Earlier this year I wrote about my Aunt Grace and her commitment to Chicago and its great transit system, the CTA. What I didn’t provide was a little background on Aunt Grace and why she has (retrospectively) become such a good fit for this blog’s Food Series 2017.
We had an aunt who was not only generous but playful too. One weekend while my parents were out of town, Aunt Grace stayed at our home to keep an eye on us. That evening she treated us to ice cream cones and agreed to drive past our group of buddies playing jump-rope outside so we could brag about our late-night summer treat.
I still remember the look on our friends’ faces as we slowly drove past and showed off our Baskin-Robbins cones. Aunt Grace just laughed along with the rest of us. She was impressive in our young eyes.
The fun continued when we stayed overnight at her Morgan Park apartment. My aunt picked up apples and caramel to make taffy apples. Imagine our awe when she pulled out a bag of crushed nuts for the covering.
To paraphrase a line from the famous Spencer Tracy, "at our house we never knew such bounty!" Indeed, I thought she must be rich to be able to make such an extravagant purchase.
Later that evening Aunt Grace let us stay up late to watch the chilling TV show Creature Features – again, something unheard of in our own home. Unfortunately, as a 7-year-old, I fell asleep just after the opening credits and missed everything. Still, the thought of being allowed to stay up late was enough to make me feel privileged.
My family enjoyed many Sunday dinners at Aunt Grace’s Pullman townhome; and her baked chicken was one of our favorites. She’d invite us for dinner and we’d all look forward to that meal at her cozy house.
Sometimes she’d get creative with her cooking. There was one Easter dinner where she added pink Kool-Aid mix to the mashed potatoes. That Sunday afternoon we feasted on dyed-to-match pink carnation-colored mashed potatoes.
Who could say we weren’t classy?
Aunt Grace believed in making occasions extra stylish and she always brought out her china dishes and cloth linens. We would complain because we would get stuck with dish duty (she had no automatic dishwasher). But my aunt always replied “how much effort does it take to wash a plate?” She insisted those finishing touches brought some sophistication to our table.
And she was correct.
The dinners, complete with chicken and colorful side dishes, were always finished off with a cake purchased from Jewel’s grocery store. Feel free to comment below whether it’s called “Jewel” and not “Jewel’s.” But know that Aunt Grace insisted it on the latter and that’s the way it is.
Besides, it was always so much more fun and refined to follow her suit.