Tuesday, December 28

A book in the making - a tribute to a family's love of cooking and "nesting"

Mary Cooks! 
A book made in honor of Mary and her love for cooking

A talented, stylish modern woman
documents her family's love
of cooking
this story begins with the inspirations of an Italian grandmother
and her love for cooking - a celebration of 70 years of culinary creation is in the works
Although Deborah Bush loves to cook, she barely has time in between her travels around the world.  With over 25 years experience in the fashion industry, Deborah has learned the ins and outs of the business at firms like Hermes, Bottega, YSL, J Mendel.  She now holds the coveted position as merchandising executive at Strategic Hotels and Resorts where she conceptualizes and executes luxury and lifestyle retail projects for Four Seasons Punta Mita, Four Seasons Washington , DC, Loews Santa Monica Beach, and other hotel properties.  This sounds like a dream job to me!  In addition, Deborah pens a brand new blog called Fashion Is Love at http://www.fashion-is-love-nyc.blogspot.com/ - I am looking forward to following Deborah's musings, reflections and inspirations collected in the city, on the road, and certainly from her creative imagination….

So, what does an urban New York City gal do on her free time?  One of her passions is food and cooking, and Deborah comes from a long line of culinary talents. She recently embarked upon a project to sift through the family archives and compile a book, a tribute really, for her family and specifically in honor of her grandmother and mother Mary.  Deborah strives to show her family's passion for cooking, which has anchored the family through generations.  This story illustrates how we often desire to reach back to our roots and hold on tightly to where we came from. 

I interview Deborah about the story she is currently working on about her family.  She generously shares her grandmother's panettone (an Italian Christmas bread) recipe for Nest's cooking topic in December.

How did this book start to come together?
Deborah --
This book is about food and art, a deliberately communal approach to capturing the essence of mom's cooking.  A view of the Mary-isms (as my uncle Bob says).  The idea took shape as a way to honor my mom for her birthday party -- She throws amazing parties, and I got the idea on one particular day as she planned a dessert party for my father's 70th birthday.  When I arrived, the dining table was set with an array of mom's classics - the zuppa Inglese, the sherry wine pound cake, lemon tart, chocolate torte, spiced pecans.  My sister Pam and I milled over the concept for quite some time and finally started to create a book that captured my mother's love and talent. It dawned on us that there is so much love that goes into cooking and entertaining in our family, and gets passed down with each generation.  My mother learned from my grandmother Marie.  I wanted to tell that story.  

Who helped on the book thus far?
Deborah --
this project has been a collaborative effort by the entire family.  My sister helps with calligraphy titles for many of the chapters, my cousin did some of the family history research and my father and uncles provided assistance as well. It began with an idea and soon I was trolling the family cookbooks, photo albums and recipes to start putting the historical pieces together and tell this story. 
Tell me something about your grandmother?
Deborah -
 my grandmother Marie was born in Naples, Italy in 1903.  Her father was in wheat and grain business at one time supplying flour to troops in WWI.  The family moved from Italy tot he US in 1917, first to Boston, then to Portland, Oregon, then to San Francisco in the early 1920's where my grandmother was educated at Berkley with the intent on later studying medicine.  She met her husband Domenico Crisera in Boston and he followed her to San Francisco.  He was from Reggio Calabria and served as Secretary to the Italian delegation at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 owing to his skill with French language.  My grandmother began entertaining quite a bit and taught her talent to my mother Mary years later. 

I still remember an early Italian phrase that became popular in our family  --
"un sacco vuoto non sta in piedi" and the translation means an empty sack does not stand up. The little phrase has been handed down over the generations and stands the test of time. It shows the importance of cooking to sustain and nurture in our family. 

Deborah offers up an excerpt taken from the Introduction to Mary Cooks! --

"Mary has held true in her lifetime thus farm, applying creativity and ingenuity to the task of feeding both family and friends alike.  Be it pastry, pasta, pizza or polenta cake, casserole, cannelloni or cacciatore, we all know Mary's recipes rule.  We salute our fearless foodie and the passion that drives her"

How did you capture your family's passion for cooking?
Deborah -
With the family's unique stories and by showing my mother and grandmother's relationship through their cooking together.  My grandmother often added comments within her side notes along with her recipes, tips such as how to make the cakes tall using coffee tins and warning not to bake til overdone, ending with a cheery 'Good Luck'! 

How do you remember social gatherings as you were growing up?
Deborah --
My uncle tells us that growing up my grandmother threw frequent dinner parties with an eclectic group of family, friends and neighbors.  Everyone gathered around and there was an array of food, beginning with cocktails.  Soon there were countless Hors D'oeuvres brought out, such as fried artichokes, stuffed mushrooms, and pieces of frittata (which she prepared while the guests were there) and much more. Granny orchestrated all of the fastidious details, with my mother Mary assisting her throughout the evening.

the family's famous Panettone recipe:
Wikipedia description of Panettone:  
a type of sweet bread loaf originally from Milan (in Milanese it is called panaton),[1] usually prepared and enjoyed for Christmas and New Year in Italy, Malta, Brazil and Switzerland, and one of the symbols of the city of Milan. Maltese nationals are also traditionally associated with this sweet loaf. In Latin America, especially in Venezuela, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Peru, it is a Christmas dinner staple and in some places replaces roscón de reyes (King cake).

Grandmother Marie's note to her daughter Mary:

“ My dear Mary, I really cannot send you an exact recipe for making “panettone” since I have never been able to use the exact amounts of flour and sugar twice. Some flours absorb more moisture then others. Also, if you use only egg yolks, the cake is softer - you can try this recipe, and let me know how you come out.” mama

thank you
for sharing
a glimpse of your story,
maybe this feature will encourage others to
document their family history through cooking and food.  There is often much to learn about a family's love and journeys through this perspective!

many of us have images of family gatherings, such as this famous Norman Rockwell portrayal of Thanksgiving dinner. 
We call upon these memories when planning out very own Holiday celebration --
stop by next week for Nest's recipe trading party with some of my very favorite design bloggers who each graciously share a secret family recipe with us this Holiday!
three photograph credits courtesy of - 


simpledaisy said...

Well...I have to say...that looks like it will be a fabulous book!

Happy Holidays:)

WA Blog Team said...

We have been enjoying your December food series so much! Thank you and Happy Holidays Tamara!

Anne Lubner Designs said...

Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story. I think any family would treasure a compilation of their mother's favorite recipes. I've often toyed with the idea of gathering my recipes in one book to pass on to my children. One of my favorite mementos of my mother is a simple recipe she wrote down for me.

Bruce Barone said...

What a wonderfully delicious post!