The Evanston Community Kitchen

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


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The Bones Know (how to cook, that is)

As I was making chocolate chip cookies with my son today, I thought of something so profound and deep — it barely surfaced.

At that precise moment when my three and three-quarters year old poured the baking powder into the blue bowl, I should have honored and listened to the Montessori urge to go write it down right then and there.

But I didn’t. I kept mixing, baking, and preparing our cookie dough.

I had spent the hour prior to this trying to engage my sick, moody, snow day cabin fevered son to bake with me. He was mad at me because I would not let him watch Phinius and Ferb — his current favorite cartoon (I really like it too). We (or rather I specifically) are trying to limit his TV watching to two hours a day. And two hours a day seems like too much as it is.

Back to my profound deep thought — it was right there ready to be  measured out in perfectly proportioned words.

1 cup of prose

1/2 tsp of poetic phrasing

1/4 tsp truthful juice

1/8 tsp of heart based memory

1 stick of beauty

The words were perfect — so perfect I thought I’d remember them exactly for sure.

But I didn’t; I don’t.

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” 
― Ernest Hemingway

I know what my one truth was — geez it was the first line of this darn book my ancestors have placed on my insecure shoulders and it was perfect.

Here’s the understudy’s attempt (the lead actress took another gig apparently): my grandmother taught me to cook when I was four. I don’t remember, but my bones do. When I cook with my son, I remember.

My mom, grandma (Juney) and me

My mom, grandma (Juney) and me (and Shaggy and Penny. Shaggy is the the Pekingese and Penny is the German Shepard)

***

I don’t think there is a perfect way to write this story. It just has to be written. I have got lost in the research. There is just so much to say. I want to ask my grandmother so many questions that a thirty-nine year old would ask — an almost forty year old would ask. The thing is — I know one thing for sure, well actually two, maybe three:

1. My grandma loved me and I loved her.

2. You don’t get to ask your loved ones all the questions you will have.

3. You are left to wonder. And sometimes wonder is better than knowing.

I could hem and haw and stop right there. But the story wants to be told, so I will tell it best I can. I am telling it right now.

That is enough for today. The bones know. I am lucky to have had her in my life for the ten years I did. This love is baked into me. I may not remember our conversations, but I remember her perfume. I can still smell it. I remember her pajamas; I can feel them — she always wore silk. I remember her glasses; I touch them — they were pointy. I remember her legs; they were muscular — even for an old lady. She never crossed them at the knee, only the ankles — lady like.

Juney, you are my Valentine. I love you.

A valentine from my grandma

A valentine from my grandma

Inside of Grandma's card

Inside of Grandma’s card

Recipe for Chocolate Chip cookies from Community Kitchen recipe notebook

From Juney's (Grandma's) recipe notebook from the Community Kitchen

From Juney’s (Grandma’s) recipe notebook from the Community Kitchen

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1913: Evanston Woman’s Club Annual Meeting, Freshwater Fury, Mona Lisa Returns, Illinois Women Get Right to Vote, and Charlie Chaplin Begins His Career

The Lake Shore News was published every Thursday from 1912 – 1923 covering news from Evanston, Glencoe, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Lake Forest, Wilmette, and Winnetka. A subscription price for a year was $2.  Albert H. Bowman was the managing editor. Bertha R. Bowman was the assistant editor and James Leonard Lee was the city editor.  If one wished to submit news items, they needed to be submitted no later than noon on Monday to be published in the Thursday weekly.

What I enjoyed about this slice of research was how it felt like reading Facebook in the section What People Are Doing in Evanston.  I was able to read The Lake Shore News archived copies.  I found this resource as I was researching the Community Kitchen. What I enjoyed the most was reading the advertisements.

Some of the 1913 status updates (May 1, 1913 from The Lake Shore News) were as follows:

  • Mr. Earl Coate and Fred Carlson are overhauling their boat, the “Loon,” preparatory to entering the Lipton cup races this summer.
  • Mrs. Charles Frederic Blue, Jr., 425 Greenwood boulevard, was hostess at a dinner Friday evening before the Bachelors’ and Benedicts dance. Covers were laid for fourteen. Monday afternoon Mrs. Blue entertained at a bridge party.
  • The senior promenade of Northwestern University will be given tomorrow evening at the Evanston Woman’s Club. The patrons and patronesses will be President A. W. Harris, Miss Irene Blanchard, Dean and Mrs. T. F. Holgate, Director and Mrs. J. F. Hayford, Mr. and Mrs. James A. Patten, Prof. and Mrs. U.S. Grant, Prof. and Mrs. P. Fox, Dr. and Mrs. Snyder, and Mr. and Mrs. D. J. West.
  • Miss Helen Randlev, 1011 Maple avenue, was a luncheon hostess Saturday.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Percival H. Truman, 2602 Harrison street, entertained at cards Monday evening. There were three tables.
  • Mrs. Adolf Jahn, 2344 Orrington avenue, entertained a party of Northwestern university students Friday evening at her home.
  • A son was born to Mr. and Mrs. William J. Sack of Ravenswood, April 24. Mrs. Sack will be remembered as Miss Ethel Davis of this city.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Henry W. Leman, 1326 Judson avenue, had as their weekend guests, Mrs. Roe and her son, Russell, of Chicago.
  • Miss Kathleen Rowe, 2311 Sherman avenue, entertained the girls of the ancient history classes of the High school at her home Friday afternoon.
  • Arthur Marshall Morgan, Jr., left Evanston Thursday to spend the summer on a farm near Rockford, Illinois.
  • Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Mitchell, 1031 Judson avenue, have taken the house at 1032 Michigan avenue and will move there today.
  • Mr. and Mrs. W. F. Gardner, 811 Washington street, left Tuesday for Otia, Michigan, where they have purchased a fruit farm.
  • Mrs. E. Warner Coburn, Forest avenue and Lincoln place, entertained at bridge Thursday afternoon in honor of Miss Lucille Churchill of Erie, Pa. There were five tables.
  • The Beta Pi chapter of the Delta Tau Delta, 2207 Sherman avenue, gave its last dance of the school year Saturday evening at the Evanston Woman’s Club. It was informal.
  • Mr. Albert H. Ulrich, 629 Davis street, and daughter, Miss Dorothy, have arrived safely in Italy. They have visited all the more important towns, and are now in Venice.

From The Lake Shore News September 25, 1913:

“A reception to the president and officers of the Woman’s Club was held Tuesday afternoon in the clubhouse. It was the first regular meeting of the club and followed immediately an adjourned annual meeting.  In the receiving line were the president  Mrs. Rufas C. Dawes, and the officers, among the latter were Mrs. James Odell, Mrs. Frank A. Vickers, Mrs. James A. Patten, Mrs. N. W. Helm, Mrs. Perkins Base, Mrs. William G. Alexander, Mrs. W. S. Carson, Mrs. R. R. McCabe, Mrs. T.P. Stanwood, Mrs. John Schwender, Mrs. W.M. Turner, Mrs. N.D. Harris, Mrs. A.F. McCarrell, Mrs. P.V.E.B. Ward, Mrs. JasHibben, Mrs. W.M. Locy, and Mrs. Howard Wilcox. The social committee  of which Mrs. R.R. McCabe is chairman, had charge of the affair. Mrs. Robert Ambrosius, a cello artist and a member of the Chicago Orchestra, gave a delightful program, assited by Miss Prudence Neff at the piano. A social hour followed at which Mrs. Irving Osborne, Mrs. U.S. Grant, Mrs. Ernest Rockitt and Mrs. F.W. Harnwell poured.”

If you would like to read a detailed history of the Evanston Woman’s Clubhouse building, this is an excellent research article from the Evanston History Center’s blog: It Takes a Village…to Raise and Maintain a Building written by Erin Hvizdak. She is an intern at the Evanston History Center and is getting her Masters in Women’s and Gender Studies at Loyola.  She holds a Masters in Library Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Cornerstone Celebration, May 28, 1912. The woman in the photo is Mrs. C.E. Clifton, president of the Club. The man is unidentified.
Photo: Courtesy of the Woman’s Club of Evanston.

