Culinary Traveler

Alma married University of Chicago History Professor Donald Lach in 1939. The two had a life filled with travel, exploration, and wonderful cuisine. Donald was awarded a Fulbright to do scholarly research in France from 1949-1950, a Social Science Research grant from 1952-1953, and additional funding to work in Asia and Europe in 1955-1956.  Alma’s travels with Donald to Paris and throughout Europe started for her what was to be a lifetime of culinary pursuits. Their travels together to Europe, China, India, and Japan expanded Alma’s interests in the creation and preparation of  regional cuisines.

Alma’s own expertise, having graduated from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, allowed her to examine regional cuisine with a careful eye. While traveling through India Alma became interested in how cinnamon was grown, harvested and used. Alma wrote an article she entitled “Stalking the Cinnamon Stick.” Alma took these amazing photographs of the local families working with the cinnamon.

Following another culinary trail, Alma pursued the elusive truffle. Hoping to write a feature article, Alma reached out to the world-renowned Urbani family. Carlo Urbani had taken the family’s 19th century business and transformed it into a global entity. Alma and Donald visited Italy where they met with Carlo and Paolo Urbani and the truffle hunters and their dogs. Alma learned the art of the hunt and what was needed to forage for truffles. Paolo showed her aspects of the business itself, as Alma participated with the staff as they cleaned and packaged truffles that would be shipped around the world.

Another highlight from Alma’s travels was a trip she took to China with Donald in the early 1980s. Alma learned the famous Paris restaurant, Maxim’s de Paris, was opening a subsidiary in Beijing. She reached out to the Chicago Sun-Times and pitched the idea of writing an article about the new restaurant. Her subsequent critique of the restaurant and its menu did not hold back. Alma clearly respected Chef Jean-Louis Bruneau. She noted the growing pains of a new restaurant; Maxim’s Beijing had only recently opened when she visited. Her article highlighted a signature dessert with emphasis on accommodations for the American household chef.


Photograph: Cinnamon Production, undated

Alma Lach Papers

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Manscript: “Stalking the Cinnamon Stick,” undated

Alma Lach Papers

Photograph: Truffle Hunters, undated

Alma Lach Papers

Donald Lach is pictured with truffle hunters.

Postcard, Urbani Truffles, undated

Alma Lach Papers

Maxim's Beijing Restaurant Menu

Alma Lach Papers

The menu is signed by Chef Jean-Louis Bruneau.

Photograph of Alma Lach with Maxim's Staff

Alma Lach Papers

Alma Lach is pictured with the Staff of Maxim's in Beijing.