All posts by Chef D

We are what we eat. Sometimes.

Question 303 Perking Up Soon! Where Have You Gone Jo Di Maggio and Mr. Coffee?

It arrived yesterday, out of the past.  My circa 1975 percolator.   I speculated on the Amazon reviews and questions last post.

When I ordered it from Amazon because I couldn’t find it in  any local stores or even at Good Will or the Salvation Army, it had 302 “answered questions” and over 3000 reviews.

On a coffee pot.

This pot…. my new pot….

Coffee Pot


I am really trying to think of a question I can ask about it, but after just perking some coffee and having that smell waft through the house I can’t come up with one.

And the taste…. so un-Mr. Coffee.

Sorry again, Joe Di Maggio.    You and the Mr. Coffee clones have had a good run.  Back to the future does not need a De Lorean.

302 Answered Questions about Perking


It used to invoke emotions that were not as savage as twerking, but had its place in every American home at one time.

I am talking about the coffee pot.  A type that perks.  With a little glass dome on the top that you can see the coffee erupt into and then drop and then cycle again.

I have no beef with Joe DiMaggio and Mr. Coffee and all its descendants, but one day about two months ago I pulled out a small campfire coffee pot that you have to put on the stove and fired the gas and let her perk.

It was music to my ears and smell porn to my nostrils.  I was in bed and in love.

Then I tasted the love.

It was everything I remembered.

And more.

I am a perk addict.

Naturally, to feed my addiction I wanted ever more. My little perk coffee pot was good for one cup, so I set off on a mission to find a bigger pot.

This kind of pot is not easy to find.

Impossible, in fact.

I went to all the big box stores and  Ace Warehouse and Dick’s Sporting Goods and could not find a perking coffee pot.  I even went to Good Will and the Salvation Army, and no such machine.

So I turned to Amazon, and found it.


coffee pot

I am ordering it tonight.

I paused long enough to notice that there are 302 answered questions about it and over 3000 reviews.  Of a coffee pot, a simple coffee pot.  You put cold water in, put the grounds in a steel basket, cover, and put on a flame — and 302 people have questions.

We have come a long way.

Meanwhile, I will ponder the 302 questions and sip my coffee and maybe post a review.

Of a coffee pot.

How the federal government built a basilica

When we hear today the term “separation of church and state” we think of it as being a precept that impedes the government on all levels from establishing a state-run church, but I found an interesting exception–kind of–in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,  USA, where the physical building of a beautiful church was completed with the resources of the federal government, but nobody had a problem with it in the early 20 Century and neither should you.

So I tease.

It’s worth it if I can get you to pay attention to some of the most inspiring architecture in a city that is known for beer, brats and the setting of the old Happy Day’s sitcom.

Milwaukee is sporting new construction all over, but especially in its downtown.  New towers are rising into the sky and entire sections are being reclaimed from failed smokestack industry or abandoned rail yards.

In the early 20th Century the skyscrapers of the time were often the church spires that spiked and determined neighborhoods, or, more precise: “parishes”.  Often these churches reflected the pride and religion of those who settled in a particular neighborhood.  St. Josaphat Basilica is one of those churches, and its towering facade owes its existence to inspired frugality and the federal government.

St. Josaphat Exterior Front Facting
St. Josaphat main entrance

Ground was broken for the new church that would become home for  12,000 Polish immigrants in 1896, which in Milwaukee represented only a fraction of the total Polish people now living in this majority German immigrant city.  Plans were commissioned by the pastor,  Father Wilhelm Grutza, with the design to be modeled after St. Peter’s in Rome.

The plans for the edifice had to be altered when Fr. Grutza discovered that  the Chicago Post Office and Custom House was to be demolished.  Here was an opportunity to get a huge supply of pre-cut stone that indeed became the facade of the largest Polish parish in Milwaukee at a bargain rate, $20,000.

When the basilica was finished the only dome in the United States that was larger was the one over the Capitol in Washington DC.

In 1929, the Franciscan Friars, the order that took over administration of the church petitioned Pope Pius XI to declare St. Josaphat a basilica, a designation that is reserved for the larger, more ornate churches.  St. Josaphat was the first Polish church given that honor and only the third church in the US at the time.

St. Josaphat Historical Sign
St. Josaphat Historical Marker

A walk through the visitor’s center will tell the story of the building of the church and will also have information for sale about St. Josaphat.

I was reminded of the beautiful churches I visited in Rome and also of the beautiful churches I would soon visit in Turkey, which I will have more on next time.  When I entered the church it was empty, it was around noon, and the winter’s light was shining brilliantly though the stained glass windows and illuminated what I liked to believe were the spirits of all those who have worshiped over the years.  I am a dome man when it comes to churches, so looking up I saw the shining lights, and I saw them dance to the sides of the altar.

St Josaphat Interior
St. Josaphat interior
St. Josaphat Old Chicago Post Office Building
Chicago Post Office and Custom House and St. Josaphat building diagrams

Church history in the United States is rich and varied, and ranges from historical portages that brought early French priests into the Midwest to maturing centers of faith represented by St. Josaphat.  A little roaming off the path for your average Catholic traveler will reveal more than you ever would think possible.

This is probably the one and only time when the federal government was responsible for constructing a beautiful church that so many have worshiped at for so many years.



All I want for Christmas is my “Dib’s Chair”.

With the first couple of snowfalls in Chicago I am reminded of a tradition called “Dibs”, which probably goes back to when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow was a pup.

Even back then, when you shoveled out a spot for your horse or your horse and carriage,  you put out a piece of furniture to block another citizen from parking their horse in your spot. With the invention of the automobile the tradition continued, but the Dibs markers got shoddier.  Today, there is every collection of chairs, old table, stolen road-work horses and old refrigerators calling dibs for the treasured spot, hard won and hard dug,  out of the snow.

Dibs s a tradition that our current mayor and administration are trying to stamp out, but like patronage and the Chicago Hot Dog, Dibs will never be fully erased from the collective consciousness of the snow-shoveling, sore back,  Chicagoan.

I do have a suggestion:  make Dibs  prettier; maybe even make it a tourist attraction around Christmas and the New Year –and that is to decorate.  Yes, decorate your Dibs!

Buy a new Dibs chair or refurbish it, style it.

Maybe you get a 1950’s kitchen chair and place an Elvis figure in it.

Or maybe you go for something more contemporary and get a big old, used office chair, nice and plush, and put a Trump figure it it.  If you can’t find an exact likeness just get one of the many Halloween masks that were sold and stick it on a straw-filled dummy.  This will  work for all those who in true blue Chicago who think Trump is stupid and scary.   Adding the Presidential Seal is an option, but it does carry authority.

And Bingo!

The Chicago Tourism and Convention Bureau can sponsor a  Dibs Contest, and all the tourists who usually crowd Michigan Avenue and never go west of State Street will have a reason to go into the neighborhoods.  They can then vote by Dibs App on the best set- up to keep your neighbor where they should be — in their own  damned personal space.

When the winner is announced the award will be a Dibs Chair, so the tradition can spread across the United States to cities big and small – and even across the world, as the visitor from, say,  Russia –which could be the Dibs capital of the world– proudly put their furniture in front of their homes, daring anybody to move it.  Double-dog daring.

3 Things To Know About Your Travel Professional

Worth reading. Many people are surprised when I tell them my customers/clients are travel agents. “Travel agents?” they say. “I thought they were all gone.” Far from it. In fact, with the destinations that Ya’lla Tours USA sells any person who books on the info they see on the internet is just nuts. Ya’lla Tours does not solicit from the general public, and has been in business since 1993, in Portland OR. #YallaToursUSA

Romance Travel By Shannon

Back in the day (not that I am that old wink wink)  travel agents were basically the only way people were able to book airline tickets, hotels, rental cars, and vacations.  Storefront agencies were all over.  People would walk in, sit at the desk and tell the “agent” they want to go to (fill in the blank with your favorite destination).  Then the travel agent would get up and go to the “brochure rack” and  hand them to the client to look at. They would book airline tickets and PRINT them , call up Disney world or a Cruise line to book the reservations.  This was kind of like going to a “record” store and buying a new album.  Wow, have times changed.
Fast forward 25 years, the internet is here, there is an APP for everything.  There are people out there that have never heard of a travel agent!  There…

View original post 331 more words

What I Saw in Wichita

Wichita Locomotive

The Road, Again…For Now

When I found out I had to go, I was depressed.

Winter is not my favorite time of year, and the thought of battling to get to the airport, get on a flight (that’s probably weather delayed) and going to a small city that’s a dot on the map in southeastern Kansas, well, it set me off.  But I had no choice. It was for work.

What’s my work?

Even when I tell people they are confused, but I’ll give it a try: my work is to work with, sell and sometimes market tours to travel agents.

Travel agents? They still exist?  Yes, I get that too, usually after the blank stare and the decision by the person I’m speaking with not to press me any further on my job, because…because…. they just don’t really care what it is I do.

So, Southwest is my carrier of choice out of Midway Airport, Chicago.  The last couple of years the airline with the heart for a logo has stuffed more seats into their 737’s, making if an uncomfortable ride for anybody over five-foot one,  and the Southwest flights have been full to the point of overbooking, even to places nobody wants to go; but Southwest is the best of the worst, and most of the time their cabin crew actually pretends to like you.  A typical flight has me stuffed in a seat next to a wheezing business guy, who is appetite-enhanced and bleeding over the railings (so to speak) into my seat.

But surprise!  Really, I mean surprise: the flight is only two-thirds full, if that.  Oh, happy day.  I seated myself on the aisle and had the entire seat row to myself.  So what the pitch of the seats (how jammed together they are) was probably 29 inches, and my knees were brushing my chin: the sky god was smiling upon me.

And we arrived early.

Wichita had temperatures in the 50’s during the day.  Not bad.  In Chicago, it was in the 30’s and gray and cold and snow was on the ground.

What I saw

I’d been to Wichita — the one in Kansas, in case that was in question– before, but only on quick runs down from Kansas City, Missouri.  Now I had some time here. I had travel agents to see, and, as I try to do, soak in a little of the culture, if there is any. Or that I would know what culture is.

Wichita looks bigger than it is.  It has about 387,000 residents, and is the 49th largest city in the US.  I just really didn’t know that.  It has every major chain of hotel, restaurant, auto repair and big box store that there is.  But there is still a smallness about Wichita that is appealing.

Wichita bills itself as the “air capital” of the world, or at least the US.  Wichita brags about it being a trading center for thousands of years, obviously longer than most of the travel agents I would see have been around.  It was part of the “Wild West” — yes, Wichita. It became a cattle center, and  then, as if people wanted to get out of there: it became a center for the manufacture of small aircraft, like Beechcraft.

The downtown is small and compact and has some bustle to it, and the older center of downtown, is preserved in the Old Town Area.  After I was finished for the day, I walked it from one end to the other, and took the picture of the old steam locomotive.  The Old Town area has trendy shops and pubs and restaurants.

What I did in Wichita

My real reason for going to Wichita was to get people out of it, but only temporarily.  I was working with travel agent Bonni  who booked a group with my tour company, for a trip to Turkey.  I was to talk to the group, in the church basement, on a Wednesday evening.  I have spent a lot of time in churches, but not to pray. Usually it is to sell.  I talk to people who are going to Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, and more.

Every Wednesday the P Church of Wichita has a dinner.  People come, families come, and they eat.  And they drink, drink wine and beer.  In most churches this is not the procedure.  I met some of the people committed to going on the trip and some who were thinking about it.  I also met Paster O.  All were friendly, and the Mexican Buffett (catered) was really good.

I did my best to answer questions, and not one person questioned me about the safety of going to Turkey.  Not one! I did mention it by way of saying that we and travel agent Bonni love repeat customers and we would never put anybody in harm’s way.  For danger, I suggested coming to the south-side of Chicago, where I live and many people die.

The Way Home

When I got to the airport to get Southwest to get home, I found out my flight was delayed.  But somehow, it arrived at the gate on time. Once again, I got an entire seat row to myself.  And tomato juice, a double. It was a choppy flight, and for some unknown reason we circled Midway Airport back in Chicago at least once. It was a slow circle and I could see from my seat over the wing that they seemed to be spraying out more fuel than necessary.  There was mechanical groaning and moaning,and I began to think that maybe there was landing gear trouble and they were dumping excess fuel over Lake Michigan.  But no.  We came in for our approach; the plane dropped like a rock onto the runway, and the brakes and thrust were applied hard, and we got to the gate — early.


The house was dark and it was cold inside when I finally got home about 9:30pm.  I hate coming home sometimes, because the house is empty; not even a friggin’ goldfish.  Part of the reason is because I live a lot of my life on the road.  Have for the last 30 years.  It’s not glamour; it’s not torture (most of the time); it just is –to get the job done.