I’m away this week but Tell Simmer is still coming at you – this week on the grill it’s Jeannie Olson, writer of House in Progress and co-owner of Houseblogs.net. Jeannie says she can’t cook, but does dial a mean phone while holding takeout menus. She writes about renovating houses from Chicago, but her food dreams run far – from eating pork stew over firebricks in Ghuizho province to childhood memories of fish chowder at Pittsburgh’s fabulous Grand Concourse. She would like to note that the kitchen is the last room in her house scheduled for renovation, and thus is ever-thankful for the presence of restaurants and Trader Joe’s.
How often do you think about eating?
Frequently. I’m a cravings person. All of a sudden, my brain and stomach will gang up on me, “You must have buffalo mozzarella/soft-serve chocolate ice cream/Semiramis baba ganoush/Swedish meatballs/dried cherries RIGHT NOW!” This makes it awkward when you are in, say, on a plane. Or in traffic court.
Yes! I always put a pinch of cinnamon in my grounds when I am making coffee, and I often crave that when I am away from home. That’s when I go get a non-fat hazelnut latte to make myself feel better.
Favorite hometown food?
There is this tiny pizza place called Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder which makes herbed flatbread that is to die for. It sounds so mundane but it’s really not. It’s amazing. It’s not unusual for the wait to be three hours long to get in there on a summer weekend.
Ever been served breakfast in bed?
Yes. My husband is great at this. He also brings me my coffee in bed sometimes.
Your absolutely reliable, go-to dish for entertaining is:
Take out! Or fondue. I am a very reluctant cook. Sad that I know my way around my workbench better than my oven. I would love to learn how to cook well, though.
Food that makes you gag?
Brussel sprouts. Tripe. Herring, although my husband loves it.
Worst kitchen disaster:
I can’t pick just one. It says something when your family gives you a smoke alarm labeled “kitchen timer” as a Christmas gift.
Three things in your refrigerator right now:
Roasted red pepper and tomato soup. Goat cheese. A jar of pickled herring (shudder).
Your idea of a romantic meal is:
Anything Aaron cooks for me When we were dating, I was sick and he made homemade chicken soup for me. I thought, “Hmm. I should marry this guy.” It was a good idea. My second favorite romantic meal is anything where I don’t have to wash the dishes.
Secret snack of shame?
Vegetable chips. Girl Scout cookies by the box. Preferably those Samoa things with coconut.
Most ambitious kitchen effort:
Anytime I go in there, it’s because I’m feeling ambitious. I made Yankee Pot Roast once and it was awesome. The second time I made it, it tasted like feet – I wish I was kidding! So, I’ve been afraid to make it ever since.
Best restaurant if you’re not paying:
I’d love to go to North Pond in Chicago. I’m a sucker for atmosphere as much as I am for the food.
If you were a cocktail, what would you be?
Golly, um, a Sidecar?
Extra Credit: Where is the world’s best pizza?
New York City, on the street, by the slice. Amen. Don’t tell Chicago I said that, though.