Saturday in Salem

A Slice of Southern Illinois had the pleasure of spending this past Saturday in Salem participating in the vendor fair for Royal Kids Camp and visiting familiar Salem icons. Each vendor donated items to the quarter auction to raise money for foster kids from group homes and in foster families to be able to attend the special camp this summer. Even though the weather outside was rainy and chilly, we had a great time.

I grabbed lunch at the concession stand at the event. Evergreen Christian Church does in fact have some great noodle makers. The nachos supreme looked pretty good too.

My young interns drove through one of the spots that former Salemites tend to visit when they come home: Chico’s Mexican American Restaurant.

After the craft show, we had an opportunity to visit family in the area. Then this Salem Wildcat/Selmaville Rocket alumnus decided to drive around a bit. I didn’t go by as many places as I wanted to see because the weather was not ideal. I did parallel park across from Sweney’s Drug Store, or rather, where it stood, to take some pictures. The building has been gone at least a couple of decades, but there is now mural on what was once an inside wall.

Sweney’s was not only a pharmacy. They sold gift items and had an elaborate soda fountain. Back in the day, Sweney’s was known for their five cent Cokes. I can remember standing in line at the pharmacy counter with my mom as a young child. On a weekend, I would be listening to Casey Kasem host “America’s top 40” on WJBD radio and staring with fascination at the huge, decorative glass container of blue liquid. I always wondered what was in that thing. At Christmastime, my parents would get boxes of chocolates at Sweney’s to give as presents. I liked to watch the store clerk expertly wrap each box.

The ABC Pub sits next to Sweney’s Corner. Of course, I have no childhood memories at pubs or bars, and I’m really not sure if they served food when I was living at Salem. I do know that it is now known for having great food. A few years ago, my high school class had our reunion there. The food was wonderful, the people were nice, and it was a lot of fun catching up with friends. We even walked next door as a class to Sweney’s Corner and released balloons in memory of classmates who are no longer with us.

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The old movie theater, now used for local and guest performances, sits across from the ABC Pub. The first movie I saw there as a kid was “The Unidentified Flying Oddball.” This was before everyone rented movies, multiplex cinema was everywhere, and you could just stream movies at home. We would wait with anticipation to see which movie came to town each week and looked forward to going to the show with friends on weekends. “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “The Secret of My Success,” “Big,” and many more great movies once graced that screen.

I finally got to visit GoGoGourmet in the newly rennovated Orchard strip mall (formerly Southern Gardens Shopping Center.) This is a place where I could really be a kid in a candy shop. I’m sure fellow foodies could relate. Lisa Lamb and her staff have done a great job with the shop. They had multiple gourmet teas, coffees, chocolate, and even a variety of finishing salts. We tasted some delicious dip mixes, dipping oils, and balsamic vinegars. I loved it. A surprise bonus was getting to visit with a friend at the shop who I had not seen since high school. We had a good time reminiscing and catching up with each other.

After we left GoGoGourmet, we headed toward Selmaville School. We inadvertently took a long route because things looked so different on roads that I used to know by heart. Houses where I played with friends and attended slumber parties have been remodeled, and there are more houses scattered along the way. I’m glad that I didn’t get us lost. That would have been embarrassing.

Perhaps if you listen really closely when you pull up to the school, you can still hear the echo of Mrs. Steinman’s seventh graders reciting their pronouns: “Subjective: I, you, he, she, it, we, they…” We really did have great teachers who cared about us and our futures. There are many great memories tied to that school. We were fortunate to be able to learn from many things beyond just books and classroom instruction.

Selmaville may have been a small school, but we had opportunities. It was a time before so much academic testing, increased regulations, and lofty government expectations that we could still be kids. We didn’t worry about being embarrassed on social media because unless the Salem Times Commoner or our small class newspaper printed it, it wasn’t going to be online for the world to see. “Online” was just bad grammar for being “on the line” in P.E. or sports. We still had class Room Mothers who were allowed to bring homemade treats.

