The Evanston Community Kitchen

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


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Geeking Out Foodie Style

I geeked out last night organizing my Trapper Keepers (I am an 80’s child so they will always be Trapper Keepers to me). I bought three binders, the largest I could find. I bought divider tabs, folder divider tabs, plastic protective sleeves, index cards, and just about every organization tool I could get my hands on. I do have a lot of information to process and synthesize. At times, I have been frustrated that this project is taking so long, but I always have to come back to the fact that the story has to simmer. It takes time. This is brown rice people. It is worth the hour on the stove.

But when it flows, it flows. I have surges (and because I am a mom to young child, these surges usually take place at night). And last night, I only meant to clean off my desk that had open binders, sticky notes, index cards, pencil shavings, books, and a sea of other historic time period items.  I have a book that contains material from 1921 and it is so delicate that when I open the book, scraps of paper flurry onto my desk. I received it through an inter-library loan. I have a helper I have enlisted at the local library. His name is David and he has helped me gather many newspaper articles and books through inter-library loan requests. He has been so helpful that he will surely make the acknowledgement page.

“I had already done a lot of research for Rough Riders, keeping notebooks and old photographs. Some of the books were antiques for that time period, with the covers falling off.” – Tom Berenger 

It feels like I am living in the early 20th century as I am so deep in the research as my focus (and obsession) has been the Community Kitchen.

My husband said the other day, “I appreciate your passion and enthusiasm, but I am Community Kitchened out.”  Oh my, I thought, even my husband has had enough of this story. But you see, I will never have enough of it until it is written and bound in a book. It fascinates me. It takes me on jaunts and journeys to 1880 Spokane, where my great-grandmother was a teacher. Then I hop on a steam train with my great-grandfather heading West to Spokane from C armargo, Illinois. It take me to 1906 Texas where my great-aunt Harriet and grandma are dressed in Mother Hubbards — a red one for Juney and a blue one for Harriet, where they help their grandmother churn the butter.

Image Source: http://www.mamalisa.com

Image Source: www.mamalisa.com

It takes me to 1926 New York City where my grandmother is the manager at one of Alice Foote MacDougall’s tea rooms. It takes me to 1943 Smith College where Mary Liz can’t come home for her Granny Dell’s funeral because of the war. You see, The Community Kitchen is my stage coach back in time. My 1920 Ford. It is my ticket to see my family’s shows and acts. I love it. I can’t get enough of it.

The story of the Community Kitchen, which evolved from an Evanston Woman’s Club food conservation committee in 1918, has so many other stories embedded in the tapestry of American history and family history. There are recipes, stories, and love surrounding this tale. And I am a happy chef in my kitchen of words, memories and translations of text my ancestors wrote, leaving me clues to tie a bigger story together.

Sometimes (OK, a lot) I take out my index cards, which are filled with dates, facts, and anecdotes, and look them over. This gives me great comfort and joy as I have chronicled 1880 well past 1951. I have three binders full of research, which I have organized. The story is taking on a good shape – a shape of its own. The bread is rising and the scent is sweet.

Being alone, while everyone sleeps, gives me great joy. I would rather research and write than go out on the town. I become entranced at night, usually staying up until well past midnight. My son starts pre-school this week so I will have to start going to bed earlier. I will do my writing during the day. But I have to admit that the night is much more alluring as I feel it provides a more daring environment and less distractions.

On that note — good night. I am up well past midnight again.

Today’s treat and tea — I transcribed (retyped) a letter written on my great-grandfather’s business letterhead to my great-grandmother’s (Granny Dell) sister in Connecticut dated May 1896.  I wrote 6,000 words as well. I also had ice cream for dinner.

Sneak peek for this week’s post about the excitement of  coming upstairs from the basement research room when the Dawes House (Evanston History Center) was empty. It was like stepping back in time. This week’s post will focus on the kitchen at the Dawes House. If you are enjoying Downton Abbey like me, then you will enjoy this week’s post.

Kitchen at the Charles Dawes house (Evanston History Center)

Kitchen at the Charles Dawes house (Evanston History Center)


Archival Research: Jaunts and Voyages — A Ticket to a Mansion, the Titanic and Charlotte Russe

Here I am holding The Community Kitchen archive files in the research room in the basement of the Evanston History Center.

20130724_153231

It was a delicious treat to sort through the files related to The Community Kitchen while I was at The Evanston History Center in July. I touched the same scrapbook my great-grandmother assembled, which showcased the numerous articles written by magazines and newspapers. It was so delicate, frayed bits of newspaper crumbling in my hands — little bits of weathered, yellow-with-time paper created a flurry of history snowflakes. It was a very delicate process indeed. I exaggerate. It was not that bad, but the original newspaper articles from almost 100 years ago were quite delicate. The scrapbook that my great-grandmother pasted in the articles cost $.10.  As I looked through the scrapbook, I thought of my great-grandmother pasting them in, with a proud gallant heart. I could only imagine she giggled with delight (although I doubt my great-grandmother giggled).

I took a research class in graduate school (East Carolina University). I admit, at the time of the class, archival research seemed dry and a bit boring. I now think research and archives are the most fascinating thing. I love putting on the white gloves (you must wear white gloves when touching archive photos) and taking jaunts through back in time.

jaunt: (n.) a short excursion or journey for pleasure.

I do not believe my research to be jaunts; they start that way. Then they turn into voyages, traveling across continents, decades and even centuries. History is a wonderful thing.

