Road food and horseshoes

April 25, 2012

Download Story

\

Chicago is arguably home to some of the best food in the country, if not the world, but what about the Greater Midwest?

"Somebody I know went to another regional food symposium where they said, 'Oh it's just those people who make casseroles," said my friend Catherine Lambrecht, vice president and founder of the Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance. Greater Midwest, as she calls the non-profit, seeks to promote and preserve our region's unique culinary traditions within a broader cultural context.

"He got very angry—but I do think there is a place for the casserole," she said.

This weekend Greater Midwest hosts its fifth annual symposium, Road Food: Exploring the Midwest One Bite at a Time, at Kendall College and locations around the city. Michael Stern—columnist at the late, great Gourmet magazine, and of Roadfood fame—is the keynote speaker on Saturday, discussing "Will Success Spoil Regional Food?"

I'll talk about the twists and turns of "The History of Modern Food Trucks," trying to focus on the food, but also the circuitous rules and regulations, racism, and riding the rise and fall—and slow rise again—of the economy too.

Cathy will speak about state fairs—Greater Midwest's greatest ongoing project—for which she logged over 2,000 miles last year alone, to judge and eat along the way.

But she's especially looking forward to sharing the the historic horseshoe sandwich at this symposium.

At D&J Cafe in Springfield, they do a breakfast horseshoe, with hash browns, sausage gravy, two eggs, two sausage patties, and two slices of toast.

What's now considered bar food at best and drunk food at worst, the horseshoe is widely believed to have been invented in 1928 at the Leland Hotel in Springfield by "Chief Chef" Joe Schweska as an open-faced, rarebit-cheese-sauced sandwich with fried potatoes wedges. In the original, ham carved neatly off and around the bone, resulted in a slice in the shape of a horseshoe. Julianne Glatz, food writer at the Illinois Times, "the Capital City's newsweekly," will give all the details. What she describes as the historic "elegant" version will be served for lunch on Saturday, on a huge buffet spread—see the full menu here.

More than a dozen speakers include Smart Museum Deputy Director Stephanie Smith, on her current exhibit “Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art," and the Sun-Times' Dave Hoekstra, on Midwest supper clubs from The Supper Club Book (due out Spring 2013).

On Sunday, breakfast at Lou Mitchell's, where Route 66 begins, will be followed by a tough choice between two guided tours: Maxwell Street Market led by Local Beet publisher Rob Gardner, or "Feast" led by Smith.

What you don't have to choose is a schnitzel horseshoe with fries and cheese sauce. Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your handsome horseshoe.