Chicago – The Field of Bear’s Garlic

Illinois in 1718 from Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississipi by Guillaume de L'Isle.

Chicago Bear’s Garlic

March 29, 2017

Allan Stevo

My native Chicago is believed to have been named for the large number of bear’s garlic growing rampant in the area where the river met the lake, with the name of the city being a corruption of the word used by the local Indians for bear’s garlic. Here’s Henri Joutel writing in 1687:

We arrived at a place which is named Chicagou, which, according to what we learned, has taken its name from the quantity of garlic which grows in this district, in the woods … a species of garlic in quantity which is not entirely like that of France, having its leaf broader and shorter, and is also not so strong, though its taste closely approaches it but is not like the little onions or the onion of France.

The same word was used by the Illinois and Miami tribes for the skunk according to John F. Swenson in this essay about Chicago.  The Potowatami who had later displaced the Miami tribe used the same word – chicago –  for native garlic and wild onion.

The name Chicago is derived from the local Indian word chicagoua for the native garlic plant (not onion) Allium tricoccum. This garlic (in French: ail sauvage) grew in abundance on the south end of Lake Michigan on the wooded banks of the extensive river system which bore the same name, chicagoua. Father Gravier, a thorough student of the local Miami language, introduced the spelling chicagoua, or chicagou8, in the 1690`s, attempting to express the inflection which the Indians gave to the last syllable of the word.

According to research done by Swenson in the 1990’s, Chicago, Illinois is believed to have been a name that developed from the local Indian practice of calling the area by the strong colony of bear’s garlic (Allium tricoccum) that grew there.

Do you have any interesting stories about the history of your town’s name, either proven or simply passed along orally?

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Ramps, A Word Americans Should Stop Using

Ramps for Sale

Ramps

March 27, 2017

Allan Stevo

One of my favorite delicacy from Slovakia starts to shoot out of the earth at this time of year. Then they disappears as quickly as they came. Some areas of forest fill with them and correspondingly some of the markets fill with them.

They are an almost flimsy, green leaf that taste deliciously like a gentle bite of lightly sautéed garlic, one of the first vegetables to appear in the spring, these plants with a delicate green leaf have a surprisingly pronounced taste.  In the U.S. they are called “ramps.”

My favorite dish to prepare with them is a sandwich –  leftover meat sliced thin, a flavourful dressing, some hard crusted artisanal Slovak bread, and  a generous portion of the greens of ramps. It makes the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life. Garlicky deliciousness in ever bite. Or as chef David Meyers describes the taste: “like an intense, pungent onion flavor mixed with the forest.”

The writers at the Gothamist love ramps and keep track of when they come into season – because as any Slovak knows, you only get a few good weeks and then you need to wait until next year to taste the almost weightless leaf that carries such flavor.

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Before Americans Had “Cage Free, Organically Fed, No Soy Feed, High Omega 3, Free Range Eggs” Slovaks Just Had Eggs

Eggs

March 23, 2017

Allan Stevo

This is the case in every industrialized society.  The “progress” of industry becomes synonymous with the industrialization of the food supply.  In America, what was once just called an egg now needs lots of modifiers to describe how that egg was made.  That’s because America stopped being like Slovakia and started treating its eggs as if they were commodities.  What I mean by commodity is “every unit of that item matching a similar size and measurable property.”  If an egg simply has “whites that are thick and firm; yolks that are high, round, and practically free from defects; and clean, unbroken shells” then it is good enough to be bought and sold as the highest quality of egg recognized by the U.S. Government.  The highest grade egg in the U.S. is AA according to the USDA and the definition of that egg is nothing more than what is quoted above – thick and firm whites, high and round yolks, practically free from defects, clean unbroken shell.

These standards by which eggs are judged in the U.S. seem to be concerned with issues that are perhaps one hundred years old and very much take into account the idea that an egg is an egg.  They operate on the idea that all eggs are commodities as long as they fit into one of three categories – grade AA, A, or B.  In the 1920s before refrigeration allowed for a lengthening of the food supply chain without the sacrifice of freshness, perhaps this grading system was a lot more significant.  Today there is justifiably more to judging the quality of an egg.

