By Elaine Sine
Food tells a story and develops little histories on your plate with every bite. Unfortunately with dining hall food, the only taste radiating from it is that of efficient, buffet-style meals. It doesn’t compare to food from home. Ever since I returned to my Chicago suburb, I remembered the forgotten taste of home. I know my definition of home won’t be the same for all students at UIUC, but there are a few foods that will get you clicking your red heels and assuring you “there’s no place like home” in the Chicago area.
I can only make a limited number of dishes: instant noodles, toasted bread, cereal and pancakes. Sure, it’s not exciting to craft something so simple, but if you lack cooking experience like I do, it’s essential to make something you can mess up and share with everyone around you. I made pancakes for my family one morning, but they were so undercooked that my sister started scooping out the batter from the middle of the pancake. My mom took a pancake with her hands and it fell apart, splitting itself in two. I have to admit they were bad, but it was a good moment that I treasure with my family. We laughed throughout breakfast, unable to contain our laughter. If messing up breakfast means spending quality time with my family and creating inside jokes, then I say it was worth it.
Deep Dish Pizza
You can’t come back to the Chicago area and not have a Lou Malnati’s pizza delivered to your doorstep. It’s hard to not resist a slice, or maybe three. Good deep dish is hard to come by in Champaign. In fact, I don’t know if there are any good deep dish pizza restaurants anywhere near campus. Seeing the two-inch thick, glorious Chicago creation, I was returned to the times before college when this was almost a weekly occurrence (granted, no one should be eating pizza that regularly, but it was too good to resist). It reminded me of what home is like. If there’s a dish that gives you that much nostalgia, I suggest you dial the appropriate numbers and order immediately.
My mom took my sister and I out for Korean barbecue when we came home. Although we went to a new restaurant, any kind of barbecue will be a great homemade memory.
These dishes were a few of my favorites when I came home for the holidays, but this was my personal menu. As long as there’s food at your table with the ones you love surrounding you, it does not matter what’s on the plate as long as it’s served with a side of home sweet home.
All photographs courtesy of Ariel Sine