Chicago—Windy City, Hog Butcher of the World, Second City. And now a new identity is emerging for this bustling, durable city in the heartland. Mayor Richard M. Daley provided the impetus, and Chicago residents have enthusiastically embraced the goal of making Chicago the Greenest City in America. From rooftop gardens to sustainable development, the dream is on its way to becoming a reality.
This dedication to green beckoned Chicagoan Patti Garland to return to the city from her transplanted home in Los Angeles. She and husband Chris Garland moved back to Chicago last year, just in time for winter. They wanted to create a restaurant based on sustainable ideals and join the burgeoning Green Chicago movement.
“Creating community is part of the whole philosophy of organic, sustainable development,” Patti says. “Everything I saw and heard was happening here. It was what I was craving, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
In the fall of 2003, the Garlands opened Earth Mothers — a small storefront eatery. The space is pleasantly simple and offers a homestyle cuisine.
Steeped in Tradition
The driving force behind Earth Mothers is healthy living through organic-based food.
“We want to serve healthy, fresh food made every day from a holistic standpoint,” Patti says. “I don’t view food as entertainment. I view it as an energy source.”
The menu is partially based on Ayurvedic traditions and uses many common and not-so-common herbs and spices. Ayurveda is a centuries-old life science that hails from India. Fundamental to the philosophy is the belief that each person has a primary constitutional profile, or dosha. There are three doshas: vata (ruled by air), pitta (ruled by fire) and kapha (ruled by earth). While everyone has a combination of the three, each person is born with one dominant dosha. According to the philosophy, your dosha becomes unbalanced due to life stresses, lack of exercise and poor nutrition. Hence, proper nutritional choices help rebalance your dosha and your life. Some of these nutritional principles make their way onto Earth Mothers’ menu.
Food for health may be a guiding light at Earth Mothers, but you certainly don’t need a spoonful of sugar to help this medicine go down. The dishes are delicious and amazingly affordable, given the high-quality ingredients. One example is Patti’s coleslaw with ginger, pecans, olive oil, cilantro and fresh fennel. It’s refreshing, flavorful and, in case you need some rebalancing, both the fennel and ginger are considered tridosha (good for all three constitutional types.)
If you have a cold or are just feeling void of energy, tell Patti and she’ll add a little something to help heal what ails you. The idea of customizing a dish is something she learned from her experience with Chinese acupuncture.
“There are restaurants in China where, if you tell them how you feel, they will cook something special for you,” Patti explains. “Concepts like that always resonated with me.”
Another dish capitalizing on Ayurvedic principles is her curried cauliflower. Patti uses fresh curry leaves to make her own unique blend and adds kelp, ground almonds and olive oil. Curry is believed to help neutralize toxins in the system.
Ayurveda also emphasizes eating foods appropriate to the season — as does Earth Mothers. For summer, the menu features ingredients that are “cooling,” such as coconut milk, yogurt, cucumbers and mint. Among the tempting dishes on the summer menu are Herb-Scented Stuffed Mushrooms (vegan), Ginger-Glazed Amish Free-Range Chicken Satay and Wild-Caught Alaskan Smoked Salmon on Cucumber Rounds.
Earth Mothers’ menu also includes many organic herbal teas, coffees and a house specialty — Spiced Water.
While locally grown ingredients can be a challenge to obtain in the cold months of a Midwest winter, the summer season abounds in fresh produce. Patti is connected to many local growers and suppliers whose produce enables her to prepare organic dishes that are almost garden-fresh. She also is creating her own restaurant garden that will be replete with produce and many of her needs for culinary herbs such as cilantro, basil, rosemary, thyme and edible flowers. A meditation area will be the focal point of the garden.
More than a Restaurant
The Garlands’ vision for Earth Mothers is to be much more than a restaurant that serves wholesome organic food. Patti and her staff want to be a resource for showing people how easy it is to eat organic food and how to grow some of their own food in the city. “A collective consciousness here is building up some steam,” Patti explains. “I really want to contribute to it.”
To that end, Earth Mothers features evening lectures and workshops on a variety of subjects from Ayurveda to roof-top gardening and weight control.
Earth Mothers serves breakfast, lunch and Sunday brunch, and is open for dinner on special occasions.
For more information contact Earth Mothers, 738 N. Wells St., Chicago, IL 60610; (312) 587-7337; www.earthmothers.com
JoAnn Milivojevic writes about food, fitness and travel, and enjoys growing fine herbs in her Chicago garden.