Tag Archives: Chicago

Shot of the Week

Deadmau5 Congress Theater ChicagoThe green of electronic musician Deadmau5‘s mouse ears are the centerpiece of the neon stage at the October 22, 2010 show at the Congress Theater in Chicago.

Tara for TKGO

Social Drinking in Argentina (yes, that’s caffeine)

The first time I felt like a porteño (Buenos Aires native) happened while on a family trip to Bariloche, after I had been living in Buenos Aires for nearly four months. The tour guide and van driver were passing mate and offered it to me. I took the cup, emptied it and handed it back, and they proceeded to fill it again and pass it along.

My mother nearly had a heart attack.

Sharing straws isn’t a tradition in the U.S., but in Argentina — you have to get over it. Mate (mah-tay) is a heavily caffeinated, appetite-suppressing tea that Argentines drink even more frequently than Americans drink coffee. The ritual is this: The host brings out the cup, the straw, the tin that holds a supply of broken mate leaves and a thermos filled with hot water. The host fills the cup roughly three-quarters of the way with mate (more for a bitter, stronger flavor) and then fills it to the brim with boiling hot water that always scorches the amateurs. Then he inserts the metal straw, which has a filter on the end to keep the leaves out of the consumer’s mouth. He or she passes the cup to the person beside him, who drinks until it is empty, and then passes it back to the host, who refills the cup and continues to pass it around the circle, refilling between people.

 

It's my turn to drink in our post-work day mate circle in my host mom's apartment in Buenos Aires

 

Naturally, the process takes a while. That’s the idea! The Argentine lifestyle is similar to the European lifestyle in that both have a vibrant cafe culture. Talking and drinking (but rarely getting drunk and never getting crunk) is part of the daily routine. In the office, breaks for mate happen every hour and last 15 minutes. At home, a mate circle forms after work to wind down from the day before dinner, and another forms after dinner to help the meal settle. You bring it on trips, to the park and even to school, where your professor might whip out a cup to send around the 30-person classroom.

But how could an entire country love the same beverage? It must taste like candy! The simple answer is no. It does not taste like candy. Nor have I met a single person who grew up in Argentina and does not like mate. If you don’t like it, you put two tablespoons of sugar in the tea before you put in the water. Voila, like sugar in coffee, it takes away the bitter flavor (and tastes slightly more like candy). Because the tea leaves aren’t changed between refills, the first few people get more bitter-tasting cups than the others. Those who hate the bitter taste can drink last.

 

My host mom, María Eugenia (Maru for short) next to her thermos and her favorite brand of mate, Taragui

 

Give it a try at home! My favorite brand is Taragui (above). You can find many offerings in large cities where South American products are sold. In Chicago, try La Única in Rogers Park. The cups are traditionally made from a special gourd, but now many less expensive brands are made of wood and metal. You can mail order cups and their straws as well for a hefty price (of course they’re usually the expensive gourd kind) or you could wait until Karina goes next month and beg her for a shipment!

Tara for TKGO

Tattoo Culture

Communities do not just exist internationally, but also within our own borders. As individuals seek a sense of belonging — or even of isolation — they create smaller circles that thrive and change as a country might. The American tattoo community has a similar dynamic. To some, tattoos are the highest form of art, and to others, simply a convenient way to apply an indelible eyeliner. Margo DeMello, Josh Howard and Nick Colella offer three perspectives from the community.

 

At The Chicago Tattoo and Piercing Co., by Tara for TKGO

 

Margo DeMello
Author of Bodies of Inscription: A Cultural History of the Modern Tattoo Community

“People mark themselves to mark themselves as individuals, rather than as part of a group—to make themselves different and stand out from the group, although ironically, or maybe not ironically, that marking makes them part of a group as well.”

“Part of what has happened in the United States in the post World War II period and much more recently is we’ve lost a sense of community, and that’s part of what I think people are still striving for these days. … I think tattoos are just another vehicle for that.”

“Everybody’s getting tattoos now. It did used to be a working class tradition in this country, limited to certain social groups, like sailors, soldiers, gang members, convicts, bikers. Now practically every social class in this country is getting tattooed.”

“Tattooing has always been stigmatized in the West because it’s typically associated with the under classes, but since the 80s the art form has also been transformed. … Part of the process of making tattooing acceptable to the middle classes is separating it from its traditional American roots and making it foreign and exotic. We see far more non-Western and non-American designs than we ever did before.”

Josh Howard
Tattoo artist at The Chicago Tattoo and Piercing Co.

“I don’t think I’ve tattooed one biker in the last few years. A lot of the people are younger kids, but you know you tattoo someone who’s 80 years old getting their first tattoo. It’s a little more acceptable now.”

Nick Colella
Tattoo artist at The Chicago Tattoo and Piercing Co. for almost 17 years

“The stigma is there, to a degree, but it’s not as heavy as it used to be. People are getting a little more curious, and they realize that their lives aren’t going to drastically change if they have a tattoo on their arms or back.”

“People have been getting the same things for years. They might add their own little twists, but they’ve all been done before. That’s why people get them. They’re iconic.”

“I think people want to make it a deep representation of themselves, which is fine. People get tattooed for all kinds of reasons. But it’s not as heavy and deep as people want to make it out to be. I think people should get tattooed if they like the design. People are always asking me, What do your tattoos mean? They mean nothing! I get tattoos because I like wearing them.”

Tara for TKGO

Eating Snow Ice in June

Taiwanese xue-hua-bing — or “snow ice” — is the latest low-cal summer treat to hit Chicago

A muggy Chicago June day sent us in search of a cone, cup or bowl of something refreshing, and we found our sweet relief in something both cool and cultural: Taiwanese snow ice.

Xue-hua-bing is wispy and fluffy, and has the consistency of frozen, slightly thicker cotton candy. The ice, which also is surprisingly creamy, is somewhat chewy at first but melts in your mouth. It condenses in the bowl, though, so you have to eat quickly!

 

Our half-eaten bowl of mango snow ice with mango drizzle, by Karina for TKGO

 

Unlike ice cream, snow ice in Taiwan isn’t made with milk. Traditionally, people will drizzle vanilla-flavored snow ice with condensed milk and top it with sweet red beans. In Chicago, however, it has been Americanized. Cloud 9 on Belmont adds skim milk to its mixture, and serves other flavors more familiar to the North American palate. Mango is the most popular flavor, but vanilla and strawberry also are available. Our vote? Definitely go for the classic combo of vanilla ice with condensed milk and red bean drizzle. Other “drizzles” (which essentially are syrups) are chocolate and fruit flavored, and many customers opt to order chunks of fresh fruit topping.

Cloud 9 serves two sizes. The snack size, at 150 calories with 1 gram of fat, costs $3.79, and the regular size costs $4.79. Both sizes look like mountains because of the air that gets worked into the ice when it is shaved, but we promise you can eat it all. (The calorie count is proof!) One “drizzle” is included, and toppings are an additional $.69. Keeping up with the trends, Cloud 9, which opened a month and a half ago, serves its snow ice with biodegradable bowls and forks.

The only down side? No samples! Because snow ice can only be served freshly shaved from a large block, it’s impossible to spoon out of a bin like Ben & Jerry’s. But if we had to choose between Ben & Jerry’s and snow ice, we prefer the airy Taiwanese dessert. Check it out at Cloud 9 at 604 W. Belmont Ave., or watch below for a shaving tutorial:

Tara and Karina for TKGO