Some Sweet Talk: How the Midwest Refined the Nation’s Sweet Tooth Through a Delicious Mix of Immigrant Traditions and American Ingenuity

January 22, 2012

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Cover of Jenny Lewis' book "Midwest Sweet Baking History" (detail)

Listen in as chefs Jenny Lewis and Heidi Heidecker dish out a sweet history of the Lake Michigan states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. Learn about Chicago’s dessert presence during the Columbian Exposition (where the brownie was born) and get the real skinny on industry giants like Kraft and Nabisco. Savor the stories of Whoopie Pies and Red Star Yeast and discover how tainted food products propelled Chicago to become the nation’s first city to pass food protection laws.

Chef Jenny Lewis is an educator and author of Midwest Sweet Baking History: Delectable Classics Around Lake Michigan. As a CCE (Certified Culinary Educator, American Culinary Federation), she continually creates new classes and scours books appropriate for her classes and personal interests. After she enrolled in an in-depth training seminar on Chicago’s historical Prairie Avenue homes, she developed an interest in the history of the "middle states." As a fifth-generation Chicagoan, she is honored to tell the stories of immigrants' baking traditions, rich company histories, and the lore of contemporary and historical recipes.

Chef Heidi Heidecker is assistant professor and pastry chef instructor at Kendall College of Culinary Arts. Since childhood, she's been part of Chicago’s ethnic bakery tradition. Her family owned and lived above Gladstone Park Bakery, which was known for it’s unusual cake creations. Later, she owned Alliance Bakery in Chicago for nearly a decade. Her bakery was listed in the U.S. edition of Culinaria and was voted Wicker Park's "Best Retailer of the Year—2000." She is currently working on a book about ethnic celebration breads.

Recorded Saturday, January 21, 2012 at the Chicago History Museum.