Kitchen Table Stories

Jane Ziegelman

"In 97 Orchard , Jane Ziegelman explores the culinary life that was the heart and soul of New York's Lower East Side around the turn of the twentieth century-a city within a city, where Germans, Irish, Italians, and Eastern European Jews attempted to forge a new life. Through the experiences of five families, all of them residents of 97 Orchard Street, she takes readers on a vivid and unforgettable tour, from impossibly cramped tenement apartments down dimly lit stairwells where children played and neighbors socialized, beyond the front stoops where immigrant housewives found respite and company, and out into the hubbub of the dirty, teeming streets. Ziegelman shows how immigrant cooks brought their ingenuity to the daily task of feeding their families, preserving traditions from home but always ready to improvise. While health officials worried that pushcarts were unsanitary and that pickles made immigrants too excitable to be good citizens, a culinary revolution was taking place in the streets of what had been culturally an English city.

"Along the East River, German immigrants founded breweries, dispensing their beloved lager in the dozens of beer gardens that opened along the Bowery. Russian Jews opened tea parlors serving blintzes and strudel next door to Romanian nightclubs that specialized in goose pastrami. On the streets, Italian peddlers hawked the cheese-and-tomato pies known as pizzarelli , while Jews sold knishes and squares of halvah. Gradually, as Americans began to explore the immigrant ghetto, they uncovered the array of comestible enticements of their foreign-born neighbors."

Tom Hegg

The story of a young man's reluctant visit to an elderly aunt at Christmastime and the unexpected joy it brings.

Catherine Cheremeteff Jones
Equal parts travel memoir and cookbook, Catherine Joness critically acclaimed and award-winning book, A Year of Russian Feasts, combines her warm, insightful writing style with her sensitive approach to discovering her familys Russian cultural heritage and its cuisine.

Contents: Vegetarian dinner with a well-to-do Russian family -- Spring and the Russian bliny festival -- In the Danilovsky Monastery kitchen -- Orthodox Easter services and the Easter feast at the Lebedev's -- Tea with Antonina in Strogino -- A birthday party at Viktor's -- Russian summers: a time for preserving the bounty -- Autumn and mushroom hunting -- Valentina's baptism -- Russian winters -- Celebrating Christmas past and present -- A black-tie New Year's Eve celebration -- Russian weddings -- What Russians drink.

Art Smith

Art Smith is Oprah Winfrey's personal chef. Smith provides readers with an array of mouth-watering recipes that represent the very best of home cooking. He also discusses how to set the table in a way that gives reverence to the food and the guests; how various cultures give blessings before a meal; how different kinds of foods and dishes can contribute to an atmosphere of family unity; and so much more! Back to the Table is illustrated throughout with stunning photos of the food and of people sharing their tables, and their lives. He has cooked professionally for the families of celebrities and heads-of-state for almost 20 years.

Suzan Colón
"What is the secret to finding hope in hard times? When Suzan Colón was laid off from her dream job at a magazine during the economic downturn of 2008, she needed to cut her budget way, way back, and that meant home cooking. Her mother suggested, 'Why don't you look in Nana's recipe folder?' In the basement, Suzan found the tattered treasure, full of handwritten and meticulously typed recipes, peppered with her grandmother Matilda's commentary in the margins. Reading it, Suzan realized she had found something more than a collection of recipes--she had found the key to her family's survival through hard times.

"Suzan began re-creating Matilda's 'sturdy food' recipes for baked pork chops and beef stew, and Aunt Nettie's clam chowder made with clams dug up by Suzan's grandfather Charlie in Long Island Sound. And she began uncovering the stories of her resilient family's past. Taking inspiration from stylish, indomitable Matilda, who was the sole support of her family as a teenager during the Great Depression (and who always answered 'How are you?' with 'Fabulous, never better!'), and from dashing, twice-widowed Charlie, Suzan starts to approach her own crisis with a sense of wonder and gratitude. It turns out that the gift to survive and thrive through hard times had been bred in her bones all along."

Ruth Reichl
This memoir picks up where Reichl's first book, Tender at the Bone, left off. We see Reichl's career as a food critic for the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times unfold. We witness her changing personal relationships, affected always by food.  Recipes included.

