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 Repeating "what am I doing" as I formulated posts unpublished, the question sealed those stories in my memory instead of here.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.