Sunday, January 25, 2009

Heartbreaker: Marshall Field's, I Still Miss You

I have a friend named Pernilla who lived in Chicago several years before returning to Sweden. The last time she visited, she dropped into my hands a tall, sleek bag filled with tea. When I opened it to smell the contents, the heavenly mix of oranges, black tea and floral notes met my happy nose - a lot like the smell of pannetone. It was so beautiful, I emailed her later to make sure it was actually tea. "Yes, it's tea! So don't smoke it!" she replied. The bag label simply read Nordiska Kompaniet Seden, the Nordic Company of Sweden. This department store in Stockholm opened in 1902 and reminds me very much of Chicago's beloved Marshall Field's, taken over by Macy's in 2006.

Field's holds a special place in the hearts of Chicagoans. My husband and I lived across the street for over year, connected via the underground pedway so that I didn't even have to put on a coat to visit. I arrived in the basement, where tea, chocolate, coffee, cookbooks, and other gourmet goodies made perfect gifts like the one Pernilla gave me. Upstairs, the store's Culinary Council of Chicago-made celebrity chefs offered cooking classes; the Walnut Room served signature comfort food in a glorious old world setting; the Frango Cafe served killer sundaes topped with Frango mints; and one of the best food courts in the city prepared quick, elegant lunches on the fly. In between nibbles, you could visit the Paris Flea Market, the apothecary or even the enormous bridal salon where I bought my wedding dress.

Macy's has tried to retain some of Field's specialness, and even kept most of those elements. But the products have become more generic, and the store has lost some character. The Macy's name took over the same day I picked up my wedding dress, and I fought through the protesters (yes, protesters!) to get inside, hoping that Macy's wouldn't actually change it too much. When I got in, I literally saw a bad sign: a tower of Field's official cookbooks stacked in the corner and marked down 40%. You can find a copy on Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. I love that cookbook! It makes me so sad that Macy's has rapidly smothered any remnant of what Field's was about: elegance and decadence, but always with a down-home Chicago vibe. *Sniff*