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Southern Illinois has always been a special place to me. My parents met while at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. As a child, my family made many trips from Marion county down to campus and the surrounding communities. I have many fond memories of these trips. Southern Illinois was a happy place for my family
The Student Center, Altgeld, and Thompson Woods were all familiar before I ever even moved to Jackson county to attend college. My dad had worked at the SIU Farms as a college student. He loved to drive the entire perimeter of campus and the farms to view and changes since his graduation.
When I had to collect and preserve leaves for sophomore biology class, my parents rushed me to Thompson Woods. They explained that because of the climate in Southern Illinois, many species flourish here.
Family trips were not limited to SIU. Bald Knob Cross, Blueberry Hill, Giant City State Park, The Natural Bridge at Pomona, and even a little nutrition store on the north end of Carbondale with frozen yogurt were destinations. Other times, we traveled to Garden of the Gods, Pounds Hollow, or Cave in Rock. As part of S.I.D.G.A. (Southern Illinois Dairy Goat Association,) we traveled to meetings and shows from Forbes State Park to Dixon Springs State Park and Murphysboro to Broughton and Carmi.
Food has played an integral part in many fond memories in Southern Illinois. Growing up in South Central Illinois, my parents had a huge garden. Our family canned and froze many things that we grew including tomato juice and grape juice from the little arbor. Dilly Beans were one of my mom’s specialties. My mom was very creative and cooked many things. Actually, dad was also a good cook. We had homemade noodles, pies and cakes from scratch, Swedish tea rings, and more. It’s no accident that I like to play in the kitchen.
Since my brother and I could not tolerate cow’s milk as children, we raised dairy goats. Jeanette, a fiesty yearling that pulled me through the grass at the Marion County Fairgrounds in my little white show clothes, was my first 4-H project. My dad built a small barn and pasture for our goats. (I “helped” him…) Not only were dairy goats one of my 4-H projects for all eleven years, they were part of our family. We would sometimes take turns making butter with the antique butter churn. My parents also made a mild, soft cheese and some of the best homemade ice cream ever from goat’s milk. (I liked to try to sneak the cream off the top…) We also had a hen house and fairly large fenced chicken yard so that the chickens could freely roam about. We rarely went without fresh eggs.
I grew up with many family picnics, wonderful dinners and reunions with family, and fellowship with church family. There were unique and sometimes quirky places we would visit to eat. Some still exist, and sadly, some do not.
In 2016, I started this blog in hopes of helping others discover the things that make Southern Illinois special. For me, it is also a way to honor my parents and the sense of adventure they instilled in me as a child. I hope to pass this on to my children as they are part of this venture. There are many wonderful things to experience from I-70 in South Central Illinois to the tip of Southernmost Illinois. I am honored to share them and food inspired by local ingredients, people, and events with locals and people from around the world.
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