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Photos: The Open Air Market On A Spring Day

Miletičova

March 21, 2017

Allan Stevo

One of the best parts of spring in Bratislava is a visit to the open air market, near the corner of Záhradnícka and Miletičova streets.  The market is colloquially called “Miletičova” or just “Miletička.”

One day you’ll get a lengthy piece of writing on the topic of the market.  The essay has been through some 20 drafts over the past year, but I don’t feel like it’s ready yet.  So, for now I’ll share some of the many photos I’ve taken at that market for the readers of 52 Weeks in Slovakia. If you like reading captions you can just place your cursor over a photo to see the caption of that photo popup in a bubble.

Few Saturday mornings in Bratislava can feel complete without a visit to the market.  While these aren’t going to be professional quality, as I am untrained in photography, here’s a glimpse at what a visit to the market looks like for me.

I hope you will enjoy it and will make a visit to the market a priority of your next springtime jaunt through Bratislava.

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Blavocentrism

Blavocentrism

March 19, 2017

Allan Stevo

Bratislava with its 500,000 inhabitants is the capital city of Slovakia. While it is the capital, by no means does it feel like the most culturally important place in Slovakia. In fact, I am sometimes left with the feeling that “Bratislava is not Slovakia.” Bratislava feels so very capable of putting on airs. It’s a nice city, one that I’ve chosen to live in, but not as important of a city as some people seem to think it is.

Its inhabitants, especially the inhabitants who have no contact with life east of Bratislava engage in a post-1992 form of Pragocentrism, adjusted for the new borders. It’s Blavocentrism – the mistaken idea that Bratislava (or Blava) is the center of the world.  People in big cities all over the world (some more deservedly than others) believe that their big city and their isolated experiences are indicative of the experience of all people living in their country. Blavocentrism also insists that Bratislava is the center of Slovak culture, when in reality, so many of the displays of culture in the capital city are simply second class imitations of some more original display of culture from some other part of the world. That can leave a visitor feeling like more authentic displays of Slovak culture can be found outside of the capital city.

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

Photo credit: getyourguide.com

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Pragocentrism

PraguePragocentrism

March 19, 2017

Allan Stevo

Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic and was the former capital of Czechoslovakia.

Pragocentrism (compare to egocentrism) is the tendency to view or feel like Prague is the center of the world. Furthermore, it is the tendency to believe that all good things in the Czech Republic come from Prague. In the past it was the same feeling of all good things coming from the capital city and only the capital city.

By the late 1980’s Czechoslovakia had 15 million inhabitants, and its center-of-the-world capital city had only 1 million inhabitants. At least 14 million of those people were not practitioners of Pragocentrism, but it still became easy for this view to be a commonly expressed view (albeit subtly) in politics, culture, and media. See also Blavocentrism.

Pragocentrism will produce some interesting results on google, a good one being this English language account of present-day Pragocentrism from a Czech perspective.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

Photo credit: hplc2017-prague.org

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Slovenia Is Not Slovakia!

Slovenia Is Not Slovakia!

March 18, 2017

Allan Stevo

Below is a video made by a Slovenian gal in which she attempts to educate the masses about the differences between Slovenia and Slovakia. The two countries are very commonly confused.  The confusion of the two has been a long standing joke in the two small countries.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

Photo credit: slovak-republic.org

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Rebranding Slovenia – A New Logo

Rebranding Slovenia

March 17, 2017

Allan Stevo

The magazine Conde Nast Traveller approached a few designers asking them to “rebrand” a country.  The decision of what country to rebrand was up the designer.  Paula Scher chose Slovenia, designing the logo below, among others.  I found the logo funny and clever because it takes the ubiquitously known boot of Italy and makes Slovenian an easily memorable appendage.  A common sore point for both Slovenes and Slovaks is how common it is for no one, but the inhabitants of the two countries to be unable to tell the two apart.

 

More logos from the project can be found here.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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