Fun Adventures with Food

A food-themed Friendship Force Tri-Club 14 night global exchange
Report of Brian Harrington
Northern Illinois Exchange Director

On July 31, 2012 Friendship Force of Northern Illinois welcomed 21 Ambassadors from Japan, Canada, Australia and the USA for the first 5-nights of a 14-night food-themed exchange.  FF clubs in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin joined with Northern Illinois to offer home hosting for this event.

FFNI hosts and their guests enjoyed a number of unique and exciting exchange activities beginning with a delicious welcome dinner at the home of Bob and Marcia Weissman.  At the dinner, aprons for use during the exchange and sewn by FFNI volunteers were presented to each ambassador on behalf of the three host clubs.  Booklets containing photos of ambassadors and hosts and the complete schedule of tri-club activities were prepared and distributed by Milwaukee E.D., Dave Kalan.


August 1, was spent in Chicago and began with a tour of the Chicago Board of Trade trading floor to introduce ambassadors to worldwide trading of food commodities futures contracts.  This was followed by a Loop walking tour past architectural landmarks with food sampling of Chicago treats such as deep dish pizza, Chicago style hot dogs, bratwurst at the Berghoff and brownies at The Palmer House.

The following day began with a vegetable and flower garden horticultural tour at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  Ambassadors were then transported to “inovasi” restaurant for a cooking demonstration by chef-owner John Des Rosiers and a gourmet lunch.  The day was concluded with a Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert and picnic supper on the lawn at Ravinia Park.

Perhaps our most unique activity was the visit to a Community Supported Agriculture Farm in Caledonia, Illinois.  Hands-on activities, enjoyed by Ambassadors and Hosts alike, included soil testing, harvesting and preparing fresh salad ingredients, goat milking and ice cream making.

A farewell dinner at OPA Greek restaurant in Vernon Hills concluded the Northern Illinois portion of the exchange.  The following morning Ambassadors boarded an AMTRAK train to Milwaukee to begin the second phase of their tri-club exchange.

FFNI President, Joan Harrington and I accepted an invitation to join the August 13, final farewell dinner in Madison, Wisconsin.  Here we were reunited with the Ambassadors we had welcomed almost 2 weeks before.  Ambassadors approached the microphone to comment on the most memorable events they had experienced during the exchange.  Commonly mentioned as particular exchange highlights were the Chicago Board of Trade tour and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert and picnic at Ravinia.

Host Annecdotes

From Sheila Liao:

Sue and Phil came from Australia who heard much about crime story of Chicago. They came with curiously and cautiously.

On the free day, I took them to Chinatown having lunch, University of Chicago’s atomic research memorial site, Green Mill jazz house and the city background photo spot from Planetarium location.  Chicago has a lot to offer them

The beauty of Lake Michigan stole their heart; they love what they had seen and experienced. It was a great surprise for them to get much more than what they were expected.

Our wonderful program, our friendly warm hearts and the Chicago’s multiple cultures/foods enriched their experiences.  They are very impressed and love to visit us again.

From Pat and Dave Meyer:

Those of us in Friendship Force live and breathe “faces not places.”  The program for this exchange was splendid, but the time sitting at our table with Seiichi and Mitsuyo will linger in our memories.  Their joy at tasting Western food and asking, “What’s this?”  Trying to explain fennel to someone who’d never seen it made us laugh.  Pictures on Google saved the day!  Mitsuyo’s Udon Soup with red peppers and peaches had us smiling and slurping.  The culture of food, American and Japanese eating habits, ingredient choices, and food preparation are the memories we will cherish from this fantastic Food Exchange.

From Mary Lou Balazs:

Tom and Yuki were delightful Ambassadors.  We fondly remember how they insisted on shopping for ingredients and cooked a delicious meal of shrimp, broccoli & mushroom omelets, chopped vegetable salad, chicken & vegetables with curry sauce, rice and cabbage.  My children and grandchildren were invited and every morsel was happily consumed.  After dinner, they played games with the children and friendships bonded together.

From Sally Coyle:

We had a very full house with three ambassadors (two Japanese, one American), our daughter and family living with us because of construction on their house addition and my husband and myself.  Masako and Wakako taught the grandkids (ages 7 and 5) how to make origami and eat with chop sticks.  Matthew and Lucy had baked cookies to share in anticipation of their visit.  Lucy would sit on a bed and smile and chat with Sara or Wakako or Masako.  Hanging out was wonderful for all and all ages.

From Bob Weissman:

Although Marcia and I have done a Welcoming dinner and other smaller parties for Exchanges of Friendship Force of Northern Illinois, “Fun Adventures with Food” was our first experience hosting and providing the Welcoming Dinner for 21 Ambassadors from Canada, Australia, Japan and the US. Gary and Irene Millington, two of the Canadians, made hosting so enjoyable.

I want to thank Dave Kalan, the ED for “Fun Adventures with Food” and Brian Harrington, the ED for the Friendship Force of Northern Illinois for planning and seeing to the success of this Exchange. Thanks also go to all of the Ambassadors, hosts and those who participated in any way!

From Joan Harrington:

Our guests Yukie and Nori really wanted to visit the Art Institute and take the Architectural boat tour but the only day we could do this was Saturday, the first day of the very popular Lollapalooza Music Festival.  The city of Chicago was expecting a crowd of several hundred thousand people that day.  We were worried about traffic, parking, crowds and the weather which was predicted to be 95 degrees.  It must have been the luck of the Japanese because we sailed into the city, toured the Art Institute just before the crowds gathered.  Our membership pass whisked us past the line which was down Michigan Avenue and around the corner at Monroe Street.  We met our son for a lovely lunch at the Garden Cafe just before it got busy and then hurried to the boat at Michigan and Wabash.  I was very worried that we would be late because the thick crowds were 5 abreast on both sides of the street.  I needn’t have been concerned.  Our very resourceful guest simply put up her parasol, put down her head and scurried down the avenue (on the left side a la Tokyo) parting the oncoming walkers like a pro.  We arrived at the boat with 10 minutes to spare.  When we looked back we could see the Chicago natives admiring her remarkable pedestrian techniques.  Thanks Yukie.  I will remember that trick for the future.  Just after we left the city we heard an announcement that Lollapalooza was cancelled because of a severe thunderstorm.  By that time we were safely in our home away from the thundering crowds.  Who knew that the Japanese were as lucky as the Irish?  I will put that in my book of things I learned about Japanese culture.

From Jean Minorini:

What happens when a couple of very creative, right-brained ambassadors from Canada…

Paul and Shoshanna Tyson of Canada.  He is a retired psychology professor; she is a retired art history teacher.

…spend a week in Chicago with a strongly left-brained, analytical host?

Can there be a meeting of the minds????

Well, of course!  What a wonderful day we three spent at the Art Institute of Chicago discussing the collection of Impressionists’ paintings.  Shoshanna and Paul happened to be serious students of art history.  I have a history undergraduate degree (precursor to a CPA certificate).  Together, we discussed how art reflected history and history influenced art.  What a satisfying conversation!

That was the day the left hemisphere of my brain finally reached across the aisle into my right hemisphere!

I know I will never enter another art museum without fond recollections of that day with my new friends, Paul and Shoshanna.