Archive for April, 2012

I woke up on Saturday to the sight of Alec on his iPad being very excited about something. He was exploring the 1940 census records, which the U.S. National Archives just released, and found the data for our block. (Below is the one that lists Albert Einstein.)

You might remember that at the neighborhood’s Oktoberfest party last year, we heard some tantalizing tidbits about our house’s history. In particular, our neighbors told us that the former Oak Park police chief with the surname Joy built the house in 1907 for his four or five unmarried schoolteacher daughters.

According to the 1940 census, there were four Joy family members living here: Margaret, 50, the head of the household; Mae, 42; Hazel, 40; and Harry, 24. Margaret, Mae and Hazel were sisters. Harry is listed as Margaret’s nephew.

The census data also lists their occupations at the time. None is listed for Margaret, but Mae was a stenographer for a “railroad car line” and Hazel also worked as a stenographer, but in advertising. I like to think she aged into an unmarried version of Ida Blankenship on Mad Men. Harry, meanwhile, was a lawyer in private practice.

Looking at the census rolls just inspired more questions about the Joy family. For starters, who are Henry’s parents? Margaret, Mae and Hazel are all single, not divorced or widowed. Mae and Hazel don’t seem quite old enough to be Harry’s mother, although it’s not impossible. Is there a fourth Joy sister who gave birth to Harry as an unmarried lady and left him in the care of her sisters? Why does Harry have “Joy” as his last name and not the name of his father?

My current working theory, which I totally made up using my overactive imagination, is that the milkman sired Harry Joy. There was a guy elsewhere on the block who listed milkman as his occupation, and I think it was him! That scoundrel!

I loved browsing through the census records. It’s a fabulous time capsule for the period, showing contemporary names (Gertrude, Herbert, Horace, Dorothy) and occupations (bacteriologist, milliner, elevator operator).

Of course, the forms have some cringeworthy bits too. For “Color or Race,” these are the options: White, Negro, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Hindu, Korean. (Unsurprisingly, everyone on our block was white in 1940.) The designations remind me of when Alec and I applied for our marriage license and the clerk asked him if he was Chinese or Japanese. When he asked if there was a biracial option, she said no, and poor Alec was forced to choose between Chinese and Caucasian. Ah, Cook County. Some things haven’t changed much since 1940.



Read Full Post »

Veggie Tales

I used to eat just two kinds of vegetables when cooking for myself: green beans and broccoli. If you count potatoes as a veg, I guess that would be three. I wasn’t anti-vegetable; I was just kind of unimaginative and eating out most of the time anyway. Then, when Alec and I first got married, we cooked mostly meat-and-potatoes type meals and got weirdly addicted to Jewel store brand crescent rolls.

Our eating habits changed for the better when we signed up to get a biweekly box of mystery produce from Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks. (This is every two weeks. Did you know that biweekly means both every two weeks and twice a week? So stupid.) We started making vegetables the main focus instead of the protein, and I discovered the joys of Romanesco broccoli and ramps and rainbow chard. I learned how to handle nettles (i.e. not with bare hands) and that I really didn’t like nettles anyway. And as a bonus, we’re supporting a local small business that in turn works with local farmers.

Today Fresh Picks hosted an open house for their customers. We drove out to Niles and found their offices in a drab industrial park. I was pretty excited.

There was a raffle, information about their farmers on display, food samples and beer from Half Acre. (We used to live down the street from Half Acre in Lincoln Square/North Center and never stepped foot in there. Silly.)

The best stuff was from MANA Food Bar in Wicker Park, which made their own ricotta and served squares of it with pesto and pickled radishes. We kept going back for more helpings, pushing old ladies and children out of the way.

The Bleeding Heart Bakery was also there with cake balls and breakfast pastries.

And then there was a tour of the warehouse! I love this stuff. When I was living in New York, a friend who worked at Fresh Direct took me on a tour of the company’s warehouse in Queens and it was awesome. Conveyor belts of groceries, a cavernous room of only bananas…anyway, Fresh Picks’ set-up is like a super miniature version of that. Here’s Irv getting everyone ready to see where the magic happens.

Some more shots of the warehouse:

All in all, a very educational and tasty trip to the ‘burbs!

Read Full Post »