The Evanston Community Kitchen

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


She’s Got to Feel It

I have been keeping something from you. I can’t cook. Well, I can but it’s a struggle and there’s no winging it. I have to have a recipe. Well I can cook Chicken a la Meg which I made up in college. It’s basically chicken, veggies and Ken’s Peppercorn Ranch dressing.

But cooking is such a struggle for me. I am blessed with a wonderful husband who is a natural. He can look at frozen meat, flour, and the pantry and whip something up. I look at the pantry and I run.

I am a recipe cook.

I was embarrassed to tell you I can’t cook or worse I don’t really enjoy it (the sucking at it part). But tonight I had an epiphany while making this recipe I found in Martha Stewart magazine.

Epiphany: I have got to cook my grandmother’s recipes in order to write this book. Full disclosure — I’ve been struggling with finding the right way to tell my grandmother’s, great-grandmother’s, and the Community Kitchen’s story. As Anne Lamott says — there have to be a lot of “shitty first drafts.”

So back to my epiphany…of course I will never find the voice for this book unless I overcome my fear of cooking, which really is my fear of failure.

It was as if Juney said it herself!

So I am going to get my fear of failure butt into the kitchen and cook… no matter how uncomfortable I get. The story is in the discomfort. The story is in the tension. I was reminded of that by a wise woman today. Thank you K.C.

And ya know what…I enjoyed making this meal.

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I have to get all my ingredients out first or I panic. And it ain’t pretty when I panic.

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Fresh carrot from my garden. I ended up using store bought carrots for this recipe because the carrots I did pull were premature. So I did something clever with them. Is it Pinteresting enough?

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I love how carrots smell when they are pulled from the earth.

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I replaced fresh basil for parsley. Basil is another beautiful plant. I have a surplus and I keep putting off the harvest. I love going outside to get it.

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Basil store

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Pumpkin shadow — that’s me with a fistful of fresh basil

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I love this color — reminds me of Fall.

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Basil bounty

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Orange grace. Love the color.

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Onions, curry, white beans (I used white beans because I did not have lentils) and rice simmering which went in the meatloaf. I call it meatloaf because I added hamburger meat.

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Never without a map… I always need a recipe. Did you know my grandma (Juney) was a recipe writer for Schrafft’s and General Foods?

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Juney’s great-grandson. Also my helper. See the excessive three year old use of dish soap? Well, I got frazzled (happens often when I cook) and I sliced my finger with knife.

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Ready for the oven.

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My favorite part — dinner in
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1926: Juney goes to the Big Apple to Work for Alice Foote MacDougall — Takes a Big Bite

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My grandmother left Evanston, Illinois in 1926 for the Big Apple.  She left her job as the assistant manager of the Community Kitchen to go to New York City.  Juney (my grandmother) was single. Why not? She was an independent woman and had secured a great job working as Alice Foote MacDougall‘s manager.

I am sure Granny Dell was not very happy about her youngest daughter going to New York by herself. But Juney did.

Granny Dell must have appreciated it a little. I wish I could ask her. “Granny Dell, how did you feel when Juney left Evanston for the Big Apple?”

For more historic images of New York City, see this article in The Atlantic.

Perhaps Granny Dell would answer something like this, “Well, I went to Spokane in 1880 all by myself from Ohio. I didn’t know anyone in Spokane and I had secured a great job as a teacher, so I understood. Deep down I understood. Freedom is a beautiful thing.”

My grandmother wrote down quotes on little scraps of paper and cut out newspaper cartoons and clippings that were inspiring. I have some of them.

One of my favorites that Juney wrote down is: “Wear your learning like your watch, in a private pocket; and do not pull it out, and strike it, merely to show that you have one.” –
Lord Chesterfield

This certainly was true for Juney. She never bragged about her experiences or career. I sure wish she would have when I was a child. But she sure did brag about her grandchildren and her daughter.  Mary Liz, Juney’s niece did not even know that Juney had been to Europe twice. My mom told me last year about her two trips to Europe. Juney went to Cuba in the 30’s too.

My grandmother, Elizabeth Odell Welch -- "Juney"

My grandmother, Elizabeth Odell Welch — “Juney”

Juney was so elegant.  I can’t begin to tell you how beautiful she was.  Well, actually I can and I will — in the book, which I have to get back to writing.