with food, there’s always something new

Archive for May 2008

Memorial Day

Some people think Memorial Day should be a somber time. Not Indiana. We’re patriotic and love our country, but we breath the smell of gasoline and yearn for the roar of engines. For us it’s about auto racing. The Indy 500.

We honor ambition, precision and anticipation. From the very beginning of this race in the early 20th century, we’ve opened Indy to the world and welcomed race teams from all continents, countries and cultures. That’s our way of remembering those who’ve sacrificed for us. We keep living, we forgive our enemies and make them our friends.

Food writer Marcia Adams described Indiana as “a study in contrasts.”

Economically, Indiana developed first as farmland, but rapid industrialization occurred when oil was discovered. Indiana was no longer a sleepy agarian state…

Indy 500 doesn’t have great food and drink traditions the Kentucky Derby has. We don’t have a Mint Julip, or Roast Beef with Henry Bain Sauce, Derby Pie or sandwiches with Benedictine’s spread.

Perhaps it’s the nature of the two races. Horses run for a few minutes, then there’s an hour of downtime. Time to bet, drink, strut and sup. The 500 is hours of sun, heat, gasoline, noise, hair-raising turns, twists and danger.

Food is for later.

Although we don’t have the great culinary traditions enjoyed by our southern neighbor, there was a time when Indy knew how to roll out the carpet. I lived here in the mid-eighties, and regulary attended 500 parties. Tables were covered with white linens and silver candelabras. Catering staff wore white jackets, white bowties and white gloves. The old supper-club crowd prevailed over parties in this town–it was cocktails and elegance.

Memorial Day is Indy’s collective hangover. Time to take the visitors to the airport, come home, unwind and fire up the grill.

For all of you enjoying a family cookout, I wish I could be with you. Today, though, is my holiday to work.


Written by Susan Gillie

May 26, 2008 at 8:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Barbeque Sauce

Most barbeque sauces are too sweet, but this recipe for Chinese barbeque sauce is a perfect balance of tastes.

  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons bean paste
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon catsup
  • 1 tablespoon orange, pineapple, or praefuit juice
  • 1 teaspon honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

Mix ingredients and stir until well blended.

The Key to Chinese Cooking, Iren Kuo, Alfred A. Knopf, 1981. 

Use as a marinade for meat or as a dipping sauce.

Written by Susan Gillie

May 26, 2008 at 3:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


Saturday, after lunch with the Vulgarians, Ruth wanted to show me the city chickens who live in the backyard and lay fresh eggs every day.

We walked up the winding steps to the house. Sarah greeted us, called Will and led us through the house to the backyard. Will showed us the hens. When we asked him their  names,  he couldn’t remember. From the kitchen door, Sarah leaned out and said, “their names are Mary, Jacqueline and Andrea.” Then she came outdoors and showed us the new bunny, Ginger.

Will tried to coax the hens into letting him pick them up, but they weren’t in the mood. He showed us the coop and gave me a new egg. We went back into the house and out the front, crossing the street to Andrew and JoyLynn’s house.

We stayed there for a few minutes, playing with the boys.

As we left their house, Sarah was standing in her driveway, smiling. She started toward us, but Ruth ran toward her, “no, no Sarah, you’re not allowed to cross the street without permission.”

You see, Sarah is only five years old. She looked at us wistfully, like we were big, beautiful ships about to sail on an adventure. She was too little to go with us, she’s not allowed to cross the street or wander the neighborhood.

Sarah looked down at her feet, defeated. Her dream of freedom from a house full of older brothers, and a yard full of chickens, dashed. She turned, and like a tired, old nun, walked slowly up the driveway and into her house.

I took the egg home. For dinner, I heated butter, cracked the egg into the skillet, broke the yoke and swirled it around while it cooked. Then I slid it onto a plate and topped it with fresh vegetables, salsa and sour cream.

Written by Susan Gillie

May 19, 2008 at 4:06 am

Don’t blame it on India

Take heart, greedy Hoosiers, our gas guzzling and over-the-top consumption comes with a price.

Written by Susan Gillie

May 15, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Posted in bloggage

Happy Mom’s Day

This primary election? Whew, heady week in Indiana. For a good read on Hoosier culture, click on Nancy Nall Derringer’s Op-Ed in the Washington Post. Sure beats Matt Tully’s “I’m In Love With Myself” column in Saturday’s Star.

If your’e a political junkie, and who isn’t in this election, check out Robert Kennedy’s campaign manager’s description of the 1968 Indiana presidential primary.

My time this week wasn’t consumed by politics. No, the culprit was a cake. Not just any cake, but the Ultimate Lemon Layer Cake, cover photo for The Best of America’s Test Kitchen Best Recips and Reviews 2008.

I try to stay away from the best, perfect, ultimate. For left-brain, analytical types it’s the equivalent of crack cocaine. This cakes takes us far, far beyond food porn to cake nirvana.

It started out as a pitch-in for Cinco de Mayo, morphed into a Mother’s Day’s treat for co-workers and now sits in the frig, wrapped in Saran Wrap. It’ll have to wait another day because I ran out of eggs to make the icing.

Which brings me to Mother’s Day. Professional cooks work on weekends and holidays and today, even though I’d rather spend it with my family, I’ll be cooking for sick children and their moms. We’ll have a special dinner and give mothers bouquets of tulips.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms, grand-moms and great-grand-moms. Thanks for your dedication, preservenance and patience.

Written by Susan Gillie

May 11, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Picnic in the Park

Written by Susan Gillie

May 5, 2008 at 3:28 pm

Posted in bloggage


The Huffington Post is my guilty pleasure, it never fails to entertain and inform me. What makes it so much fun is the range of writers. Commenting on the Miley Cyrus controversy, Jamie Lee Curtis says:

I woke up this morning concerned about the world food shortage and Korean defectors attempting self immolation in protest of Beijing and was astonished at the amount of attention a young woman named Miley Cyrus was getting for a topless, or shall I say backless, photograph in Vanity Fair.

That’s how I feel about the sale of Elements. I should be thinking about the presidential primary in Indiana, the horrible crimes committed in our city. Instead, I’m bummed out about about a restaurant.

I’m not the only one. Elements is more than a fabulous restaurant. It’s symbolic and showed Indy has taste, panache and elan. It’s a restaurant  experts thought they’d never see in this town. It’s a restaurnat that many thought would go out of business in its first year because “the portions were too small.”

Elements isn’t shuttering its door, it’s changing owners. We all hope it will continue, but we know its specialness is due to Chef Hardesty. In our hearts, we feel it’ll lose its luster.

To the staff of Elements, it’s a serious blow. Any business sale, whether a small, independent restaurant or a division of a Fortune 500, is fraught with danger. It’s personal and feels like failure.

I’m a glass half-full type of person, so I’m fantasizing that Greg Hardesty and Mike Sylvia will start a bistro, or better yet, a Zingerman-style deli. Somewhere near my house, somewhere affordable, somewhere I can walk in and breath wonderful food.

Good luck to the former and future owners, good luck to the staff. And thank you for giving us this glorius experience.

Written by Susan Gillie

May 4, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Posted in food as adventure


Written by Susan Gillie

May 1, 2008 at 7:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized