Several years ago, in Chicago for a culinary history conference, (on foods of the Great Depression, no less. Cheery!) damp and chilly though it was, my mother, 85 at the time, and I walked out one foggy twilit evening for a sandwich at Xoco, one of Rick Bayless’ outposts, the one we felt most at ease affording.
I’ve learned, from travels past with my mom, that she wants to go anywhere and do anything. Eagerly. The slice does not fall far from the loaf.
To illustrate my point, a few years previous we were in Stockholm together in June – midsommer in fact, for another culinary history conference (topic: feasts and famine, including starvation in Sweden when people resorted to eating shoes. Cheery!), wearing, even at high noon, every item of clothing we had packed, layer upon layer, against the wet and cold. Yes, high noon. (Not too much further north, Lapland, our chief destination, there was still snow on the ground.) Anyway, to make my point, there we were one evening, snuggled in our cozy Stockholm room, my mother in pajamas, comfortably reading, ostensibly settled in for the night. “I’m going down to the bar,” said I. “I’ll join you!” returned my mother, hopping up and grabbing a pair of slacks.
She’s a fantastic traveler, always game, never complains, even when walking a long distance in Delhi with a heel missing from one shoe.
We stayed along the river, near Marina City, one of Chicago’s fine architectural jewels. My mother had been in it when it was new, not too long after 1964. Fancy!
This is my picture of the sensational torta we shared. Atrocious picture, simply proof that we were there. I should be embarrassed to post it. I’m not.
And the photo I grabbed from Xoco’s website so that you might be enticed to go. Tortas are, to my knowledge, one of the lesser known sandwiches outside of their place of origin. Nice sometimes to eat something with which you have not been beaten over the head first by television.
Chicago, rich in treasures, is truly beautiful in all weather. Rick Bayless is one of the city’s gems. Thank you, Mr. Bayless, for creating spots a person can pop into any old time, on any old dreary evening and get something genuinely good to eat.