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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Monday, April 15

Gapers Block

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Column Thu Oct 01 2015

Backwards Thinking Spoils the Broth


There is a difference between men's and women's approaches to food. I can't help noticing the food that women love: regional, instinctive cooking that is not being celebrated in the top-fifty lists. The loving, nurturing side of the trade, the instinctive side -- and, I would say, the feminine side -- is being forgotten.

--Chef Margot Henderson (Rochelle Canteen, London)

Somewhere underneath the dense layers of sexual generalizations, a familiar point emerges: women are underrepresented in kitchens. Surprise. In "Where Are All the Women Chefs?," Chef Henderson echoes a repetitive message, unique only in the sense that it's chock full of mundane stereotypes and fossilized nostalgia. Henderson asks why women aren't running more kitchens, given their inherent love for cooking and nurturing. Her theory is that it's because two types of cooking exist: a male kind and a female kind.

She explains that the loving, nurturing, and instinctive aspect of cooking is no longer part of the culinary trade. Quasi-science follows suit: "I think it's ancient. I think it goes right back to the Stone Age. Women produce food; men provide food. In other words, we breast-fed while the men went out and hunted. Both were necessary. We needed both to survive. And both are still in our instincts. Our anatomies decided that."

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Judy Wu

Column Wed Feb 26 2014

James Beard Foundation Awards Needs More Diversity

SILVER_MEDALLION_6_0_0.jpg The food world is currently abuzz with praise for nominees of the James Beard Foundation Award (JBAF), an honor bestowed only upon exceptional chefs and food journalists. As I scrolled through list of notable semifinalists, however, I realized the awards conveyed a rather homogenous message: that a great restaurant in the US serves expensive American food and that a great chef (not pastry chef) is an older, white male. It felt like a déjà vu of the "Gods of Food" article all over again.

Skewed demographics in the restaurant industry (or really, any industry) don't surprise me, but I was curious what the numbers actually revealed. In the spirit of brevity and (short attention spans for statistics), I conducted a very basic analysis on the list of nominees and found the following.

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Judy Wu

Column Fri Nov 08 2013

Culinary Gender Inequality IS a Media Concern

time cover.jpgThe Nov. 18 issue of Time features the "Gods of Food," 13 culinary greats with significant influence in the food industry. No female chefs were deemed "gods," though two pastry females were bestowed one-sentence mentions in a sidebar. In an Eater interview, section editor Howard Chua-Eoan explains that rather than filling a quota of female chefs, they chose individuals based on reputation and influence. "There was no attempt to exclude women...we just went with the basic realities of what was going on and who was being talked about," Chua-Eoan says. When asked why he didn't include any female chefs among the Gods of Food, he stated that although he considered it, "none of them have a restaurant that we believe matches the breadth and size and basically empire of some of these men that we picked...The female chef is a relatively recent phenomenon, except for Alice [Waters] who has been around for a long time."

While many have condemned Chua-Eoan as a misogynistic asshole, I don't think he's sexist as so much apathetic to gender inequality. After all, the list actually does reflect the "very harsh reality of the current chefs' world."

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Judy Wu / Comments (1)

Column Fri Sep 20 2013

Restaurants Trends that Irritate Me-Part 2

rsz_1426398_69740595.jpgI learned today that online aggression negatively impacts society and one's mental health, but nothing fuels the human spirit like hatred and anger directed from a distance. And since I'll probably die thrashing in a bitterness-induced coma, here I go--part two of restaurants trends that irritate me:

Complicated Menus
Remember Avril Lavigne's song Complicated? That's what I hear everytime I peruse over restaurant menus. There's 6,000 synonyms for appetizers (e.g. small plates, "diminutive portions," for-sharing, flight of sides) and apparently, flatbreads and pasta don't count as entrees anymore. Restaurants are creatively licensed to organize their dishes as they see fit, but if there are more categories (and sub-categories) than dishes, that's just obnoxious. To address the issue, I'm thinking we need a taxonomic ranking or periodic table.

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Judy Wu

The Dog Show Thu Sep 13 2012

The Dog Show: Drunk Dogs

Thumbnail image for TheDogShow_01.jpgChicago is a drinking city, so come early Sunday morning once the bars close down, it's no surprise that the busiest spots in town are familiar foods catering to the less-than-sober clientele. Everyone has a favorite, whether it's a taco joint, a greasy slice of pizza, or the local McDonald's you stumble into and regret the next morning. But in a city of high- and low-brow encased meat, the weapon of choice for many of us is the mighty hot dog.

Chicago, for the most part, take its hot dog game very serious. And I'm not just talking about the strict no ketchup policy and the fiery debates over what qualifies as "Chicago Style." We've got some amazing homemade purveyors making some innovative, creative, and strange combinations. If you're a fan of the higher brow hot dog scene, you know what I'm talking about. And as much as I love my foie gras dog at Hot Doug's, the main thing I crave after a night of already poor decisions is that classic, humble hot dog.

