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Suddenly everything has changed.

Greetings from Chicago!

I spent last night sorting masking tape from Scotch tape from double-sided tape, and that’s when I knew that I was finally settled in my new home. You’ve hit a rhythm when you’ve shifted from the stage when you accidentally extinguish the pilot light in your gas stove and panic because you can’t find a lighter in your dozen boxes (my new neighbor has matches and is very nice and says hi) to the stage when you can leisurely sort your adhesive cellophane strip collection.

(I have three rolls of double-sided tape. Why? Was a three-pack on sale one day? Did I keep forgetting I already had double-sided tape and buy more? Did I really need to pack all three? Why did I just confess on my blog that I spend my Saturday nights in Chicago cleaning my desk?)

Korean groceriesAn important part of feeling comfortable in a new place is falling in into a reliable rhythm of food: where to buy, where to store, how to cook. Figuring out where to buy has been more work than I anticipated, mostly because the individual stores here are not well stocked with the ethnic food I like to buy—that is, everybody seems to specialize. As a result I make four stops on market day: Joong Boo Market for Korean produce and groceries, Al Khayyam for fresh pita and hummus, a local produce place for vegetables and fruit, and when necessary, a chain grocer for anything I can’t find at the other three places. When the weather thaws I’ll work farmer’s market into this schedule somehow. If my supply of dals or spices dips I’ll go to Devon Avenue. I’m already requiring a trip to Chinatown because I’m out of canned eel with black beans, my favorite pantry staple to eat with rice when I’m out of protein. Also, Chinatown has dim sum, and everybody needs a good dose of the ‘sum, as I call it¹, now and then.

As for storage…sigh. It’s an apartment, I do what I can.

Figuring out how to cook has been messy. I have a lot of counter space but none of it near the stove. “Did I always drop so much food on the floor?” was my first thought when I started cooking here. Turns out having a stove in the middle of the kitchen instead of tucked in the corner makes for better flow.

Not that I’m cooking much anyway. Working full-time means that my breakfasts and lunches are rushed while dinner tends to be fast. Soba noodles, pita and hummus, and food my mom gave me have been my staples for the last few months. I hope that changes as I become more efficient and get my groove back. Will I cook enough that this blog will become more active? I can’t say, and I can’t make any promises.

A diverse city has a way of spoiling you. Not being in Chicago helped me blog more. Back then I made my own flatbread and hummus, and eventually I might have tried making my own kimchi or looked into cooking eel with black beans. But with a stack of warm pita currently priced at $1 and my time and energy at a premium, I don’t much see the point. Thus, slow food loses another unofficial adherent due to the inevitable weariness of life.² Despite all the personal goals I hoped to accomplished by moving here I knew that I’d suffer losses as well, and a more intimate relationship with my meals is one of them. Oh well.

In the meantime, I’m still eating healthy and enjoying foods like in the photo above: Job’s tears tea, Korean miso, and kimchi. No junk food of any kind. None. Just because Joong Boo Market carries a vast assortment of fresh pastries filled with whipped butter, packaged novelty cookies, and mochi balls full of ice cream does not mean that I indulge.

Hey . . . . . . . . . . . where did this come from?³

Pepero

¹ Not really.
² How’s that for overwriting?
³ Do you know that if you buy these by the case, you get 5% off? And that a case contains 40 boxes? I don’t. How could I?

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8 Comments on “Suddenly everything has changed.”

  1. Joelen Says:

    Welcome to Chicago! I hope you settle into our delicious city well! I also want to invite you to check out the culinary group I organize where we not only satisfy our cooking/baking urges but I also host culinary neighborhood tours where folks can learn about the diverse neighborhoods through the restaurants, markets and all things food. You can check out my group here: http://www.meetup.com/whatscookingchicago/ I also encourage you to check out a local foodie mecca that is known as http://www.LTHForum.com. Here you will find many foodies sharing and learning about all things edible in the city and beyond. Welcome again to our fabulous city!

  2. Annie Says:

    Thanks so much! I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while and will definitely check out the group when I get more settled.

  3. Roxana Says:

    You made me go to Al Khayam and look for hummus and pita (since it is in my neck of the woods)! Good hummus (fresh) you can find @ Middle East bakery (@ Foster and Clark). But good thing is that I went across the street at the grocery store and found something close to my cuisine (romanian)! So, thanks!!
    By the way, I am really interested in trying the eel with black beans, it would be a first!! :)
    Love your posts!
    Welcome in the neighborhood

  4. Annie Says:

    Roxana: Thanks! I prefer the hummus at Al Khayam but I love the baba ganoush at Middle East Bakery, which is closer, so I go there more often than Al Khayam.

  5. sarah Says:

    Oh yum!! i LOVE Chicago!

  6. Sampada Says:

    Welcome to Chicago!…i am from India and settled in Chicago…uphere I always have a hardtime trying to find ingredients for preparing recipes….one of my friend introduced me to a great resource http://www.myethnicworld.com from where i can get a gamut of food products from around the world.

  7. janelle Says:

    I SO agree, about finding your rhythm in food. I am living abroad for one year in Florence, Italy, and some of my food finding experiences have been hilarious. But you really do feel settled, once you get a sense of where everything is. AND cooking a few different things too (now I am focusing on polenta, risotto, wild boar, rabbit…). So fun! Good luck to you as you soak up all the novelty and find new food haunts!

  8. Pam @ best Cookware guide Says:

    We have lived in chicago in past and loved it. I guess the look from the blog, you have been busy to update it for awhile now. I can imagine, life can get busy, hope you are eating healthy still. Take care.