Saturday, August 1, 2009

Summertime Love in a Bun - Chicago Style

Lake Forest, Illinois

If you are going to go full-on Americana with your food, the best time to do it is summer and the best place, no doubt, is in the Midwest. I am sure there are as many definitions of truly American cooking as there are addresses between sea-to-shining sea, and mine most definitely is founded in the house that I grew up in, in the same house where Oscar's grandparents still live. Sadly, our State-side tour was coming to an end, but there was no better place to get my fill of barbequed ribs, beer brats, fruit stuffed pies, sweet corn on the cob, potato and tomato salads then in my mom’s kitchen.

My mom is from Wisconsin, and in her dowry she carried delicious pork beer brats. Any meat ground and teased into a casing causes a sudden saliva tsunami and can be considered a perfect food-- breakfast, lunch or dinner-- throughout the year, but my mom’s beer brats are, to me, the essence of summer cuisine. Mustard slathered skin crispy from the grill, giving way to a bite seasoned with fennel and black pepper, extra juicy from being boiled in beer-- this is summertime love in a bun!

Carter won the Wiener Prize with a "Three Dog Day" the Saturday before our departure. His first order of business upon walking into Wrigley Field was to scarf down an Italian sausage, the seventh inning stretch rained Chicago Style dogs all-around (Chicago Style? All you need to know is DO NOT ask for ketchup). The Cubs' win was celebrated at my parents' house with greatly anticipated beer brats and all the fixings: mustard, day-glow green relish, raw white onion, jardinière (the essential spicy pickled veggie topping) and jalapeños. Carter had seconds at dinner and the biggest piece of pie; that is one reason why he is my hero.

Cubs, dogs, a boat ride past The Statue of Liberty, fireworks, and trips to Target: a very American summer vacation. What is the definition of true American cuisine? Summer is the perfect time to argue it out around a barbeque, sucking down cold ones while your meat of choice sizzles away.

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