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Lisa White / Comments (1)

One Good Meal Thu Jan 27 2011

Pre-Tomato Italy

Naples Onion Sauce

Italian food changed dramatically after the introduction of the tomato. In many cases, it is hard for historians and anthropologists to know what Italians ate before there were tomatoes. However, Italians traveled so much and for so long that their cuisine was heavily influenced by a wide variety of cultures.

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Cinnamon Cooper

One Good Meal Wed Jan 19 2011

The Call of Pork Skin

Assembled ingredients for Cotechinata

I love deep-fried pork skin. Whether you call them cracklins because they still have a touch of meat attached, or whether you call them pork rinds because they don't, I love them. The pork rinds at The Publican are something I have to order every time we go.

About a year ago I was wandering the meat counter at my local grocery store and I saw a package of "Belly Skin." I picked it up, asked the butcher what it was for, and in his broken English he told me it was pork skin with fat attached. The 3 pound package cost about $1, so I figured I'd find something to do with it. I took it home, did some research, and decided that I would marinate it in beer, cut it into small pieces, and deep-fry them. Well, not only did it almost result in my Fry-Daddy overflowing due to the excess beer in the pieces, but they were bitter. Horrible, awful. Not at all what I wanted. So I gritted my teeth and pitched the entire package.

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (5)

One Good Meal Mon May 17 2010


From the time I was 17 years old until a few weeks ago, I was mildly allergic to bananas. I didn't have the full throat-closing, rash-developing reaction that comes with a full-blown allergy. But I would have more than a timid bite of banana and I would spend some quality "alone time" in the bathroom. It was unpleasant enough to make me avoid banana anything, although I gave in occasionally to a piece of banana bread, which seemed to offer no ill effects--but it made me nervous enough of the possible reaction that I was still more careful than I probably needed to be.

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (3)

Column Wed May 05 2010

Chickpeas in a Pod

Fresh Chickpeas

I've written before about how I love garbanzo beans (or chickpeas). I still love them. So imagine my delight when I went to a local market on Devon that I hadn't been to before and found some fresh garbanzo beans. I of course had to grab a pound of them and rush home to see what glorious things I could do with them--especially when fresh, as they are a great source of fiber and protein. Chickpeas are a bright spring green color, and inside each papery husk is one or two brain-shaped beans. They're quite attractive, so I decided to find a way to prepare them to let them be the visual (and taste) star of a dish.

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (2)

The Dog Show Mon Apr 26 2010

The Dog Show: Redhot Ranch

Thumbnail image for TheDogShow_01.jpgI came, I saw. I got a stomach ulcer, couldn't eat anything but soup and bread for about a month. I moved to Wicker Park/Bucktown. I dreamed about eating curries and rich cheeses in a bare two-bedroom apartment. And now I am back. My stomach is healed, I'm all moved in, and I'm ready to explore my new neighborhood and eat the food I missed most of all within that month of my bland food diet: hot dogs.

The one hot dog joint that piqued my interest in my new 'hood was Redhot Ranch. Every time I walked down Western that bright yellow Vienna Beef sign drew me in like a moth to a flame. The banner advertising "homemade french fried shrimp" didn't help me stay away either. This weekend's rainy weather offered the perfect opportunity to get out and try what Redhot Ranch promised.

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Amy Dittmeier / Comments (2)

Column Tue Feb 23 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs: Comfort Food for the Masses

I love to cook. And I have a bit of a tendency to be a control freak when I watch other people cook. This is a new thing for me and seems to have come on slowly. However, when I'm at home and my mom is cooking, I tend to keep a tight lip on the cooking advice.

Or so I thought.

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (1)

Column Tue Feb 09 2010

Enjoy a Roll in the Kitchen on Valentine's Day

Finished Egg Rolls

Valentine's Day tends to bring overpriced flowers, stale candy, cheesy stuffed toys, and a rushed dinner at a restaurant. I love a good romantic gesture, but so many of the things that are pushed as "appropriate" just ring hollow. I've written here for years about how I encourage everyone to stop eating out on Valentine's Day--and I'll reiterate my reasons.

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (2)

One Good Meal Thu Jan 28 2010

Super Food

In my last column, I wrote about how cooking at home could help you save money, eat healthier, and make you a better cook. And while I firmly believe that to be true, I have to admit that occasionally, I'm going to make things that taste good but aren't necessarily healthy. With the Super Bowl coming up in a few weeks, there are going to be a lot of parties where comfort food and deep-fried snacks are going to reign supreme.

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Cinnamon Cooper

The Dog Show Mon Jan 18 2010

The Dog Show: Flub A Dub Chub's

TheDogShow_01.jpgFlub A Dub Chub's is a relatively new hot dog emporium in Lakeview that's getting more and more attention from the locals. It could be because of their cute logo or their friendly atmosphere, but I have to chalk it up to their amazing menu. Featuring good ol' fashioned American staples, hot dogs and burgers, there's always something for even the pickiest eater to find at their restaurant. Family owned and operated with the help of their friends, Flub a Dub Chub's welcomes you downstairs with a waft of encased meat and the promise of a warm atmosphere. Every time I've come into this place I'm always greeted by one of the owners, who are always there, and have a great conversation. These guys care about food and about their customers, which is a welcome change to the quick service places around the area who couldn't care who you were.

