We’re taking a break from cooking one more week. Enjoying time with family, simple dinners in, the familiar comfort of meals out in favorite places, quiet walks in our new neighborhood. The photo above was taken on one of those walks on Christmas Eve.
Pilsen is an old Chicago neighborhood just southwest of downtown. It has deep working class roots, dating back to housing built in the mid- to late-1800s, first for Irish and German immigrant workers, then later, Bohemians—mostly Czechoslovakian—brought in to work in factories and lumber mills after the great fire in 1871. In fact, the architectural style of our new old house is called Workers Cottage. The buildings are simply designed, human-scaled and solidly built.
Cities evolve. Neighborhoods evolve. Around World War I, Mexican families began to move into Pilsen. By the 1960s, the neighborhood had become predominantly Mexican. It still is, particularly West Pilsen, where we live. For us, it means great taquerias pretty much in any direction and tamale ladies on street corners, their wares reflecting different regional cuisines.
More important, though, it means warm, welcoming neighbors, ready to help shovel snow, lend an extension cord or just smile and say “good morning.” Working class families sitting on their front porches watching their kids play on the broad sidewalks in the evening. Parents walking their kids to school in the morning.
As much as we love our new old house, we love our neighborhood and our neighbors even more. To Marion and me, this feels comfortingly like our own childhoods. To us, this is how America works best. We can’t help but worry about what lies ahead for our neighbors—and for us. But we also have to hope for—and work for—making our country work for all of us.
See you next week (next year!) with a new recipe.