Thursday, September 22, 2011

Catching Up With History

Al Badger (r) and Al Badger Jr. (l),
owners of The Golden Pheasant
from 1940 - 1962.
Photo courtesy of Al Badger, III

Two more stories have been published over on SideDish about Dallas Food History. Story #3 is about a man named Eltee Dave, who despite an early life of poverty worked very hard, becoming a Dallas barbecue legend. From the 1940's through the 1970's his Dave's BBQ (near the old Love Field) and Dave's Places (various locations) is still remembered by those who ate his cooked meats.

The 4th story was inspired by a foreword written by Caroline Rose Hunt in Dallas Is Cooking! (Renie Steves, 1992) where she remembers her favorite restaurants during downtown Dallas' golden age. Digging into the history of The Golden Pheasant restaurant revealed an almost 50 year old treasure, three families owned and worked the restaurant from 1915 until 1962 before it was sold to a man who'd lost his previous restaurant in a fire. Bad luck struck again in 1964 when a fire took down the financially failing Golden Pheasant, killing 4 Dallas firefighters when the building collapsed. It remains to this day the worst loss in the Dallas Fire Departments history and befitting the background of an early 1960's Dallas, mob connections, hit men, and murder.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Finding Ida

Published yesterday on SideDish is the story of Ida Chitwood, a lady known to hundreds of thousands of women in the early 20th century, forgotten to all but her family today. I "met" Ida when I wrote a story on TDCB about pecan pie, little did I realize that finding Ida was also in a sense about finding myself. First, let me clarify, I know who I am, senility has not yet set in. But in the last two years, since the oldest went off to college and the youngest got her drivers license, "what's next" had been rattling around in my brain.

And it was tied into the writing I was doing on this blog. Repeating "what am I doing" as I formulated posts unpublished, the question sealed those stories in my memory instead of here.  So instead of posting about an incredible week in Napa, I read the autobiography of Elmer Scott. Instead of posting about Sevy's new One Pot Braising sauce, I sat for hours in the UT-A library looking at microfiche of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. My new Friday evening pastime (when hubby was at work) was logging into the Dallas Historical phorum and reading the memories of my neighbors. Or sometimes it was scavenging Ebay and antique stores for old postcards and cook books.

But I still couldn't formulate what it was I was trying to accomplish. It took almost two years of researching Ida before the breakthrough came, and when it did, it set a course of what I needed to do. Just as Ida's breakthrough came from the most simplest of Google searches (duh, why didn't I think of it earlier), my purpose was as close to hand.  I needed to find these old stories of people and favorite eating places - put the pieces together and share them, before they were gone forever.

Because food is large part of our cultural history. While not a native, research has shown to me that Dallas has had over the last 150 years some of the most progressive dining in the country. One that goes with our culture, not with cities on the east or west coast. Other transplants would disagree, writing "Dallas feels to me as though it may just be beginning to blossom into a serious food city."

To which I can now reply, "Been there. Done that."

Extra Credit Where Due

Yesterday the second installment of Dallas food history was published over on SideDish, it is about an amazing woman named Ida Chitwood, who in the 1920's, 30's and 40's rocked the nation with her free cooking demonstrations. We're not done with her story, she had a profound impact on food that is still being explored. Consider this an introduction.

These stories are a collaboration of many people, including the families who share their memories. In many ways they could not be fully told without their help. Many, many thanks for sharing.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lookee There!

It's not that I've stopped writing, I've been working on a pretty big project over the last year actually, and the first story was just published over on D Magazine's SideDish food blog. I hope it does grow up into a book one day, but I've learned that the business side of writing is in some ways far more difficult than the actual writing. But for now it's fun, fascinating and important - my heart tells me it needs to be finished. Plus I get to work with the talented Nancy Nichols, who first pointed me in the right direction by whispering the words, "Bird by Bird."

I'll still be writing here from time to time, don't stop checking back.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Eating Reruns: How To Cook For Kids

In todays Dallas Morning News there is an article about the little leaguers at Dave Andres Ballpark in Old East Dallas and their big leaguer helpers at the Texas Rangers Foundation.  It reminded me of a story I wrote about how the Dave Andres Ballpark came to be back in September 2008.

It was the first story in the "How To Cook" series.  You can read it here:  How To Cook For Kids.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Best Cancellation By An Email Recipient Ever

Somehow, this accountant has become the internet marketing chief of Sevy's Grill.  Whatever, I hate it.  Almost as much as I hate filing and cleaning the toilet.  But we received a cancellation that made me laugh, and I thought I'd pass it along.

"In 2,753 days, when my last child goes to college, I will look forward to enjoying myself. Until then, please remove me from the constant reminders of what I am missing."

I'm sending this lady a certificate for a martini on me because she will need a break before then.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What's Up With The New Old Terrilli's?

Dunno, but snapped this shot of the reconstruction yesterday.  It's been almost a year since the fire closed down the popular Greenville Avenue restaurant.  At that same time, Popolo's at Preston/Royal had closed leaving an empty space with neighbors eager to get some Italcho's in their part of town.   My suggestion was to turn the property quickly with a Terrilli tenant, cooking up a romantic byline, Phoenix-from-the-ashes style.   Then use the proceeds from that restaurant to help build the new Terrilli's in the old location.

Nobody listens to me, it's looking like a while longer before this will be open for business, in the meantime brand loyalty erodes, competition moves in, and employees find new employers they may chose to remain with. 

And the old Popolo's space?  Still empty.  Still not generating rent.  Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Mexico: Crop Freeze, Price Increases and Unemployment

Word from produce powerhouse FreshPoint about the recent freeze in northwestern Mexico at the beginning of February when temperatures dipped into the mid-20's  for up to 6 hours:

MEXICO FREEZE: CULIACAN UPDATE:  On Wednesday February 9th 2011, Quality Assurance traveled to Culiacan Sinaloa Mexico to visit and view the impact the recent freezing temperatures had in the growing region and surrounding areas. Initial assessments after the freeze had outlined an event not seen in the region since 1957.

Produce endured low temperatures on February 3rd and 4th for a period 1 ½ to 6 hours in length at anywhere from 22 to 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures were cold enough to impact all open field (85 to 99% loss), shade house (60 to 80% loss), and green house (10 to 30% loss) grown product in Mexico.

The mass of cold air cut a swath from Mexicali to the Nogales Border down into Mazatlan and portions of Baja California San Quintin.

At the time of the freeze production in the area was in full swing from Hermosillo in the North and down through La Cruz Sinaloa along the highway 15 Corridor of Mexico. About 80% of Mexico’s production has been affected. It has been reported that in Sinaloa alone, 714,000 hectares (1.7 million acres) were affected by the freezing temperatures. An Area covering approximately the size of the States of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

In addition to the loss of vegetables, tomato, and corn crops; 200,000 to 300,000 farm workers have also been affected by the frost. The mass migration south of unemployed agricultural laborers will begin between mid to late February as production slows in the region. Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon also visited Culiacan on February 11th, assessing the damage and pledging support in the form of seed vouchers and emergency aid.
Other highlights of the report include bad news for tomatoes (Roma quality to vary, open field tomato plantings a total loss, grape tomatoes extensive damange); cucumbers, eggplant, bell peppers (all total losses); squash (small plantings survived).  There are limited crops that were harvested after the freeze, but quality will be poor.  Time estimates for plant recovery ranges from 4-6 weeks (tomatoes), to 45-60 days (squash), 6-8 weeks (bell peppers), 4-5 weeks (cucumbers) and gone for the season (eggplant).

Plan menus accordingly.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dallas Farmers Market Loses One Of It's Best Friends

Ida with Sevy
1996 Friends of the Farmers
Market Hoedown

 Ida Papert, great mother (Mombo), wonderful wife of the late Sam Papert, Jr, cookbook author and founding member of Dallas Farmers Market Friends passed away yesterday. She was needed elsewhere.

It’s not about how or when you die, it’s about how you live. Ida lived well. She was instrumental in organizing a non-profit way, way back in the 1990's to help support and build up the Dallas Farmers Market. From implementing the Farmer’s Hoedown fund raiser every year, to organizing and working the seasonal Chefs Cooking Series at the DFM Resource Center, to writing and selling 1000 copies of the Papert Family Cookbook whose sales enriched the market. And this was what she did for retirement.

Looking through my archives I’m finding many, many pictures of Ida, from the cooking classes, hoedowns, dinners and even a cruise we went on together over the last 20 years. After 15 years of DFM cooking classes, she wrote a second cookbook, Extra Helpings, to help fund a DCCCD scholarship endowment named after Jim “Sevy” Severson. To thank him for a good 15 years of success and friendship, but to also help finance a student’s dream of becoming a chef.

We saw her last having dinner at Suze with one of her sons, about a month ago. She looked beautiful. Frail, but appearing to be in good health, she was wearing a stylish white coat, her smile as big as ever. Hopefully that smile, and her good name will be remembered by Dallas in years to come as we miss her spirit and enthusiasm.  Rest in peace, Mama Ida.