We had good coaches, sponsors, and a wonderful music teacher that inspired me to pursue my music degree. Schoolmates and I lobbied for and eventually got to see and play on the school’s first girls’ basketball team. (They have come a LONG way since then.) We had a marching band and flag corp that actually placed in parades. If a sports team or the band did well at a competition or event, we were met with a police escort as we neared the school. We felt supported by our community. At ballgames, if it was a sport you didn’t play, you cheered on the Rockets and hung out with friends. We were not glued to cell phones. Granted, I couldn’t get by with anything too “horrendous” though because my dad was the principal…news did travel quick in a small school. Even if you were just making a mess by helping friends at your lunch table “operate” on green beans.

I thank God that many of us from my class stay in touch with each other. Part of me is sad that my kids did not have the full opportunity for the experiences that I had at Selmaville.

Eventually, we met my family at Pizza Man, another one of the places Salem people often crave when they move out of town. It was our opportunity to celebrate Mother’s Day and a couple birthdays together. Of course, the Family Pleaser with the famous French dressing (seriously, people buy it in containers to take home…) and Little Egypt Special was wonderful. (I also love the Salem Special, but not everyone likes olives and jalapeños…)

After dinner, it was still a bit rainy, but I wanted to show my faithful interns the Dairy Mart, a seasonal favorite that has been in Salem as long as I can remember. As a kid, my brother and I couldnt tolerate cow’s milk, but we were able to get slushies. My childhood favorite was the Grasshopper Slushie. No insects were harmed in the making of the minty ice drink, but it was grasshopper green. I dont think it has been on the menu for at least one decade though. Initially, I planned to just drive by and snap a few photos since we had just stuffed ourselves at Pizza Man. Then I saw the drive thru… I decided that since I would not have to get out of the car again, I shouldn’t pass the opportunity for one of their iconic lemon soft serve icecream cones…It was the perfect, sweet way to top off a visit to my hometown.

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Corn & Salad Dressing

One of the go-to condiments in our house is a really quick corn dressing–mayo, Southern Illinois honey, and Sazón– to spread on corn of the cob. Sometimes I also sprinkle either parmesan or a cheese like feta or cotija onto it once it is on the cob.

When I couldn’t decide what to put on my chef salad for lunch one day, it hit me. I could easily use the corn dressing on my salad. I added the juice of a lime to thin it a bit, and that was it.

I love it when I can have homeade things all set to go that pull double duty. I’ve been using the homeade salsa fresca in my salad for other meals as well. My lettuce was already washed, chopped, and ready to go in a bowl in the fridge. The longest it took me to do anything was tear some thinly slice ham and turkey into pieces. That’s only because I’m still dealing with the chemo-induced neuropathy. Otherwise, it was a pretty quick and tasty chef salad.

Here is the basic recipe:

Ingredients:

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup honey

1 packet of Sazón

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together. Adjust the thickness by adding more mayonnaise or honey.

Optional:

Add the juice or zest of a lime for variation.

Orange Bourbon Chocolate Brownies

These moist, indulgent brownies are the result of not being able to find my “good vanilla” and having to find suitable substitutions…

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups white sugar

1 cup butter

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 tablespoon bourbon

The juice of 1/2 of a small orange

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

DIRECTIONS:

A Community Tradition of Harvesting Memories

The Carterville Lion’s Club Free Fair kicked off this Wednesday in Cannon Park with the Farmer’s Market and runs through Saturday, September 8, 2018. This year’s theme is 105 Years of Our Tradition: Harvest the Memories. The Free Fair is a family-friendly event where many gather each year for some good, clean fun.

Friday evening features a 5K Twilight Glow Run and Poker Walk as part of the event festivities. Jackson Junction will be performing from 8:30 pm – 11:00 pm.

