Mary: Hi Clare, I’m glad you agreed to join me in the Garden. First thing I want you to do is, take off your author hat. We’re here to find out who you are as, Clare, the person. Please tell us a bit about yourself, something not on your web site.
Clare: I’m a spy, though I probably shouldn’t admit to that in print. Also, I have a crush on Abraham Lincoln (that’s actually true). I like smart people and he, by all accounts, was as smart as they got. I love going to art fairs, so my home is an eclectic mix of paintings, pottery, metalwork, glasswork and textiles I’ve bought from artists near Chicago and places I’ve traveled. I don’t mean to be a snob about it, but when I look at one of those pieces I remember the day, the place, the person. I just don’t think you get the same experience from buying a vase in Pottery Barn.
Mary: I would much rather by from an art fair, I know exactly what you mean. I’m excited to visit your home town in November. My college team, University of Utah, will be in Southbend on the 13th to play Notre Dame. We’ve never been to Chicago, so we’ll be spending a few days there before the game. Sorry everyone, this is strictly for me… If you were a visitor to Chicago and you would only be there for about a day and a half, what would you do? What is something not to miss?
Clare: Our downtown is right on the lake so we have beaches next to skyscrapers. Not always useful this time of year as Lake Michigan is a big reason that Chicago has a reputation for being so cold, but it's pretty to look at and I recommend that you take a walk by the lake if it's a nice day. Check out Buckingham Fountain, and Millennium Park - both of which are near the lakefront and really pretty.
If you like to be daring, the big thing now is to go to the old Sear's Tower (now Willis Tower) and walk onto the ledge. It's a glass enclosure on the 103rd floor that makes you feel like you are walking on air. Or so I've heard. I'm not brave enough.
If you like gangster history, one authentic site that's still left is the Biograph Theater, where Dillinger was shot.
For museums, my two favorites are the Art Institute which has great Impressionism, as well as the paintings American Gothic and Edward Hopper's Nighthawk. and the Museum of Science and Industry, the only building left from the 1893 World's Fair (especially nice if you've read "Devil in the White City").
Second City is a fun place to spend an evening. For music, you have to listen to the blues.
Mary: Thanks, Clare, for indulging me. Now I'm even more excited!
I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland, and both of your parents are from there. What traditions did they bring to the states with them? And do you still follow those traditions with your own family?
Clare: One of the traditions that’s very Irish, and also explains why newcomers shriek and run when invited to family events, is everyone entertains at a party. It’s what is loosely called “the craic” in Ireland – great conversation, entertainment, the willingness to jump in and have fun. People are required to bring their talents – singing, storytelling, playing an instrument – to any gathering without self-consciousness, and often without talent. I remember my aunts and uncles singing at family parties when I was a kid, and later my brother quoting Shakespeare or my mom doing a jig. Years ago I brought a new boyfriend to a family Christmas party (there were about 50 or so extended family there). He was quite shy but he was also had a great sense of humor when he felt comfortable. He had not been in the door five minutes when my mother yelled out to him, “Brian, say something funny.” I’m not blaming my mom for the fact that things didn’t work out with him, but you can draw your own conclusions. Despite that, we still are required to entertain each other at parties and if you come by on Christmas Eve you will find my sister, Mary, and I doing a particularly bad rendition of “Sisters, Sisters” from White Christmas.
Mary: Oh dear, I have no talent, I'd really be in trouble. When my daughter was two, I sang her a lullaby and she said "Don't sing mommy!" Pour yourself another glass of wine, Clare, or are you drinking Irish Whiskey? Just kidding. What is your favorite thing to do to unwind?
Clare: Actually, tea is my drink of choice, though I can be persuaded to an occasional glass of wine or a good, cold beer. When the stresses of the day get to be too annoying I’m probably going to jump into a hot bath. I keep trying meditation and failing. So for me, it’s a hot bath, a good cup of tea, and a wonderful book as my favorite ways to unwind. Though sex works too!