I just wish I lived closer to Evanston as I have only uncovered the tip of the iceberg. If I lived closer to Evanston, I would be in the research room every chance I could. The Evanston History Center is quite beautiful.

This house is even more exquisite inside.
The Evanston History Center. This house is even more exquisite inside.

And I promise to post more photos soon. But if you would wish to get your how-the-aristocrats-in-America-lived fix, see this post on my Community Kitchen Tumblr site. I do post more time period photos and tidbits regularly there. So, if you look at this photo and are not local to Evanston or the area, go to the left, dare not to step on the manicured lawn, and walk down (skip if you delight as I often felt like skipping while I was there) the sidewalk on the left and you will see a staircase. This staircase will lead you down into the research room, which is in the basement. OK. I can see you would like a photo.

This is the entrance to the research room at the Evanston History Center.
This is the entrance to the research room at the Evanston History Center.

Speaking of icebergs, who is watching Downton Abbey. Oh my! I am so excited about that show. I watched part of an episode with my brother-in-law (he is a history enthusiast), in the middle of season three and thought, “Oh how dreary and dry.”  Then I gave it a second chance and watched it from the beginning. Well, I am on Season 3 and have been longing to watch it every waking minute (when I am not working on the Community Kitchen project or spending time with my family). Even so, how delightful a series.  And I admit, I long to watch it even when I am working on the CK project and spending time with my family. I am completely addicted. Soon, I will be caught up to the end of Season 3, and will wait like a proper lady for the start of Season 4 in January 2014.

Guess who made Charlotte Russe?  Well, of course you know Ethel made it for the girls at the luncheon at Isobel Crawley’s home (I will not put in the spoiler and tell you why she had the luncheon for the Crawley ladies made it).

Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham I love her!
Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham
I love her! Photo Source: Pinterest — Downton Abbey Cooks

But Charlotte Russe was also on the menu as a dessert at The Community Kitchen.

Well, Lady Megan needs to go write and research. research and write.

If you are new to this blog, read this (historic background of Community Kitchen) and this (my connection to the Community Kitchen) to familiarize yourself with the origins of the this historic food memoir project.

What are some of your favorite dishes on Downton Abbey or historic time period recipes?

Food = Story.


Archival Research: Jaunts and Voyages — A Ticket to a Mansion, the Titanic and Charlotte Russe

Here I am holding The Community Kitchen archive files in the research room in the basement of the Evanston History Center.

20130724_153231

It was a delicious treat to sort through the files related to The Community Kitchen while I was at The Evanston History Center in July. I touched the same scrapbook my great-grandmother assembled, which showcased the numerous articles written by magazines and newspapers. It was so delicate, frayed bits of newspaper crumbling in my hands — little bits of weathered, yellow-with-time paper created a flurry of history snowflakes. It was a very delicate process indeed. I exaggerate. It was not that bad, but the original newspaper articles from almost 100 years ago were quite delicate. The scrapbook that my great-grandmother pasted in the articles cost $.10.  As I looked through the scrapbook, I thought of my great-grandmother pasting them in, with a proud gallant heart. I could only imagine she giggled with delight (although I doubt my great-grandmother giggled).

I took a research class in graduate school (East Carolina University). I admit, at the time of the class, archival research seemed dry and a bit boring. I now think research and archives are the most fascinating thing. I love putting on the white gloves (you must wear white gloves when touching archive photos) and taking jaunts through back in time.

jaunt: (n.) a short excursion or journey for pleasure.

I do not believe my research to be jaunts; they start that way. Then they turn into voyages, traveling across continents, decades and even centuries. History is a wonderful thing.

I just wish I lived closer to Evanston as I have only uncovered the tip of the iceberg. If I lived closer to Evanston, I would be in the research room every chance I could. The Evanston History Center is quite beautiful.

This house is even more exquisite inside.

The Evanston History Center. This house is even more exquisite inside.

And I promise to post more photos soon. But if you would wish to get your how-the-aristocrats-in-America-lived fix, see this post on my Community Kitchen Tumblr site. I do post more time period photos and tidbits regularly there. So, if you look at this photo and are not local to Evanston or the area, go to the left, dare not to step on the manicured lawn, and walk down (skip if you delight as I often felt like skipping while I was there) the sidewalk on the left and you will see a staircase. This staircase will lead you down into the research room, which is in the basement. OK. I can see you would like a photo.

This is the entrance to the research room at the Evanston History Center.

This is the entrance to the research room at the Evanston History Center.

Speaking of icebergs, who is watching Downton Abbey. Oh my! I am so excited about that show. I watched part of an episode with my brother-in-law (he is a history enthusiast), in the middle of season three and thought, “Oh how dreary and dry.”  Then I gave it a second chance and watched it from the beginning. Well, I am on Season 3 and have been longing to watch it every waking minute (when I am not working on the Community Kitchen project or spending time with my family). Even so, how delightful a series.  And I admit, I long to watch it even when I am working on the CK project and spending time with my family. I am completely addicted. Soon, I will be caught up to the end of Season 3, and will wait like a proper lady for the start of Season 4 in January 2014.

Guess who made Charlotte Russe?  Well, of course you know Ethel made it for the girls at the tea party (I will not put in the spoiler and tell you why she made it).

Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham I love her!

Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham
I love her!

But Charlotte Russe was also on the menu as a dessert at The Community Kitchen.

Well, Lady Megan needs to go write and research. research and write.

What are some of your favorite dishes on Downton Abbey or historic time period recipes?  Food = Story.