One of things I never expected as an expat is how curious everyone is about where I come from. New York and San Francisco are always first on the Frenchie to-do list of Les États–Unis. And poor little Chicago, my hometown, always gets left behind. So I always attempt to boost future tourism by painting a picture of my Windy City, beyond the usual suspects Barack Obama, Al Capone, and Michael Jordan. I always say something along the lines of “Beautiful architecture! The lake the size of an ocean! Pizza as tall as me! Tacos on every corner! What are tacos? Oh, nevermind.”
My mouth has never watered from the site of my own watercolor until I sketched out this Italian beef sandwich on the right, a true Chicago classic. For those who have never tasted one, I am going to continue this self-torture by illustrating the elusive Italian beef sandwich further. Thinly shaved roast beef is soaked in its own rich, Italian-spiced broth for several hours. The beef is spooned onto a torpedo of mediocre Italian bread which is then baptized or “double-dipped” in the beef’s own juices. Topped off with sweet green and red peppers and giardiniera, the least-hip pickled vegetables you have ever seen. It is a soggy, old mess which can only be eaten alongside an obligatory order of french fries and a fully-loaded napkin dispenser.
Since it has been 3 years since I have set foot in Chicago, I think I am in store for a visit soon. In the meantime, maybe I can start a Kickstarter campaign to get Portillo’s to deliver an Italian beef shipment to Paris. Just an idea…
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