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updated: 2/18/2014 6:40 AM

St. Charles H.S. to honor alumna for culinary contributions

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  • Karen Page, author of the award-winning "The Flavor Bible," will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award from St. Charles High School on Saturday.

      Karen Page, author of the award-winning "The Flavor Bible," will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award from St. Charles High School on Saturday.
    Courtesy of Karen Page

  • Karen Page, seen here in the late 1970s, graduated at the top of her class from St. Charles High School.

      Karen Page, seen here in the late 1970s, graduated at the top of her class from St. Charles High School.
    Courtesy of Karen Page

  • "Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen"

      "Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen"

 
 

Karen Page has come a long way from her days dishing ice cream at Colonial Cafe and editing the St. Charles High School newspaper.

Yet as the 1979 graduate prepares to accept the school's Distinguished Alumni Award on Saturday, she says both those experiences helped her become the person she is today.

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"All my food experiences taught me so much," says Page, who studied journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston. Even serving hamburgers as a waitress at the former Poppin' Fresh Pies showed her how many ways a beef patty could be worked into a menu.

"I always got an inordinate amount of pleasure through food," she adds, " ... I was always thinking about it in a different way."

Page combined her passions for writing and food and went on to be a two-time James Beard Award-winning author. Her books, written with husband/chef Andrew Dornenburg, include best sellers "The Flavor Bible" (my copy right now is within arm's reach), "Culinary Artistry," "Becoming a Chef" and "What to Drink with What You Eat." She's currently working on her first solo title, "The Vegetarian Flavor Bible."

She will be honored at the Royal Fox Country Club in St. Charles on Saturday along with Dan Marshall and Col. Michael Miller. The award recognizes alumni who have demonstrated a high level of achievement in their field of endeavor or in their community contributions.

Page, who lives now in New York City, has this advice for up-and-coming writers: "Keep a journal. There are things I didn't know were important until I saw them in retrospect. ... See what your 16-year-old perspective was on boys, your weight. Your adult self will thank you."

While she's back in the Fox Valley this weekend, Page and her husband will sign books from noon to 1 p.m. at The Spice House, 577 S. Third St., Geneva. Preservation Bread and Wine is providing refreshments.

At Lincoln's table: I think it's safe to assume that Abraham Lincoln never ate at Poppin' Fresh. If you want to know what the former president did eat turn to "Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln's Life and Times" (Smithsonian Books, 2014). The culinary biography from food historian Rae Katherine Eighmey gives readers a glimpse into the everyday life of President Lincoln. She uncovered authentic 19th-century recipes in period cookbooks and researched Lincoln's grocery bills in Springfield ledgers to discover the foods that were cooked in his home and what type of barbecue could be served to thousands at political rallies. She then put together recipes and tested them for modern kitchens so today's cooks can immerse themselves in the flavors and textures of foods from 1820 to 1865.

Grab the book today and pull together a dinner with dishes like corn dodgers, mock-mock-turtle soup, beef cakes, cucumber salad, piccalilli, jumbles and French almond cake.

Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at dpankey@dailyherald.com or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at Facebook.com/DebPankey.DailyHerald or follow her on Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter @PankeysPlate.

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