My cookbook selection from February was Heritage Kitchen, Heritage Recipes and Family Stories from the Tables of Immigrant Women by Francese Gass. I received this cookbook from my cousin Pepper for Christmas 2019 and I had been coveting it for months, so it was one of the psychic-cousins network situations. The idealist in me thinks we should be further along in 2019 in assisting immigrants, that all of us who are not immigrants should acutely relate to and empathize with the excruciating pain of having to leave one’s home, and our priority should be to provide the most basic elements for immigrants – decent food, safety, shelter, clothing and education for children. Sadly, tragically, and heartbreakingly, this is not the case for many immigrants.
I want to hug this cookbook, the idea behind it, the recipes in it, the food rom the recipes and most importantly the women who are featured in the cookbook. The genesis of the book is the author’s mother’s meatball recipe, when the author realized she didn’t know how to make them nor was the recipe written down! The author, with her mother’s assistance, wrote down her mother’s recipes, calling it the “Nonna’s meatball project”. The author’s telling of this project that she shared with her mother is delightful and precious. Probably a lot of us can see ourselves and other mothers in that narrative, including me. My great grand parents were immigrants to the USA, from Russian, Sweden and Ireland.
The Nonna’s meatball project got the author, Ms. Gass, thinking of what other immigrants have treasured family recipes but they’re not written down? Thus began the journey of meeting the women in the cookbook and collecting their stories and recipes. Each woman’s story is both unique and relatable. Their journeys to the United States took different paths but they still had left their homes and all they knew. Although many of the women must have given up so much, their stories are ultimately ones of hope and success — even if that means surviving being an immigrant. They have successful lives and they write about their husbands, families, careers, their hard work (true for all of them), and that the USA is now their home.
I highly recommend this book, and if you haven’t read and used it yet, check it out of your local public library. To see what I cooked, click on the tab in this website Pixie’s Year of Joyous Cooking. Even if we could not be with them as these women left their homelands, this book allows us to walk in their shoes through their recipes.
Pixie Miller, March 2010