It’s hardly surprising that Shelia Simon doesn’t put much face time in the kitchen. As Lieutenant Governor of Illinois, Simon’s plate—no pun intended—is full with duties that include heading three river councils and chairing the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council and the Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee.
Simon, the daughter of the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon, also serves as Governor Quinn’s point person on education reform. In 2011, she went on a fact-finding mission, visiting all of the state’s 48 community colleges. One of the things she learned was that many students were not prepared for college math. As a result, she helped craft legislation that will establish the first statewide mathematics curriculum models for middle school to high school students.
To unwind, the former law school professor and mother of two college-age daughters enjoys kayaking, bicycling and playing the banjo and bassoon in Loose Gravel, a blues and boogie band. Check out the Lieutenant Governor and the band jamming and playing "The Martha Stewart Blues" on YouTube.
Q: What’s your favorite restaurant?
A: In Chicago, it’d have to be Hai Yen on Argyle. It’s a low budget, wonderful Vietnamese place. I usually have the chicken with lemongrass and ginger. But I’ve tried different things on the menu and haven’t been disappointed. In Carbondale, we enjoy Thai Taste.
Q: Sounds like you like ethnic restaurants. Which other kinds of ethnic food appeal to you?
A: All kinds. I haven’t been to an ethnic restaurant that I didn’t like. We had an exchange student from Peru staying with us, and later we went down to visit her. I never expected Pervian food to knock my socks off! In restaurants, they served purple corn juice on every table—almost as frequently as they serve water here.
Q: Do you garden?
A: Yes, we have a pretty big garden in Makanda, Illinois at my folks’ old house. We grow corn, potatoes, oregano, basil, tomatoes and gourds.
Q: What would you eat for your last meal on earth?
A: I enjoy what I eat now, and I’m not desperate to eat anything that’s bad for me.
Q: OK, then what’s your most memorable meal?
A: One of my most memorable dinners was one we had up at Perry’s folks’ farm. Almost the entire meal was from made from food grown or raised there—meat was from one of their steers. And we had boiled fresh corn with butter and salt and steamed potatoes—so perfect with the skinny little skin on it. We also had fresh peaches.
Q: What’s your favorite dessert?
A: I don’t eat a whole lot of dessert. But my favorite would have to be the pear sauce made from the pears from one of the pear trees in Makanda. It’s the pear equivalent to apple sauce but with a much more exciting taste.
Q: Drink of choice?
A: Mountain Dew. I don’t drink alcohol.
Q: Would you bring it to a BYOB eatery?
A: Oh yeah. I drink way too much of it. It has lots of caffeine and lots of sugar. I love it all.
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