Monday, July 9, 2012

It just doesn’t “feel” right

I comprehend the idea of a shorter Taste of Chicago as an event that fits better within the budget of city officials.

Grant Park's pristine beauty will be besmirched for a few days this week for our city's annual, but abbreviated, food fest

I’m sure there are many people who only go one day per year. So they will still have five days to pick from beginning Wednesday, and they will have the option of gorging themselves on whatever edibles they choose to spend lots of money on.

AND AS FOR those people who work downtown and like to make several stops, they’ll still be able to do that for a few days this week.

But somehow, I can’t help but think that this year’s Taste of Chicago just doesn’t feel right. And it’s not because of the fact that the guy who cooks those ridiculously huge turkey legs (bigger that some peoples’ heads) won’t be among the event’s vendors.

It’s the timing of the event. I can’t help but think this is taking place a week late. Monday should be the day that we do the final review of how much cleanup had to be done to restore Grant Park to its potentially-pristine condition. Because it should be over by now.

But it isn’t. It hasn’t yet begun.

IT’S GOING TO take some getting used to.

Because in my mind, and those of many other Chicago residents, the Taste of Chicago is a summer-time event that coincides with Independence Day celebration.

It was a 10-day string that would be scheduled to include the July 4 holiday proper, along with the July 3 fireworks display along the lakefront near Navy Pier.

Chicago knew how to throw an Independence Day party. But that is all now history.

FOR CITY OFFICIALS gave up a couple of years ago on the downtown fireworks display – leaving many Chicago-area residents who used to converge on the central and near North part of the city to have to resort to whatever nearby suburban village was having its own fireworks show.

And now, we’re waiting until after Independence Day is over and done with before even beginning the Taste of Chicago. Although I suppose those people who show up on Saturday can claim to be celebrating Bastille Day!

Even if, to the best of my knowledge, none of the restaurants whose foodstuffs are being offered up are serving anything even remotely resembling French cuisine

For those who want to rant that it would be wrong to celebrate a French holiday, keep in mind that Milwaukee has an official festival for that date each and every year.

AND IT WAS the French who were the original European colonizers to much of the Midwestern U.S. Does anyone really believe that the English would have come up with a name like Illinois?

Even if they tried to use variations on native tribal names, they likely would have come up with a more Anglicized spelling than anything ending in an “ois.”

Not that I’m pushing for a Bastille Day celebration in Chicago any time soon. Or that I even care all that much personally about the idea of a shorter Taste of Chicago.

It just seems that we’ve lost something that made the event rather special by having it tied into the holiday in which we celebrate our nation’s birth.

BECAUSE WITHOUT THAT tie, the event becomes nothing more than a chance to feed one’s face with too many variations of pizza and barbecue, along with various takes on ethnic cuisines ranging from Italian to Mexican to Irish to African.

And, of course, fried chicken from Harold’s – which portrays itself as the ultimate South Side joint.

Although if Taste of Chicago officials really wanted good chicken from a neighborhood joint, they’d include a stand from Hienie’s -- located around 104th Street on Torrence Avenue, for those of you who never venture south of Roosevelt Road.

Smothered in the store’s “hot” sauce (forget the mild version), it is a treat I don’t get all that often. But is something that adds to the cuisine character of Chicago. Which is what this event is supposed to be all about!


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