Chicago Foods

Chicago is home to a lot of good foods. Italian Beef, Chicago style hot dogs and deep dish pizza are the most famous. I was surprised to learn that Shrimp de Jonghe is also a Chicago original. Shrimp de Jonghe is a great garlicky shrimp casserole. Served both as an appetizer and a main course the easy to make at home dish combines shrimp, garlic, bread crumbs, simple seasonings baked in the oven. Conventional wisdom claims it was created at the turn of the 20th century by the De Jonghe brothers, Belgian immigrants, owners of a hotel and restaurant of the same name on Monroe street in Chicago. The De Jonghe brothers opened their hotel and restaurant to attract the tourists attending the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The recipe is very simple to make Chicago Tribune version.

Quite a few other foods and snacks can trace their origins to the fair. William Wrigley handed out gum to get fair goers interested in his soap and baking products and found out they liked the gum better. The “Blue Ribbon” of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer was won at the fair then the name was changed to reflect the victory. Cream of Wheat and Aunt Jemima Pancake mix was also introduced at the fair.

Saganaki, Greek flaming cheese is another appetizer that came into its own in Chicago’s own Greektown restaurant, The Parthenon. In 1968, Chris Liakouras owner of the Parthenon began bringing cheese to the table, pouring brandy over it, setting it on fire and yelling “Opa!” putting the flame out with a squirt of lemon. You can get it at most Greek restaurants today. It is very tasty with Greek bread.

Chicken Vesuvio is another staple that I was surprised to learn was primarily a Chicago area dish even though this claim sparks some controversy since it is primarily roasted chicken with potatoes that has been baked all over the world. According to “The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink,” an Italian cook who was inspired by the Mt. Vesuvius volcano (or Vesuvio in Italian) created the dish in Chicago after WWII. But according to How to Eat Like a Chicagoan,  Nic Giannotti claims his father, Vic, invented it in the 1960s. Chicken Vesuvio entails sautéing chicken-on-the-bone in a skillet with herbs, garlic, and white wine. It’s served with potatoes and peas to add some color. Many claim that this is all just folklore and that all that was done in Chicago was giving the dish a cute title.

Another controversial culinary delight is the Ice Cream Sundae. I found at least three different versions of the origins of the sweet dessert. My favorite is that in 1890, Evanston had a law prohibiting the sale of soda water on Sundays. As an alternative, soda fountains left off the soda water just leaving the ice cream and chocolate sauce. Two Rivers Wisconsin lays claim to the invention at the request of a customer to leave out the soda water. Version three comes from Ithaca, NY instead of leaving out the soda water the story says that they added cherry syrup and a cherry to spice up a dish of ice cream and it was on Sunday so they called it a Cherry Sunday. No matter which you believe it is an excellent way to end a meal.


So…. How to you take your dog?

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