"Reichl's anecdotes from a summer lunch with M.F.K. Fisher, a mad dash through the produce market with Wolfgang Puck, and a garlic feast with Alice Waters are priceless. She is unafraid -- even eager -- to poke holes in the pretensions of food critics, making each meal a hilarious and instructive occasion for novices and experts alike."

Adriana Trigiani and Mary Yolanda Trigiani

For the Trigianis, cooking has always been a family affair--and the kitchen was the bustling center of their home, where folks gathered around the table for good food, good conversation, and the occasional eruption. Example: Being thrown out of the kitchen because one's Easter bread kneading technique isn't up to par. As Adriana says: "When the Trigianis reach out and touch someone, we do it with food." Like the recipes that have been handed down for generations from mother to daughter and grandmother to granddaughter, the family's celebrations are also anchored to the life and laughter around the table.

Dori Sanders

Dori Sanders was born in York County, South Carolina. Her father's farm, where her family still raises Georgia Belle and Elberta peaches, is one of the oldest black-owned farms in York County. Her father was a school principal and an author. She attended York County public schools and later studied at community colleges in Prince George's and Montgomery counties in Maryland. She does most of her writing during the winter months, in Maryland, where she is an associate banquet manager of a hotel near Andrews Air Force Base. In the growing season she farms the family land, cultivating peaches, watermelons, and vegetables, and helps staff Sanders' Peach Shed, her family's open-air produce stand.

Her recipes include not only new interpretations of old-time favorites such as Spoon Bread, Chicken and Dumplings, Corn Bread, and Buttermilk Biscuits, but also her "Cooking for Northerners"--original dishes such as Winter Greens Parmesan, Roasted Mild Peppers, Fresh Vegetable Stew--and, of course, great recipes for peaches. A Literary Guild and a Rodale Press Book Club selection.

Tessa Kiros

She takes us on a global journey of taste and experience with her eclectic compilation of 170 simple and delicious recipes that reflect her world travels, multicultural heritage, family traditions, and amazing cooking combinations.Taste the world without leaving your kitchen.

Laurie Colwin

Food and companionship played a large part in all of Laurie Colwin's smart, funny, heartbreaking novels, so it's no surprise to find that her monthly column for Gourmet touched on the same themes. Collected here and in More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen are her strong opinions on such topics as the perfect gingerbread, repulsive dinners, and her hatred of stuffing.

"At Thanksgiving time, friends would proudly confide their stuffing recipes, many of which I found personally nauseating: dried bread, prunes, oysters and water chestnuts, for example. Prunes and oysters! If such a dish were set before you at a resturant, you would flee in horror and dismay, but when it comes to stuffing, anything goes."

If that speaks to your condition, be sure to read "Turkey Angst," "All the Trimmings," and "How to Face the Holidays" from More Home Cooking. Never mind that I love stuffing anyway, or that her recipe for plum jam results in a delicious plum syrup rather than the thick, jamlike concoction she describes. I would happily read and re-read anything Laurie Colwin ever wrote (sadly, she died at 48 in 1992) -- in fact, writing this review has sent me back to her books yet again. A glass of red wine, a warm quilt, a cold autumn evening, and a Laurie Colwin novel -- heaven!
--Caroline Parr, CRRL Staff

Laura Esquivel

A #1 bestseller in Mexico in 1990, this charming, imaginative, and just plain fun novel of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico includes unique recipes at the beginning of each chapter for a variety of traditional dishes.

Pauline Nguyen

More than 275 traditional Vietnamese recipes are presented alongside a visual narrative of food and family photographs that follows the Nguyen family's escape from war-torn Vietnam to the successful founding of the Red Lantern restaurant.

Patricia Volk

"In a restaurant family, you're never just hungry--you're starving to death. And you're never full--you're stuffed. Patricia Volk's family is as American (background: Austrian-Jewish) as 'Rhapsody in Blue.' They came to these shores determined to make their mark; each of them is a piquant morsel of history... .

" With a cosmic disdain for the status quo, all of them--the tyrants, do-gooders, lovers, martyrs, and fakes--lived at full tilt. Stuffed is a wildly funny yet unsparing look at how families work."