at lunch and dinner, but not too much so.”

The family brought a little Gascony back with them as well.

“On the weekends I make garbure, the classic peasant soup,” says McAninch. “It’s a beautifully simple dish and it really embodies the food of this region.”

They also relish a small slice of quiet time each evening, where for just 15 minutes or so, David and Michele sip a glass of wine (though it’s hard to find Madiran says McAninch) and Charlotte enjoys her sparkling water in a fancy glass. For those moments it’s almost like being in Gers again.

Ifyougo:

What: David McAninch is doing several book events.

Tuesday, March 14 at 6:30pm he’ll be at Froggy’s French Café, 306 Greenbay Road, Highwood, IL. Tickets are $45 for dinner. To register, call 847-234-4420.

Thursday, March 16th at 7pm at the Book Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL. Free.

(773) 293-2665.

Tuesday, March 21 at 12:00pm, University Club of Chicago, 76 E. Monroe St., Chicago, IL. For reservations, call The Book Stall at 847-446-8880.

Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists

donnaseamanbydavidsiegfried-1Call it the case of the disappearing sculpture for that’s what started Donna Seaman on her quest to chronicle the lives and works of the seven female artists featured in her just released book, Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists
(Bloomsbury 2017; $35).

“I remember going to the Chicago Art Institute and seeing this large sculpture they had at the end of the corridor,” says Seaman who grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York but not lives in Chicago. “But then she disappeared.”

The sculpture was by Louise Nevelson, who at one time had quite a following in the U.S., but like the six other 20th century females artists featured in Seaman’s book are almost forgotten despite their talent.

Intriguingly, though I had heard of Nevelson, I didn’t recognize any of the other names when I first started reading Seaman’s fascinating book. But reading about Gertrude Abercrombie and seeing her strikingly haunted paintings, I realized my mother had one in her study. But though I loved that painting, I only remembered the male artists whose works hung in our home such as Chagall’s “The Rabbi of Vitebsk” and Winslow Homer’s “The Gulf Steam” (all prints I assure you) and not this one? Was it a male thing?

Could be says Seaman, one of Chicago’s best known book critics and editor of adult books at Booklist, a book-review (and now online) magazine that’s been published by the American Library Association for more than 100 years.

“It’s about who’s writing history,” she says. “Women weren’t written about in a critically relevant way. Newspapers were interested but not the critics. And so these women disappeared.”

While doing her extensive research (Seaman acknowledges her obsessiveness) she asked museum curators to bring out the works of Lois Mailou Jones that had been tucked away in storage for who knows how long.

“They hadn’t seen them before,” she recalls. “And they kept saying these are wonderful.”identityunknown_hc_cat-1

Though Seaman chose most of the artists she highlighted—Joan Brown, Leonore Tawney and Ree Morton–because she liked their work, her essay on Christina Ramberg was much more personal.

“I knew Christina,” Seaman says. “She died very young. The moment she became ill, we knew she wasn’t going to be around very long and I knew someday I would write about her.”

With a Master’s degree in English from DePaul University, one might expect Seaman to be more focused on lost women writers, but her mother was a visual artist (in fact Seaman is traveling to Vassar College last this spring where her mother has a showing of her work) and at one time, she considered becoming an artist as well.

Earning her BSA at Kansas City Art Institute where she was a sculptor major, Seaman says she was only one in her class who loved her liberal arts classes.

“I loved libraries and I have a passion for reading,” she says. “Despite getting into shows and selling my works, I realized that my stronger skills were in editing and writing.”

This skill subset—art and writing—is perfect for giving these artists their identities back.

Ifyougo:

What: Donna Seaman Book Launch Party for Identity Unknown.

When: Wednesday, March 1 @ 7 p.m.

