On a cloudy but mild Saturday in May, thirteen Les Dames members and guests boarded a coach bus for a lovely winding ride through the city to the historic Pilsen area of Chicago. Dame Judith Dunbar Hines and Andres, her co-worker at the Cultural Center, took turns describing the architecture and history of each area we drove through. Our first stop was at the Sabina Tortilleria to watch the huge machines turning out hundreds of white corn tortillas. Judith bought some tortillas as well as tortilla chips for us to taste on the bus. She said that each of our three hostesses had her favorite tortilla and there was the only one they could agree upon for our group.
We arrived at the National Museum of Mexican Fine Arts and were greeted by our guide who gave us a detailed tour of several exhibits and an overview of this exquisite museum. After the tour we headed upstairs for a sumptuous luncheon and presentation. The buffet lunch started with guacamole, salsa, tortilla chips and taquitos prepared by Dame Maria Concannon (Maria fried her favorite brand of tortillas into chips the night before). Two kinds of chicken tamales and corn with several toppings were purchased from street vendors in the area and were served warm from a steamer. Violeta Morales (a 2006 LDE scholarship winner) prepared two beverages: a guava atole and champurrado, a chocolate drink. Both were made with the additional of cornmeal and sugar, creating a rich fullness, and were served warm.
Dame Elaine Gonzales brought a lovely chocolate rice pudding for dessert accompanied by a warm chocolate beverage and samples of her homemade chocolate candy to complete the meal.
Judith led the panel discussion by asking our gracious hostesses to describe their backgrounds and how they came to America; their first food memories; and in their view what are American misconceptions about Mexican food. All three speakers elaborated eloquently.
On an alternate route back to the Cultural Center there was more discussion of the history and architecture of neighborhoods as the very knowledgeable Andres answered questions from the members and guests. The day ended at Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand (66 E. Randolph) where we received “goodie bags” filled with Mexican candies and packages of corn tortillas. It was indeed a very informative day filled with eye candy, food for thought and the deliciously unique tastes of one of Chicago’s most vibrant communities.