Make no mistake about it, Italian women are great cooks. And so are Mexican, Greek, Polish, Ukrainian and Romanian women, for that matter. Baby boomers didn’t grow up on fast food.
But most people who may not be privileged enough to have ever seen the inside of an Italian-American Social Club, may not know of a tradition that pre-dates the Iron Chef by decades.
The club closed on October 6, 2009.
Well, to make a long story short, baseball lasted a few years and as the members started to get a little older, their habits changed a bit. Baseball was set aside and replaced with a few dozen decks of cards,
daily jig-saw and crossword puzzles and, believe it or not…pots and pans. The ‘club’ became a home-away-from-home for these boys who pledged to never grow old and cooking became a very important part of the daily routine. Since no gentleman’s club would have a woman in the kitchen, the tradition grew from the need for someone to do the cooking of the food that each member contributed in one way or another. Like a fire-station having assigned cooks, but they all fight fires, so went the cooking duties in the old Boomerang’s Italian-American Men’s clubs.
On occasion, like the shootout at the OK Coral, someone would come along and challenge a recipe. It would go sort of like this: “Hey Mario, this sausage and peppers is good. Did you make this?” “Yeah, I made it. Why!” “I think I can do better”.
Like two old ladies arguing over laundry about who makes the best zuppa di pesce. They would set the date, buy the groceries and have a cook-off. All men. Only a few guests. It was serious business.
Both chef’s would prepare their recipes with full detail and submit them to the judges. The audience watches the preparation, and may even be asked to assist at times. The meals are prepared and the judges, and audience digs in!
To be fair, there are no rules. It’s simply which one tastes best. Three judges have last word and two out of three wins bragging rights. The competitors shake hands and move on!
I have never had so much fun hanging out with these ‘old’ guys. So very much to miss.
So much to pass on to new generations.
Don’t forget to enter to win a “Party with the Romeo’s”. A true Good-fellas experience.
This blog is dedicated to the men (my father included) who created and modified the recipes that became history; some of the favorites of the members, guests and friends who enjoyed a meal or two at the Boomerang Club at Grand and May streets in Chicago, as well as contributions from uncles, cousins and friends who shared the kitchen duties, where men cook for men and they do it very well!
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Check out these great Recipe Books. They make great gifts: