Remembering Mama: Author pays tribute to mom by preserving recipes from dementia
June 13, 2012 · Print This Article
For many of us, the dishes we hold most dear and remember most fondly are not from the menu of a Michelin starred restaurant or cooked up by a world-class chef. The foods we remember, the flavors that haunt us, are the dishes cooked for us by someone we love. And these are the recipes that are impossible to replicate. The marinara sauce we carefully simmer for hours is never as perfect as the one that lives on in our memory.
It was with that in mind that Barbara Magro set out to document her mother’s recipes that were the heart of the family growing up and put them into Recipes to Remember: My Epicurean Journey to Preserve My Mother’s Italian Cooking from Memory Loss
(December 2011), one woman’s journey through life and her quest to preserve the memory of her mother’s cooking from the devastating effects of memory loss.
In Recipes to Remember, which is part epicurean journey and part cookbook, Barbara writes about her traditional Italian upbringing and the choices she made for her life after witnessing the roles of the women in her family. As she searched for adventures to feed her soul, beyond the tasks of wife, mother and cook, her advertising sales career took her around the globe where she experienced cultural diversity, world-class food and became an adventurous epicure. It wasn’t until her mother was diagnosed with dementia and the early stages of Alzheimer’s in 2006 and her father began courageously transitioning into the primary caretaker, that the author realized she’d never learned to cook the homemade Italian food that her mother lovingly prepared for her family for by fifty years. Although her mother, the family chef for decades, had been cooking up everything from elaborate seven course Christmas Eve fish dinners to simple bowls of spaghetti and meatballs, Barbara had always avoided the kitchen.
“When my mom was diagnosed with dementia and the early stages of Alzheimer’s, I realized something about the many family meals my mother had prepared by the years; they symbolize the love our family has shared for generations. Before it was too late, I wanted to gather these recipes and create that book, which includes the authentic meals that my family’s life has evolved around for thepast one hundred years or so.”
Recipes to Remember preserves the soul-satisfying food of an Italian-American family through recipes and stories around them. The recipe portion of the book is divided into two sections; the first includes the appetizers, soups, sauces and pastas, meat dishes, and vegetables and salads that her mother prepared through the year. The second part of the recipe section includes Holiday specialties including the traditional seven course fish dinner that her mother prepared every Christmas Eve and Easter favorites. Some of her mother’s cherished recipes featured in the book include:
Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans)
Zuppa di Lenticchie e Spinaci (Lentil and Spinach Soup)
Fegatini di Pollo (Chicken Livers)
Minestrone con Polpette (Minestrone Soup with Meatballs)
Salsiccia e Uova con Zeppole (Sausage and Eggs with Italian Doughnuts)
Linguini alle Vongole (Linguini with Clams)
Spaghetti e Polpette (Spaghetti and Meatballs)
Ziti al Forno (Baked Ziti)
Braciola di Manzo (Rolled Stuffed Beef)
Pizza Rustica (Rustic Pie)
Coscia di Angello (Leg of Lamb)
Scallopine di Vitello al Marsala (Veal Marsala)
Pollo alla Cacciatore (Chicken Cacciatore)
Pollo all’Agro Dolce (Chicken Sweet & Sour)
Torta di Formaggio (Italian Cheesecake)
For Mother’s Day, here is a simple recipe from Barbara’s mother that is as easy to prepare as it is delicious to eat:
Pasta with Peas
- 2 tbl olive oil
- 1 pound small shell pasta
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 8 pearl onions sliced
- 1 (8 ounce) can peas
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp parsley
Bring lightly salted water to a boil and add a tables spoon of olive oil. Stir in the shells and cook until they are al dente. In a separate saucepan, saute the garlic and pearl onions in a tablespoon of olive oil. When the onions are translucent, add the can of peas. When the pasta is cooked, combine with peas and serve. Season with oregano and parsley to taste.
Happy Mother’s Day!
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