The (Second) City Vegetable

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This content originally appeared on my former Chicagosphere online-media blog, hosted on the Chicago Tribune‘s ChicagoNow network.

Shannon Fitzgerald is no stranger to her kitchen. An unyielding addiction to the foodie blogs of others led this on-again-off-again Chicagoan to launch her own–and a vegetarian blog at that. Amid a sea of omnivorous Chitown food & drink blogs, The City Vegetable celebrates its first birthday in the Second City.Shannon Fitzgerald is no stranger to her kitchen. An unyielding addiction to the foodie blogs of others led this on-again-off-again Chicagoan to launch her own–and a vegetarian blog at that. Amid a sea of omnivorous Chitown food & drink blogs, The City Vegetable celebrates its first birthday in the Second City.

Currently a Chicago resident, Fitzgerald’s palate traveled widely to get here. Born in France, her family emigrated to Iowa when she was two, dragged her to Dallas at age 7, then to Chicago at 17. At 21 she began a stint in my native New York where she learned to love the grub and grime of the inner-city. Oddly enough, the temporary Chicago-expat spent six years in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, ground zero for New York’s Polish population (“Give me sauerkraut and I’m a happy girl,” she says.)

“Now I am back in Chicago, living in Pilsen, which I love,” Fitzgerald told me yesterday via email. “The authenticity and grittiness of the neighborhood combined with the friendly neighbors, corner stores, and mom & pop taco shops reminds me of my time in much-beloved Brooklyn.”

A longtime fan of food (“eating, cooking, ogling it”), Fitzgerald became obsessed with foodie blogs while in NYC. “I would read The Wednesday Chef, The Amateur Gourmet, and Eater.com, and think ‘I want to do that!'”

Finding the free time to write about her kitchen adventures would wait until Fitzgerald decided to move back to Chicago in 2008. Suddenly saddled with frequent down times durng her local job hunt, she decided to take the plunge and launch her own foodie byline last September. “As you can tell by the title, The City Vegetable, it is a vegetarian-focused blog,” Fitzgerald says. “But I’m pretty lax about that and include information about all types of food.”

Fitzgerald’s blog tells the story of the foods she has cooked at home or eaten in restaurants, usually through the lens of escapades she shares across Chicago with her various friends Angeleno Smitty, chef Andrew, grill-master Joel, Mando, Tim, Lindsay, team-vegetarian Lailah, meat-eater Chris, voice-of-meat Kate, and Smash the cat. (Did you get all that?)

But even though you’ll find several pescatarian and some land-animal-based blog posts on City Vegetable, produce remains the star. Consider:

Now employed in the Loop at the historic Chicago Theatre, Fitzgerald says the blog is a labor of love. “I really just want to share my love of food with others,” she says. “My family and friends are spread all over the country and hopefully the blog shares a little piece of my life with (them).” Future plans for the blog include hosting foodie dinners and events in various Chicago neighborhoods and posting guest “dispatches” about regional foods from friends in various cites across the country.

As far as Fitzgerald’s concerned, though, her culinary heart and blog both belong to Chicago. “I thought (the blog) would be a good way to dive back into Chicago and rediscover this city–which I must say, is a food-lover’s paradise.”

Speaking as a fellow ex-Brooklynite, she gets no argument from me about that. I’m always amazed how easily our town’s world-class, lively food scene leads to local blogs about personal culinary journeys that are readable, interesting, and recipe-laden. Fitzgerald’s year-old City Vegetable satisfies on all three counts. Happy Birthday.

[And with that, Yours Truly emerges from the worst flu of recent memory to return to this byline in earnest. I missed those of you missed me. Those of you who didn’t, I’m even happier to return to stir the (ahem) vegetable pot…]

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