Where: Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark, Chicago, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: 773-769-9299; Donna Seaman has several other Chicago events coming up. To learn more, visit donnaseaman.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blissful Basil: Over 100 Plant-Powered Recipes to Unearth Vibrancy, Health & Happiness

Finding a sense of peace and contentment in her life by eating healthier and follow a menu of plant basedblissfulbasil_frontcover of Vegan meals, Ashley Melillo began blogging while earning her graduate degree in school psychology.

Eating whole food helped Melillo deal with the anxiety and stress of her life. And she shares her food philosophy and the recipes she’s created not only on her blog, Blissful Basil, but also in her new cookbook, Blissful Basil: Over 100 Plant-Powered Recipes to Unearth Vibrancy, Health & Happiness (BenBella 2016; $21.95).

It’s not easy, says Melillo who also earned a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
.

“There are no quick fixes,” she says about incorporating both physical exercise and a wide variety of plant-based foods into our diet.

Indeed, one wholesome smoothie such as her Energizing Carrot Cake Smoothie, Get Glowing Strawberry Mango Chia Pudding or her Cheesy Herb or the Sun-Dried Tomato Good Morning Biscuits, won’t turn our lives upside down health-wise. But it’s all a step in the right direction to achieving physical, mental and emotional well-being.

“I think it’s tempting for many of us to want to think otherwise but it’s necessary to build up good habits,” she says. “It’s a matter of making small but good choices every day. It’s a way to taking care of all aspects of your health—cognitive and physical.”

Of course, as a psychologist, Melillo recognizes that it’s most difficult to make these changes at those times in our lives when we most need to do so.

“It’s when some of these emotions are most at their peak and when you feel almost too overwhelmed to try taking the steps to move forward, that’s when it’s the hardest,” she says. “But it’s the hardest things that push up forward and end up being the best things for us. But it’s important to make ourselves do so–to start chipping away at our anxiety or stress or depression. By taking that one step, oftenswift-sweet-potato-coconut-curry-srgb we can go on and take another and another and ultimately alleviate some of those overwhelming feelings.”

For Melillo, sticking with a whole foods plant-based diet doesn’t mean not allowing herself a little flexibility. But there are also other fixes too. Want something sweet? Try a vegan dessert such as her Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars, Enlivening Lemon Bars, Peanut Butter Cookies and Cosmically Fudgy Cacao Tahini Brownies. Hankering for a pizza? Melillo has a variety
of pizzas such as her White Pizza with Garlic Herb Oil, Mozzarella and Puffy Potato Crust.

“I think it’s important to have an element of self-compassion and understanding,” she says. “If you know you’re craving something that’s maybe not the thing that makes you feel greatest, but it just is what you’re feeling that you want to eat in that moment so like a vegan cookie or more processed vegan pizza something like that.”

Realizing that many people aren’t ready to go totally plant-based or Vegan or know much about, Melillo offers a glossary of terms, recipes for pantry items to keep on hand and helpful symbols—colored circle noting whether recipes are free of gluten, grain, soy, nut, oil, refined sugar and if they’re raw.

Melillo asked meat lovers to taste test the recipes in her book because she wanted them to be appealing not only for those already committed to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle but to all those who pick up her cookbook or read her blog.

“I really want everyone to love the recipes in this book,” she says.

Ifyougo:

What: Ashley Melillo talk and book signing

When: Thursday, February 16, 7:00 p.m.

Where: The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: (773) 293-2665; bookcellarinc.com

 

 

The Restoration of the Calumet Region by Kenneth Schoon

In a time when so many issues seem insurmountable, Dr. Kenneth Schoon, professor emeritus of science education at Indiana University Northwest, has written a book about how community activists, government entities and corporations have all workedshifting-sands-book-cover-lowres together to turn around the once vastly polluted lands and waters of Northwest Indiana.

“It’s nothing short of miraculous,” says Dr. Kenneth Schoon, author of the recently released Shifting Sands: The Restoration of the Calumet Region (Quarry Press 2016; $30).

