Mom, for baking; mom is the best cook in the family on the whole or was at least when she was cooking more regularly; her desserts were second to none, especially the pies, apple fritters and apple bars (if it’s got apples, it’s got to be good). Also generally very good with meat though she never got me to like liver! Her downfall is vegetables; typical mid-American bland way of cooking, boiling almost everything until "done" in plain ol’ water.
Mom’s stepmother and cousin, for everything else in the early years. Mom grew up in SE Ohio, near the Ohio River; as any of you know if you’re from the area, it’s really closer to the South, culture-wise, than the midwest. What I remember from Summer vacations in the 70s and 80s there: home-cured country ham, amazing egg noodles with bits of ham cooked in chicken broth, the only green beans I liked as a kid, pork chops, eggs fried in butter in a cast-iron skillet (mom used margarine, gasp), and (digressing just a minute) sitting rocking on the porch swing with 16 oz bottles of Orange Crush or Pepsi as the summer rains (it seemed to rain a lot when we were on vacation, but I didn’t mind voracious reader that I then was) fell.
And finally, my years in Chicago, surely one of Roadfood’s Top 10 Large City destinations (and really, who can challenge the home of Vienna beef dogs, Italian Beef sandwiches and stuffed pizza for #1?). Carmens Pizza, numerous hot dog stands, Buffalo Joes of Evanston, ribs, the list is far too long…Vermont doesn’t hold a candle, sniff.