In his new book, Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating: How to Choose the Best Bread, Cheeses, Pastas, Chocolate, and Much More, foodie Ari Weinzweig says, “You don’t have to be born French or be an insufferable food snob to discern the difference between a well-made farmhouse cheese and a bland, rubbery, factory version that bears the same name.” Weinzweig, the cofounder of Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, spent five years writing the comprehensive guide, which includes the histories of particular foods (noodles date back to first-century China), as well as stories, glossaries, cooking hints, recipes, and tips for selecting the good stuff (the best pastas contain durum semolina and smell like grain). Weinzweig will appear at free book signings and tastings today at 12:30 at Borders, 150 N. State, Chicago, 312-606-0750, and tomorrow, November 22, at 2 at the Book Stall at Chestnut Court, 811 Elm in Winnetka, 847-446-8880.

“Skinny girls are in, but fat’s where it’s at,” says Patrick Lovelace, who started holding Big Beautiful Woman events three years ago under the moniker Big Boi ’00 Entertainment. All sizes are welcome to attend the monthly theme dances, but their purpose is “to glorify big, beautiful women”–and the ratio is usually three girls for every boy. Tonight’s adults-only Leather Lovers Dance Party features a buffet, door prizes, and music by DJ James E. It’s from 8 to 2 at the Days Inn, 1900 Mannheim in Melrose Park. Admission is $10 be-fore 9, $15 after. For more call 630-336-1470 or see


“Big Time Sarah” Streeter will perform tonight in a benefit for Evanston-based BEHIV (Better Existence With HIV), which provides preventive education and finds shelter and health care for people with HIV/AIDS. Streeter, born in Coldwater, Mississippi, and raised on Chicago’s south side, jumped from gospel singer to club performer at age 14. She delivers a raunchy, old-fashioned electric blues that gets the audience going. Admission includes two drinks and a buffet dinner from Evanston restaurants Prairie Moon, Lulu’s, Merle’s Smokehouse, and Tommy Nevin’s Pub. The benefit runs from 4 to 7 at Bill’s Blues Bar, 1029 Davis in Evanston. Tickets are $40 in advance, $45 at the door; call 847-475-2115 or order tickets online at

Photographer Tone Stockenstrom first met Otilia Torres, German Castaneda, and their three children–the subjects of Stockenstrom’s exhibit Portrait of a Family–in 1995, when she was teaching English at El Centro de Educacion y Cultura in Logan Square. “My students…had incredible tales of coming across the border from Mexico to Chicago,” says Stockenstrom, who herself immigrated here from Sweden when she was six. She kept in touch with the family, and in 1999 began to photograph them at their home in Pilsen and on visits to Mexico. Stockenstrom and the Torres-Castaneda family will discuss the exhibit–which includes 30 images as well as handwritten texts and collages–today at 4 at City Gallery, Water Tower, 806 N. Michigan, Chicago, 312-742-0808; the free exhibit runs through December 29.

According to Karyn Calabrese, mashing raw spuds with cauliflower and nuts produces the taste and texture of traditional mashed potatoes. The raw foods chef and nutritionist has been preparing uncooked Thanksgiving dinners for years, but this will be her first sit-down Raw Thanksgiving Dinner, which in addition to the mash will include mock turkey with mushroom gravy and stuffing, sweet corn, carrot soup, nut nog, and sweet potato pie. It’s sponsored by the Organic Food Network and takes place tonight at 6 at Karyn’s Fresh Corner Cafe and Market, 1901 N. Halsted, Chicago. It’s $50; reservations and advance payment are required. Call 630-836-1864 or see Takeaway raw dinners are also available; they’re $50 and will be available for pickup Wednesday, November 26. To order call 312-255-1590 or see


You can get a powerful, wet smooch from an elephant at Three Ring Adventure, an interactive show that starts an hour before the main event at this year’s Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. The design of the formal show looks a lot more like Cirque du Soleil these days (this edition, the 133rd, is said to be inspired by the film Moulin Rouge), but there are still clowns, tigers, and ponies–not to mention aerialist “sky surfers” and a don’t-try-this-at-home flaming cannon shoot. Shows today are at 1 and 5; the second’s a bilingual performance in Spanish and English. Tickets range from $10.50 to $50 (312-559-1212), and the show runs through November 30 at the United Center, 1901 W. Madison in Chicago.


“Anywhere you have extreme poverty and no national health insurance, no promise of health care regardless of social standing, that’s where you see the sharp limitations of market-based health care,” says Harvard Medical School professor and MacArthur “genius” grant recipient Paul Farmer, author of Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor. Farmer, whose group Partners in Health set up a modern medical center in one of the poorest parts of Haiti (where he spends half his time), has seen firsthand the effects of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, AIDS, and malaria on the poor in Mexico, Peru, and Russia. He’s also the subject of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder’s recent book Mountains Beyond Mountains. Farmer will give a free talk, “A Human Rights Prescription for Global Health Equity,” tonight at 6:30 in room 621 of the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center, 450 N. Cityfront Plaza, Chicago, 312-464-4075.

Lisa Nelson lives in the Chicago area and writes children’s books now, but in a recent past life she “worked in every capa-city in Holly-wood, from staff writer to producer,” writing for television shows including Everybody Loves Raymond, Ellen, Brother’s Keeper, and Suddenly Susan. She’ll talk about the dicey life of a scriptwriter in “The Hollywood Writing Game,” the Theatre of Western Springs’ annual Mattka Lecture, at 7:30 tonight at the theater, 4384 Hampton in Western Springs. It’s free; call 708-246-4043.


Since some plants need a third party to procreate, they use everything from traps and deception to killing to coerce bees and other insects into pollinating them. “In nature there are a lot more soap-opera-ish things going on than you’ll ever find on TV,” says Lynn Hepler, director of education at the Lake County Forest Preserve. “Although I don’t think there are as many cases of amnesia.” She’ll give a free talk called The Sex Life of Plants tonight at a meeting of the Evanston North Shore Bird Club. It’s at 7:30 at the Ecology Center, 2024 McCormick in Evanston, 847-864-5181.


Filmmaker Nadia El Fani has said that one of the reasons she made her new film, Bedwin Hacker, was to show modern North African women as strong and resourceful rather than as victims. The film focuses on a Tunisian computer whiz who hijacks foreign TV signals to broadcast subversive messages in Arabic, signing her work with the cartoon camel of the title. She’s pursued by her female ex-lover, a French intelligence agent, who recognizes her work. It’ll be shown tonight at 8 (and Saturday, November 22, at 6) at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, Chicago. Tickets are $8; call 312-846-2800 or see


Excerpts from Court Theatre’s Guys and Dolls, Bailiwick Repertory’s The Christmas Schooner, the Marriott Theatre’s Annie Get Your Gun, and other local productions will be sprinkled throughout today’s 70th annual State Street Thanksgiving Day Parade along with the usual floats, marching bands, and giant helium balloons. The parade runs from 8:30 to 11 AM on State from Congress to Randolph in Chicago. It will also air live on Channel Seven. For more call 312-781-5681 or log on to