The Evanston Community Kitchen

A food memoir about women in the kitchen and history in the making. Food = Story.

Questions I’d Ask My Grandmother Now

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Questions I'd Ask My Grandmother Now

I wish I could go back in time and ask my grandmother a million questions.

I do remember asking her when I was nine years old, as she sat with her legs crossed like she has in the photo, on the tan plaid couch in our living room with brown thread stitching, “Why do your boobs sag, Grandma?” I remember being very curious why they hung so low.

She was so kind. She laughed a little at my blunt nature and smiled, as if she understood my bluntness from her own experience. She was a straight shooter. I loved that about her.

My dear Megan, “We had to wear corsets when I was young.”

“What are corsets?” I asked curiously.

“They were uncomfortable, but squeezed everything in. You should be happy you will never have to wear one.”

I miss my grandma, but I feel closer to her as I research her life and her mother’s life through The Community Kitchen. My mother recently passed away. She was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery July 1. Her inurnment ceremony was beautiful. Her ashes were joined with my father’s who passed in 2003.

I will be going to Evanston this week to conduct on-site research at the Evanston History Center. I received a Regional Artist Project Grant funded through the North Carolina Arts Council, Pitt Council Arts Council, and the Wilson Arts Council for travel expenses. I am very excited to be able to go to Evanston and all the places my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother stepped before me.

This article is a great link (The History of Meatless Mondays) by Katherine Spiers about the history of food conservation during WWI. As you know, if you follow this blog — the Evanston Community Kitchen sprang from a Evanston Woman’s Club food conservation project (the Food Conservation Committee of the Woman’s Club). My great-grandmother (Elizabeth Hawley Odell, also referred to below as Mrs. James Odell) was one of the three committee chairwomen, along with Mrs. Dawes and Mrs. Kingsley. At the time, my grandmother was 19 years old and living in Evanston.

If I could travel back in time, I would shadow both my grandmother and great-grandmother during this time period. I would love to watch my grandmother’s hands as she helped prepare canned fruits and vegetables from local victory gardens.  These historical moments are what I will be researching when I travel to Evanston this summer.

“During World War I (1917/8), through the Food Conservation Committee of the Woman’s Club, she helped to found (with Mrs. James Odell and Mrs. Homer Kingsley) and manage a community canning kitchen, which produced almost 7000 jars of food over a summer. This Conservation Committee further put on food demonstrations for women at Schools of Domestic Sciences all over the city and trained volunteers to teach others; they also wrote to merchants about complying with the conservation order of the United States, especially to find substitutes for wheat, meat, fat, and sugar.” — Evanston Women’s History Project Database (Helen Palmer Dawes), Evanston History Center

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Domestic Revolution: Preserving the Family Meal

Women’s co-op: The Community Kitchen (Link to article in Evanston Now newspaper about a history talk on the Evanston Community Kitchen. See link for details).

Click on link for details of event: http://evanstonnow.com/event/education/bill-smith/2013-03-04/55018/womens-co-op-the-community-kitchen

The Community Kitchen Photo Credit: Evanston Woman's Club

“This Thursday (April 4, 2013) is “Preserving the Family Table,” a presentation covering the fascinating but mostly unknown story of the Community Kitchen.” — Evanston History Center Facebook page

“Women’s history month is year-round at EHC! Join them tonight at 7 pm to learn about the Evanston Community Kitchen, a woman-run cooperative housekeeping venture that sought to revolutionize women’s lives. Presented by Erin Hvizdak.” — Evanston History Center Facebook Page

A wine and appetizer reception catered by Whole Foods Market, Evanston South takes place at 6:30 p.m.

Admission is $10 to the event at the Evanston History Center, located at 225 Greenwood St., Evanston, Illinois 60201, inside the beautiful Dawes House. Event is free for EHC members.

Photo Credit: Jenny Thompson of the Evanston History Center. The event on The Community Kitchen is tonight (April 4) at 7 pm at the Evanston History Center (Dawes House).

The Evanston History Center (Dawes House) ~ Photo Credit: Jenny Thompson of the Evanston History Center. The event on The Community Kitchen is tonight (April 4) at 7 pm at the this beautiful house. Step back in time and attend this wonderful event.

“April Under the Buffalo

A reception catered by Whole Foods Market, Evanston South, kicks off each event at 6:30pm.
Presentations begin at 7pm.
Admission: $10 per event (Payable at the door) EHC Members Free.
Reservations Recommended: jthompson@evanstonhistorycenter.org

“Preserving the Family Table: The Founding of Evanston’s Community Kitchen After WWI”
Presentation by: Erin Hvizdak
Thursday, April 4, 2013 7pm

Learn about the woman-run cooperative housekeeping venture, the Evanston Community Kitchen, founded as a canning kitchen during WWI. At its peak, the kitchen produced hot dinners in state-of-the-art facilities and delivered up to 500 meals per week. Billed as a service of “convenience” for housewives and young single businesswomen, the Evanston Community Kitchen can also be seen as a response to the anxieties felt from shifting gender roles and class relations after WWI.” — Evanston History Center website (http://evanstonhistorycenter.org/events-programs)