“The clubhouse is located at 1702 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, Illinois. The clubhouse cornerstone was laid in 1912. Its doors were opened in 1913, thanks largely to the work of one member, Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, chair of the Building Committee. Former Mayor of Evanston, Mr. James A. Patten, agreed to fund a third of the building cost if the women came up with the rest. They did just that. Property was purchased from Northwestern University which is a number of blocks away. The clubhouse was designed by the famous Chicago architect, Ernest Mayo, and opened its doors on March 11, 1913.”  Source: Woman’s Club of Evanston.

If you would like to learn more about Ernest Mayo, click here.

Less than two months later of the Club’s September 23 Annual meeting, the greatest storm to ever hit the Great Lakes happened between November 6 and November 11, 1913. The Great Lakes Storm of 1913 was  the deadliest storm in the history of the Great Lakes.  This natural disaster known as the “Big Blow, “Freshwater Fury”, or “White Hurricane” took the lives of more than 250 people between Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Erie destroying 19 ships, and stranding 19 others.  If you would like to read more about this historic storm, here is a great article from the The Detroit News.

Other major news events of 1913:

  • March 3, 1913 – National American Woman Suffrage Association parade held in Washington, D.C.
  • March 11, 1913 – Evanston Woman’s Club opens its doors

    Postcard of the Woman’s Club of Evanston. Courtesy of the Woman’s Club of Evanston.

  • June 1913 – The Illinois legislature passed a bill to allow women the right to vote in 1913. On June 26, 1913, Illinois Governor Edward F. Dunne signed the bill in the presence of Grace Wilbur Trout, her assistant,  Elizabeth Booth, and union labor leader Margaret Healy.
  • September 23rd – Serbian troops march into Albania
  • October 3rd – Federal Income Tax signed into law (at 1%)
  • November 11th – 14th – The Nineteeth Annual Convention of the Illinois State Federation of Women’s Clubs headquartered at the new Evanston Woman’s Clubhouse. Mrs. James Odell (my great-grandmother) was the Chair of the Finance Committee of convention.
  • December 12th – “Mona Lisa,” stolen from Louvre Museum in 1911, recovered
  • December 16th – Charlie Chaplin began his film career at Keystone for $150 a week
  • December 21st – 1st crossword puzzle (with 32 clues) printed in NY World
  • December 23rd – President Woodrow Wilson signs Federal Reserve Act into law
  • Portrait of Mona Lisa (1479-1528), also known as La Gioconda, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo; 1503-06 (150 Kb); Oil on wood, 77 x 53 cm (30 x 20 7/8 in); Musee du Louvre, Paris
    Source: WebMuseum, Paris

  • If you have any information on any of the women who are listed above, please contact me.  I am working on a historic food memoir about my great-grandmother, Mrs. James Odell and the Evanston Community Kitchen.  You can email me directly at memomuse@gmail.com. My name is Megan Oteri.

I received a Regional Artist Project grant recently (in fact I received the check for the grant in the mail today) from the Pitt County Art Council at Emerge.  I am very excited I have the opportunity to travel to Evanston, Illinois to conduct on-site archival research.  I plan on visiting the Evanston History Center, the Evanston Public Library, Northwestern University Library, and other Evanston landmarks.  If you have any connection to the Evanston Community Kitchen, located originally in the basement of the Evanston Woman’s Club, then at 1519 Chicago Avenue, and then permanently until 1951 at 600 Davis Street, please contact me.  Any little detail can help in the research process.  If you have information regarding the time period, specific to Evanston from 1918 to 1951, that could also be helpful.

I hope to obtain records or diaries of the women listed above that may offer a window into their world.

Thank you for your support and interest in this project. You can follow The Evanston Community Kitchen and the progress of this project here on this blog, on Twitter and Facebook.

Women in the Kitchen and History in the Making. Food = Story.