Saturday’s lineup includes a parade at 10:00 am, the Lioness Cake Walk, and Stride Pro Wrestling. Debbie Browning is this year’s Parade Marshall. Some of this year’s free events are a pet fair, children’s eye screenings, Identi-Kid services, Emery Brothers Roller Skating, a Ping Pong Avalanche, and hands on healthy snack and eating demos from the Carbondale Neighborhood Co-op Grocery.

Carnival rides, games, and bingo will be operating Friday evening and Saturday. Arm bands are $24 and single tickets are $3.

Additional info is available on the event’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/FreeFairPageant/

A Colorful Sky

Centralia Balloon Fest returns to Foundation Park this weekend, August 17-19, 2018. This is the 29th year for the annual event. Friday and Saturday nights will feature a balloon glow. Crafts, concessions, entertainment, and a car show also make up the event. Tethered balloon rides will be available. The event boasts over 35 hot air balloons. Additional information is available on the event’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/448467368916042/?ti=as

The Annual “Cemetery Run”

One day plus two restaurants plus three counties and six cemeteries equal my family’s annual “cemetery run.” That’s the day on Memorial Day Weekend that we meet somewhere and travel as many of the cemeteries where are loved ones are buried as we can fit in to place flowers on gravestones. Actually, there are more than six cemeteries, but some were done on a different day as the geography makes it extremely difficult to accomplish in one day.

This has been a tradition within my family for as long as I can remember. I’m pretty sure my parents did this before I was born, and I’ve included my children in the tradition. Personally, I believe it is one way to reach respect for those who have come before us.

It is sad to see the disrepair of some cemeteries, especially older ones, as not all receive any funding, and some rely on donations. Repair and upkeep might be a good project for groups looking for service projects as it preserves a part of our country’s history.

Below are some photos from Marion and Wayne county cemeteries. They are not necessarily any of relatives, but I liked the pictures.

Corn, Ranch Dressing, and Giardiniera

Contestant Robyn opened her cooler on this Sunday night’s episode of “Worst Cooks in America” and found the following three ingredients: corn, ranch dressing, and giardiniera. These foods had been chosen to represent Illinois. (Technically, the dart she threw at the map to choose her state landed in Southern Illinois –more specifically, Southwestern Illinois… ) I spent commercial breaks researching how ranch dressing and giardiniera were indicative of Illinois. Since the official state vegetable is sweet corn, the official state snack is popcorn, and as of this New Year’s Day, the official state grain is corn, I get that one.

An internet search revealed that giardiniera, a pickled vegetable condiment, is reportedly very popular in the Chicago area served with foods such as Italian beef and pizza. Guess what. Southern Illinois has some pretty great Italian food too (Can you say, “Herrinfesta Italiana?”) We also have locally made giardiniera. Louie’s Seasonings in Johnston City makes both hot and mild giardiniera as well as muffaletta and olive salads.

As for the ranch dressing….well, that one was more of a stretch for me. The best I could determine is that it was perhaps a veiled nod to Miracle Whip. Although it is not mayonnaise, it has similar color and appearance. Ranch dressing often has mayonnaise in it. As for the Miracle Whip connection to Illinois, it has been reported to have been developed in Salem. Originally, it was said to be Max Crosset’s X-tra Fine Salad dressing as used in Max Crosset’s Cafe. He reportedly sold its recipe to Kraft Foods for $300 in 1931. As with other things (like internet and sticky notes…) there are some conflicting reports regarding the invention of the famous salad dressing.

Whether or not she was familiar with Illinois or the three ingredients, Contestant Robyn did win the burger creation challenge for the Red Team. In fact a couple of the ingredients she chose to incorporate into her burger creation had elements that are representative of Southern Illinois: pepperjack cheese and barbecue sauce. Peppers seem to grow well here. Darn Hot Peppers has a wide variety of products featuring them. Good BBQ is also readily available in Southern Illinois. 17th Street Bar & Grill, Smoked to the Bone, Pat’s BBQ, The Wylde Hog, and Southern Que are just some of the options. Chef Anne seemed impressed with the Illinois burger, and it did look delicious.