Monday, December 11, 2023

Culinary Historians' Dinner in Ypsilanti


The Ypsilanti water tower is the symbol of the town. It was built in 1890.
It's widely recognized for its startlingly suggestive shape.
We drove past it on the way to the winter themed dinner of the CHAA.

Although Ypsilanti, Michigan, is right down the road from us, we rarely go there. One event that does bring us to this neighboring town is the twice-a-year dinner of the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor (CHAA) which is held at the Clubhouse of the Ladies' Literary Club of Ypsilanti. Besides housing the club activities, the house is available as a rental for events such as our CHAA dinners, for weddings, or for other private dinners or meetings. The club was founded in 1878, and continues its activities, though I'm not sure what these are, as its website just lists "meetings."

The home of the Ladies' Literary Club of Ypsilanti was built in 1842, an excellent example of Greek Revival Architecture.
It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Members of the club intensely decorate their space for Christmas.

Tracing the globe-circling path of journalist Nellie Bly

On the table with all the food: a painting of Nellie Bly.
In the background you can see the table with drinks and with the borscht. No wine: the Ladies' Literary Club has no liquor license!

The CHAA dinners always have a theme; the 2023 winter dinner challenged the participants to select dishes from the countries where the famous journalist Nellie Bly set foot in 1889 as she raced around the world in 72 days, thus managing to outdo the fictitious record created in Jules Verne's famous novel Around the World in 80 Days

CHAA members who had read her book said that Nellie Bly stayed in first class hotels, and mainly traveled on luxury ships, which means that quite a lot of her meals were designed for European travelers. They agreed that she rarely mentioned food! For example, describing her visit to France, she mentioned that Jules Verne's wife offered her a few sweet biscuits; whatever else she ate while in France is evidently left to our imaginations. (Note that I didn't read her book, just a summary.)

Before dinner, participants described their dishes and explained the connection of what they cooked to her voyage. 

In my opinion, the CHAA cooks did a fantastic job creating a menu from around the world as Nellie Bly saw it. New York, where she started, was represented by a tureen of borscht based on the recipe from a famous deli. As we went around the world in something like 20 dishes, we found foods from England, France, Italy, Egypt, Yemen, Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon), Malaysia, Japan, San Francisco, and Chicago. I'm only showing a few of the numerous savory dishes that were on the buffet, as well as the three desserts.

Savory Dishes, which I enjoyed very much!

From France, I made Chicken Marengo, a recipe attributed to Napoleon's cook,
who is supposed to have invented the dish after the Battle of Marengo.
This dish was popular in France at the time Nellie Bly was there.
Behind my dish you can see a pot of curry with chutney and a plate of Japanese egg rolls.

Tiella, a specialty of Brindisi, Italy, where Nellie Bly waited for a ship to take her to Egypt.

Italian Risotto.

Kushari from Egypt.

Rojak Salad from Singapore, with tofu, mango, pineapple, and peanuts.

Malaysian Noodles.

Yaki Soba: Japanese Noodles.

San Francisco sourdough bread.

Desserts, which were all delicious!

Nellie Bly seems to have spent Christmas in Hong Kong.

Photos © 2023 mae sander


Lori said...

What fun!! Everything looks very interesting.

eileeninmd said...

What a wonderful menu, so many dishes from around the world.
Take care, have a great day and wonderful week!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

The Ladies' Literary Club building is charming. From the photos, it looks like it was a tasty event,

Velva- Evening with a Sandwich said...

Mae, this seems like such a fun historical 'food' event. Love this! The lineup of dishes is great. Thanks for sharing with us.


Jeanie said...

This looks like such fun! And super delicious, too. What a great idea for the theme and everyone seems to have gone all out. The fellow in the first "people" picture reminded me of my former colleague Mark Ducker and I think another colleague from my PBS days, Glenda Bullock belongs to this organization. It sounds wonderful.

thecuecard said...

Wow what an interesting event. And the food! Hungry looking at all those dishes.

My name is Erika. said...

The Ladies Literary Club certainly does have a gorgeous old building. And I bet it's fun to go and have one of these themed holiday meals. I haven't heard of Nelly Bly, except for the name, but I had no idea who she was and why she was famous. Have a great T day Mae. hugs-Erika

Carola Bartz said...

This is such a wonderful idea and I think can also be a challenge to the cooks. I guess that quite some research goes into research for the appropriate food. It must have been a lot of fun as well.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

This was incredibly interesting. I learned a lot about foods from around the globe and a bit about Nelly Bly, too.

I was drawn to the fact that so many countries have pasta in one form or the other. It certainly all looked delicious. And of course, the drinks were there, not as the focal point, but almost like an afterthought. After all, it was about the food and not the drink.

Thank you for taking us to that beautiful clubhouse decorated by the Ladies' Literary Club, your meal provided by members of CHAA, and your drinks you shared for T this Tuesday, dear Mae.

Linda said...

Wow! That was quite an event!

The Ladies Literary Club sounds like something my great-grandmother would have belonged to, except that she was in Chicago. She belonged to many clubs, and had actually written for newspapers when she was younger.

jinxxxygirl said...

Thank you for your lovely visit Mae... i think everyone did a fabulous job with so little information apparently to go on.. Such variety! And it all looks delicious! Happy T day! Hugs! deb

Divers and Sundry said...

What a fun event! I love this idea. Happy T Tuesday

DVArtist said...

Oh... that library is beautiful. I am so impressed with all the wonderful food. I'm glad you were able to attend. Have a lovely day.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I enjoyed reading about the event so much...I can only imagine how much fun you had to actually be there and participate.

Spyder said...

My chicken thingy turned out to be a chicken curry, not too hot though and yours looks yummy!! Will have to try it! Love all the foody pictures 'specialy anything involving chocolate! Thank you for stopping by! ((Lyn))

Sherry's Pickings said...

Nellie Bly sounds fascinating! How on earth did she do it in 72 days before air travel etc?

Sherry's Pickings said...

I meant to say that water tower is a fine specimen! :)

CJ Kennedy said...

Fun way to travel. I think I'd be hanging out at the dessert table. Happy T Day

Lisca said...

I remember you do this every year and I always enjoy looking at the dishes. I must say the trifle looks delicious.
What a shame you were not allowed to drink wine. In England the license is about selling alcohol so if you bring your own you don't need a license. (Any Brits out there, please correct me if I'm wrong. But we had many a jolly church party in the church hall)