Schoon, winner of the 2016 Dorothy Riker Hoosier Historian Award, was asked by Lee Botts, founder of the Great Lakes Alliance and founding board member and president emeritus of the Dunes Learning Center, to write the companion piece to the 2016 Chicago/Midwest Regional Emmy Award nominated documentary film “Shifting Sands on the Path to Sustainability.”  Botts, along with Tom Desch, Rana Segal and Pat Wisniewski produced the film for which they were nominated as finalists for the Society of Innovators.

“One of the things Lee discovered when she was working on the documentary was that a lot of people in this area who live here still think of this as still dirty as it was in the 1960s,” says Schoon, whose other books about the Region include Dreams of Duneland: A Pictorial History of the Indiana Dunes Region, Calumet Beginnings: Ancient Shorelines and Settlements at the South End of Lake Michigan and City Trees. “She knows that I use the standards of the academic but I write it for the general public and we thought this was an important story to get out.”

Schoon, who grew up in Gary and taught in the East Chicago Public Schools for over 20 years before earning his doctorate and teaching at Indiana University Northwest, put aside his other projects including a book on the Swedish settlements in Northwest Indiana, to begin his intensive research.

“At one time the Grand Calumet was the dirtiest river in the country,” he says. “The book shows how Northwest Indiana contributed to global clean-up. This was in part due to astronaut Frank Borman.”

In an interesting aside, Schoon says that at one time there was a Borman Avenue in Gary named after Frank’s grandfather.

“But when Gary annexed Tolleston about the same time they annexed Miller Beach, they changed the names of the streets which were named after early settlers to numbers,” he says. “But years later, they named the expressway after Borman’s grandson.”

Borman was the Commander of Apollo 8, the first manned voyage to orbit the moon, and both he and his crew took photos of the earth as seen from space.

“The photograph helped people appreciate how just self-contained our planet is, and its publication has been described, perhaps overenthusiastically, as the beginning of the environmental movement,” writes Schoon.

“Another important person from Northwest Indiana was Lynton Keith Caldwell who was a school teacher in Hammond and then got an advanced degree and became a professor at Indiana University East Chicago and then Bloomington,” says Schoon. “He’s often called the father of the environment impact statement—the National Environmental Policy Act which was passed by Congress in 1969 and required research before doing a project.”

The earth was so dirty back then, says Schoon, people realized a change needed to be made and fast. And businesskjs-closeupes once seen as adversarial to environmental became partners in cleaning up our section of the planet.

“Corporations like US Steel and ArcelorMittal, NIPSCO and BP work with environmentalist now, they all have environmentalists on their staff,” says Schoon. “The business environment has changed so much in this regard over the last 30 and 35 years. Business executives support the parks—the Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore and the Indiana Dunes State Park. They want clean air for their children and great places to live.”

There’s still more work to be done such as the lead clean up in East Chicago. And in ironic twist of good intentions, at one time sewage was dumped into waterways because people believed that industrial waste diluted the human waste.

“The water still flows over the bottom of these rivers where these pollutants from a hundred years ago have settled, it’s flowing over this horrible stuff,” says Schoon. “Parts of the Grand Calumet have not been dredged yet. Accidents can still happen and pollutants can be tossed into the air and river accidentally. We still need to measure air and water quality and respond to it quickly. But it’s so much better than it used to be.”

According to Schoon, a huge amount of restoration is going on today in Northwest Indiana, not  just by the government but by non-profits like Save the Dunes, the Izaak Walton League, which founded in 1922, is one of the nation’s oldest conservation organizations and the Shirley Heinz Land Trust which has restored more than 2000 acres throughout Northwest Indiana.

“There is reason to celebrate,” he says.

Ifyougo:

What: Ken Schoon has several program and book signings scheduled.
February 23 at 7 p.m. Program and book signing for Highland Historical Society, Lincoln Center, Room 116-118, 2450 Lincoln St., Highland, IN. facebook.com/Highland-IN-Historical-Society