In this particular hot dog excursion I ate six hot dogs. That's right, six loaded to the top hot dogs with only my trusty boyfriend to help me finish the remainder of what I couldn't. I will probably never do this again until I go to Hot Doug's but let me tell you right now, when the menu has 14 different types of hot dogs sometimes it's okay to let a few wait until the next visit.

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Amy Dittmeier

Column Mon Jan 11 2010

Cook Your New Resolutions

Roasted lamb shanks

Braised Lamb Shanks with Chard

Ah, New Year. Hangovers abound, gym membership purchases and attendance are up, lists of resolutions are long and well-intentioned, mine included. And after talking to a few people I know that several folks have mentioned that they want to cook more at home, learn to cook better, and they want to save money. And since part of my list of resolutions is to write more columns about cooking for this site that I love and miss, I figured if I could help other people keep their resolutions while keeping mine, then it would be a win-win.

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Cinnamon Cooper

Column Fri Dec 18 2009

Give the Gift of Food

Homemade Twix BarsIt's the holiday season, and if you're like me, you've barely thought about shopping, let alone had the time to create cute nametags for all of your beautifully wrapped gifts. There seems to be a bit of ennui out there in my own circle related to the holidays this year. Maybe it's that there are so many unemployed or underemployed people? Or maybe it's that the number of pleas for end-of-year donations seem more desperate or more greater in number than usual?

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (1)

Column Mon Oct 12 2009

Not-So-Basic Tomato Sauce

I've had a very, very packed full summer. It wasn't full of the leisurely iced adult beverages sipped slowly under stars, or the long, lazy Saturdays at the beach that I had imagined, but it was definitely an adventure. I've spent the last five months working on a cookbook. And it isn't quite finished, but it is close enough to completion that I'll talk a little about it.

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (2)

Column Fri Jun 19 2009

Mad for Mofongo

I have no qualms saying how much I love to eat pork products. I do. I think pigs are delicious animals. But, even I have my limits as to how much pig fat I will eat in one sitting.

For example, I was recently trying to figure out what the quintessential dish was for a number of cuisines. And I looked up Puerto Rican food and Mofongo seemed to win. I began to compare recipes and noticed that they all involved the same basic things. Cutting green plantains into chunks, deep frying it in lots of pig fat until the starchy fruit soaked up the pork fat, and then blending or mashing that with garlic, salt, and other spices, along with pork rinds. This mash was then formed into balls or patties and used as the starchy base for a number of different types of dishes.

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (3)

Column Wed May 20 2009

Flywheel Green Vegetable Curry

Several months ago I was lucky enough to attend a preview of Beer! from the Neo-Futurists at Metropolitan Brewing. Not only did we get to see a hilarious performance that involved a puppet named Puke, learn the basics of the brewing process, but we also got to sample some of the tasty beer that was made on site. And it was tasty. Flywheel Bright Lager was my favorite and I anxiously awaited the beer to be sold in bottles so I could buy it and try it in my home.

As I was milling around and meeting some of the other beer-loving attendees, I got to meet one young man who found out that I occasionally write this column and he provided me with a challenge which I whole-heartedly took up. "I would love a green curry vegetable dish that used beer." I instantly began sniffing my Flywheel and imagining it mixed with flavors like ginger and lemongrass and coconut milk and I was pretty sure I had a winner. The slight bitterness from the hops concerned me but I figured there was only one way to find out.

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (4)

Column Mon Apr 20 2009

Fennel Alchemy

I really like the alchemy that can happen when you take just a couple of ingredients, mix them together, and cook them until they all turn into one harmonized thing. Sometimes this happens when some sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil are drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with salt and pepper. But we're still in the winter dearth of produce, so that dish will have to wait for a few months.

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (3)

Column Sun Mar 29 2009

Recession Busting: Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Sauce

I'm not sure whether I should blame the ugliness of this winter, the lack of time I've had due to work and other commitments, people, or The Recession, but I've not felt like cooking lately. I've cooked, I've eaten, but I've not been inspired. Arrival of a fresh cooking magazine would typically inspire at least a stolen hour of time thinking about how I could do things better, but lately they've sat unread. I wander the grocery store and try to figure out what to cook that takes little effort.

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (1)

Column Wed Feb 11 2009

Down Home Mac-n-Cheese

I don't know about you, but I've been craving some crazy amounts of comfort food. Its the time of year where I just get a little whiny and sluggish. And making dishes that are creamy and starchy have been making me feel better.

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (3)

Column Thu Jan 15 2009

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

If you read last week's feature about tamale-making and made it to the bottom of the column, you saw my instructions for cooking chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks) with dried peppers. Last week I showed you how to take that chicken and shred the meat for turning into tamale filling. Which means that if you actually did that you'd end up with a couple of quarts of smoky, spicy, and dark red chicken broth.

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Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (1)

Column Mon Jan 12 2009

One Good Meal Archives

Earlier One Good Meal columns can be found here.

Andrew Huff

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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