Space, the final frontier: Iowa Cheesecake

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The Sweetie and I wonder, where are Chicago’s wider citizens, pastel clothing, baggy blue jeans, pickup trucks, pedestrians who stroll, drivers who don’t honk at every perceived insult, and chain restaurants? We now know: they’re in DeKalb.

Last week the Sweetie’s team supported a short Go Live at Kishawalkie Hospital in DeKalb, IL (60 miles NW of Chicago), so Friday night we lugged a suitcase full of clothes and coffee to the Allerton Hotel on Michigan Avenue to pick up a charter bus, destination—Country Inn & Suites. Twenty-five people with twenty-five pieces of luggage lined up in front of a large van, not a bus (as it turned out).

We boarded first (thanks in no small part to my sharp elbows) and got two seats in the back, but found ourselves trapped behind a center aisle filled with heavy suitcases—no rest stops for us. Hilarity ensued as twenty-three trainers (and two tagalong wives) fought for a place to sit, space to rest arms, a lap for a laptop, leverage to cram legs over the wheel-wells, and room to unwrap tuna sandwiches. Luckily the front windows wouldn’t roll up, so everyone kept their coats on, staying warm and avoiding accidental whacks as a bonus. When the bus driver admonished, “Now, buckle up!”, there were no obedient seatbelt clicks, only the sound of fifty eyes rolling. No one sang Kumbaya or exchanged jolly tales as the van crept along, stuck in Friday night, stop-and-go traffic.

Three hours later when the driver parked in front of the Country Inn & Suites, we all limped off, headed for the bathrooms, then lined up to check in. When I opened the curtains in the morning and looked out—we had been dropped off on a different planet. 

 Friday, out the window

Saturday, out the window

What a difference a day makes. On Friday I could lunch in downtown Chicago on tlayudas at XOCO, arancini at Eataly, a pork belly bowl at Sweetgreen’s, or sushi at Oysy. On Saturday I browsed Walgreen’s Snack aisle, opting for Pringles and a Thin Mint. Down the block, instead of Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus, there was Blain’s Farm and Fleet, home to plaid shirts, Dad jeans, tractor accessories, and seeds. Lest I sound like a city brat, I did enjoy the quiet streets, the wide store aisles, a large hotel room that wasn’t next to the elevator, and crispy waffles in an empty breakfast room.

No wonder big cities and rural towns don’t agree on political matters—it’s all about space. Navigating crowded Chicago sidewalks requires constant compromise among pedestrians—move over a bit, deal with transit delays, accept the occasional weird encounter, live with the shoulder brush, and rely on access to everything on foot. In rural DeKalb there is minimal contact with strangers, wide streets, enormous parking lots, expansive space between businesses, houses on half-acre lots, but no sidewalks or mass transit. Apparently, there is no life without a car.

Anyways, rural living is not for me but then, as it turns out, downtown city living is not for me either. How about, the outskirts of an interesting small city, Olympia perhaps?

“You had to be there, Chicago”

Back in Chicago, the Sweetie has no clean hankies. My Bridget keeps the Sweetie supplied, but even her special ones, engraved with an “A”, are at the bottom of the dirty clothes pile. Now I understand that carrying a handkerchief is a dying art, but nevertheless, we decide to buy some new ones. 

Nordstrom is across the street from the hotel, therefore the logical spot to shop. We avoid the perfume counters, wind through aisles of Prada purses and Gucci shoulder bags, ride up the escalator to Men’s Furnishings, walk past skimpy Tom Ford suits, indolent Italian loafers, and trendy wool shoes to “ Accessories.” Italian silk ties, leather wallets soft as a baby’s cheek, neatly folded designer pocket squares—but no white cotton hankies.


A young retail salesperson, sleek as a greyhound, Jimmy Choos over to us, “Can I help you find something?”

“Hankies”, says the Sweetie waving his last one.

“For the nose?”, she asks in wonder and disbelief.

Iowa Cheesecake

Crust: 1 1⁄2 c. graham cracker crumbs, 1⁄2 c. melted butter, 1⁄2 c. powdered sugar. Combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and powdered sugar. Press into bottom of 8” springform pan.

Cheesecake: Three 8 oz. packages softened cream cheese, 4 eggs, 1 c. sugar, 1 t. vanilla, 1 pint sour cream. In large bowl beat cream cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Pour mixture over crust.

Bake at 325° for 50 minutes. To minimize cracking, place shallow pan half full of water on lower rack of oven during baking. Remove from oven, spread sour cream over cake. Be sure sour cream is room temperature. Return to oven and bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven, cool. Serves 16.

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One Response to Space, the final frontier: Iowa Cheesecake

  1. Beth says:

    Trying to find hankies for women is even harder. Luckily i inherited my Mother’s hankie collection. However, they are starting to get a bit threadbare. Maybe the British still use cloth hankies, as they are so civilized.

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