Mary: I'm pretty sure sex works for everything! Meditation never works for me either, my mind wanders.
I see you’ve worked on the Food Network, among other television programs. But the Food Network is what caught my eye. I love to share new recipes, or wine parings with food I prepared here at the garden. Do you have any wonderful recipes you can share with us?
Clare: Yikes! I’m actually not much of a “everything-from scratch” kind of cook. I CAN do it, but I tend not to except on special occasions. When pressed into service, my go-to dishes are lasagna, quiche or roast chicken , with apple tart & homemade caramel sauce for dessert. None of them are my recipes though. I get them all from cookbooks and magazines.
Mary: Darn! I've actually been experimenting with my own recipes, I'm sure they aren't that original, but I try. What is your favorite food? And do you have a favorite restaurant?
Clare: I’m from Chicago where pizza is a sacred meal, and I’m certainly a believer. I save deep dish for winter because it’s a little heavy for the summer. I love all ethnic foods: Indian, Chinese, Cuban, Greek... But if it were my last meal on earth, I think I’d go for a pasta primavera with garlic bread and something chocolate for dessert.
Mary: Oh great choice, you can't go wrong with pasta! Are you a traveler, or a homebody? If you do travel, can you share some of your favorite spots? And where would be the one place you haven’t visited, and would love to visit someday? And if you’re a homebody, then what do you consider vacation?
Clare: I’m both. When I’m home in Chicago I mostly socialize with family or friends, and often in each other’s homes. But I love to travel. I’ve been lucky enough to see nearly all of the US (I’m still missing Idaho, N. Dakota, Montana and Alaska.) I’ve seen quite a lot of Europe (and lived for a time in both Ireland and England). I’ve also been to Malaysia and parts of Central America.
Where would I like to go? Everywhere. Anywhere. As long as there isn’t a war or people kidnapping Americans, I’m willing to travel there. Once, while seriously bored, I made a list of all the places I’d like to see, and I think there were about 72 countries on the list. Some were re-visits, but most were new places.
My favorite places so far are the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, New York in winter, London anytime, the west coast of Ireland, and Italy- all of it. Check back with me in a few years and I’ll add to the list as I see more places.
Mary: Deal, in a couple of years I'll have more to compare with where you've been also, I hope. We’ve covered recipes and restaurants, so on to my favorite. Are you a wine drinker? If so, can you share with us your favorite? Or your favorite beverage? And the best place to find the perfect drink?
Clare: Alas, while I drink wine, I don’t really know wine. I do love touring wine country, whether it’s in California or France, and I’m a very big fan of having champagne for no particular reason, just because it’s good. When I order wine, it’s usually a Pinot Grigio or a German Riesling. I have a brother who lives in Germany, so I drink lots of German wine/ beer when I visit. Recently a friend of mine introduced me a Chilean Merlot that I really liked.
Mary: Chile has a lot of great wines, we usually try to buy at least one when we do a wine run. Last but now least, with the holidays soon upon us, what is your favorite holiday? And if you haven’t already answered this, do you have a tradition that goes with it?
Clare: I like Halloween because you can participate or not depending on your mood, there are lots of scary movies, and candy. But you can’t beat Christmas for two reasons; 1) bad holiday movies on Lifetime and 2) my sister and I singing “Sisters, Sisters”.
Also, my sister, sister-in-law, and I organize a holiday tea every year for the women in my family. It’s a group that ranges in age from eight to over eighty, gathered together once a year to eat fattening food and talk about something other than the kids or work. Every year there‘s a theme (like The 12 Years of Christmas Tea, or A Christmas Carol Tea) and we get gifts, play games and ask questions that bring out the most surprising answers. I won’t tell you the answers but the questions are everything from, “Who was your first crush?” to “What’s your secret wish for the coming year?” It’s been an amazing way for all of us to learn about each other. We’ve been doing it now for 14 years and I look forward to it every time.
That is an awesome tradition. Thank you for sharing a bit of yourself with all of us Clare, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself. Please visit us again sometime!