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Historical interest? McCawley's proto-chowhound Chicago guide

Amata | Mar 30, 200412:39 PM

As repeatedly mentioned on this board, the late Jim McCawley of Chicago provided a service to chowhounds everywhere with The Eater's Guide to Chinese Characters (now back in print), designed to help non-readers of Chinese decipher the specials posted on the walls of their favorite restaurants.

I had some great meals in the company of Jim, most notably at Moon Palace and at Evergreen. Jim would order for the whole table, writing the dishes down in Chinese on the back of a deposit slip which he handed to the waiter. (In an old post someone claimed McCawley didn't know Chinese. Not true!) But Jim's gastronomic interests ranged far beyond China: every year he cooked a Korean feast at his apartment to celebrate the anniversary of the adoption of the Korean alphabet in 1446 (formerly a national holiday in Korea), and on July 14 would host a potluck dinner of food and drink of countries or regions that had escaped French domination. As his invitation pointed out, one could bring merely a six-pack of Strohs, but instead his guests rose to the occasion with Moroccan, West African, Vietnamese, Mexican, etc dishes.

Jim was passionate about delicious food from every region of the world, eagerly seeking out new restaurants and markets all over Chicago via public transportation (he didn’t drive). In other words, he was a proto-chowhound, who would have *loved* this message board and who would have been first in line for Laotian ant eggs. He distributed a guide, updated yearly, entitled “Notes on Access to Interesting Food in Chicago,” with sections on Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indian/Pakistani, Vietnamese, other Asian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, other Latino, African, Greek, and “Close To” (the opera, the symphony, theaters). We still keep a copy of his last edition in the glove compartment of our car. Perhaps his list is only of historical interest – 5 years old now – but I’m providing a link to it in case you omnivorous hounds can glean a new lead or two from it. Just check to see if a place is still in business before setting out!



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