My name is Linda and I started this website to honor the memory of my parents and to share Made With Love - A Tribute To My Parents and a sampling of recipes and stories with family and friends. My husband John and I hope that you will be inspired to have fun in the kitchen cooking up some of our family recipes or some of your own favorites. We also hope that you will be inspired to share that fun with your loved ones, family and friends and that in reading through some of our stories you may not only be reminded of special times and people in your life, but inspried to create new memories with those you love and those you serve.
About Made With Love - A Tribute to My Parents
The love and joy of cooking and sharing food with family and friends was passed down by my parents Domenico and Maria. The spirit of hospitality was second nature in our home and part of that was the gift of cooking that both my parents were given and passed on to each of us. At a very young age, I would watch my parents cook; it was like watching a play. They loved what they were doing and made cooking seem like so much fun. I loved to help and when I was allowed to make dinner or a dessert on my own it was a big deal. For my first “real” meal, my brother Jack and his wife Carole came over for dinner. I made broiled steak, baked potato, salad and pudding for dessert. Simple but a big deal for me because I got to prepare, cook and serve it all on my own. They raved about the meal, kind and loving family that they are, but I loved cooking the meal and serving them. It inspired me to help out more in the kitchen which perhaps was a delight to my mother and to my dad, a professional chef. Cooking comes naturally to me and my siblings. I developed my passion for cooking at a young age and was in grammar school when I started keeping recipes in a binder and organizing them. The recipes I got from my parents were simply a list of ingredients and on occasion brief instructions. We did not have any cookbooks in the house but every so often I would find a recipe in a magazine or get one from somebody that I would write down to keep in my binder and try. As I grew more confident in the kitchen, I began to experiment more on my own. My style of cooking is much like my parents, and for me, other than baking I rarely followed a recipe preferring to cook as my parents did, by sense, feel, taste and smell combining fresh ingredients to make hearty satisfying dishes for everyday meals and special occasions. Eventually my growing binder expanded to include a section with menu plans for holidays and special events with all the recipes and tidbits I had picked up in the family kitchens over the years.
Sunday dinners, holidays and any gathering at my parents home was a feast. Our lives were simple but there was always lots of love and an abundance of food around the table. I learned well the art of entertaining and have always enjoyed preparing meals, hosting parties and cooking for gatherings with friends and family. Planning for the event is half the fun, creating the menu, shopping lists, creating a festive setting. For some it may be a lot of work, for those of us who love to cook and share the gift that we have been given, it may be a lot of work, but there is a joyful spirt that accompanies the work and so the work, is not so much. During one of my meal planning sessions my dear friend Janine encouraged me to take my binder of recipes and menus and put it all together in a cookbook. The idea came up from time to time but I had no real plan or timeline. As the years passed my focus was on the day to day challenges, trials and joys of life. Yet Janine remained a persistent voice of encouragement to write the cookbook and word had spread and so I was consistently asked about the status of the cookbook.
Word of my gift for cooking also spread to my Alma Mater and I was asked to do cooking workshops for Alumnae as a fundraiser. I was a bit hesitant at first not really sure that I had anything of value to share. However, it was a fundraiser and that was certainly worthwhile so I gave it a try and for several years we offered the “Mama Mia – What’s cooking in Linda’s Kitchen” workshops. The workshopes were always well attended and received, the next class was sold out before the first class was over and though space was limited the numbers were stretched each time to include more guests. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the process as much as the demonstrations. I created menus and handouts with the recipes for the workshops. The guests would sit family style around tables surrounding the cooking demonstration area and I would prepare the food while sharing stories about the history of the dish, my parents and family. I offered cooking tips, answered questions and encourage the guests to participate and assist in making some of the dishes. It was interactive and fun, all set in a comfortable homelike setting with a beautifully set table with centerpieces of fresh flowers, fresh italian bread, olive oil and bottles of italian mineral water with little bowls of fresh cut lemons and limes for the guests to enjoy. At the beginning of the demonstration I would pass around a pre-made platter of antipasti for the guests to share as I shared about what was on the dish and how they could make it themselves before we moved on to preparing the menu and fun with guest interaction on helping to prepre the food. At the end our buffet table of freshly made creations was ready for us all to sit down and enjoy the meal together. After the first year in addition to the mineral water we included a well paired wine with dinner. I always brought personal items from home, beautiful linens, flowers and herbs to decorate the table, buffet and demonstration area, music and lamps to soften the lighting in the some of the cold generic kitchens we used on occasion and personal items like my dad’s guitar (an old fashioned pasta maker) and the rolling pin he handmade for me that I continue to use today,. What resulted was a warm inviting atmosphere, similar to an intimate dinner party at home for 40 plus and it was great fun. A lot of work and every square inch of the jeep filled to the brim to load and unload, but I enjoyed every minute and from the overwhelming positive reaction of those that attended I think they did too. They knew that I was planning to write a cookbook and so I was always asked about it. It was around this time as I prepared the recipes for the workshops that I started getting serious about compiling the recipes and I started paying attention to measurements. I soon realized a couple of things.
First, a lot of the recipes had a special story, event or precious family memory and as the gatekeeper of our family history I wanted to share with the generations of our family the memories of love, joy and hospitality that are part of my parent’s legacy. I learned from the workshops, sharing a loving glance back into my parent’s kitchen made the cooking demonstrations fun and interesting. It honored my parents and was of such interest to others that it encouraged them to share about their own personal family and cooking memories. It wa something I had never thought about before. I knew in my cookbook, a story would accompany each recipe.
Second, I realized that measurements were going to be a challenge. Most of the recipes were in my head and not written down. The recipes not in my head were in the form of a list of ingredients but no process. Like my parents, I measure nothing and have always cooked by feel, texture, smell and taste. This proved to be the greatest challenge and frankly the most time consuming part of my project.
Third, I received the blessing and the opportunity shortly after my father died to volunteer in the kitchen and to cook and serve meals with an amazing group of volunteers at a beloved retreat center where so many share their special talents and gifts to serve others. I realized that I have been given a wonderful gift and through the beautiful example of my parents and the prompting of the Lord through His Word in Matthew 25:14 -31 in the parable of the talents, I had the desire to share that gift. For over 10 years I volunteered with two amazing chefs for every retreat without fail and would cook for other various retreats at the center. Along with a faithful community of volunteers who would come to help we would prepare delicious food to feed the participants of the retreats while the Lord fed them spiritualy. During a prayer group meeting I shared that I was wrtiing a cookbook and my friend Adele who has a wonderful Christian Bookstore suggested adding scripture to the cookbook. I loved the idea. In doing so, I would not only be honoring my parents by sharing their stories of love and hospitality, I could also give Glory to God from whom all things come by sharing His Word. Through the events in my life I have time and time again come to know that there is nothing I can do without God and with God there is nothing that I cannot do. Yes, even writing a cookbook that for me is beyond daunting.
Through prayer and discernment on the stories, the scriptures and pictures the cookbook started to take form. It was a blessed time for me as I spent time with the Word of God. I believe that there are no coincidences only God-incidences and so one day while praying, the picture that should be on the cover was placed on my heart along with the scripture and title. A picture that my mother had sent me of her and my dad sits framed by my computer. My mother was balancing a frying pan on her head. I love the picture; it totally reflects my parents with their open loving spirit and their joyful beaming smiles. The picture is also special because my mom sent it to me and wrote a note in Italian on the back “Questa e il regalo se Irma afate a tu Padre per frie li crispelle per Natale”. She wrote “this was a gift that Irma gave to your father to fry the crispelle’s for Christmas”. My parents were born and raised in Italy, they moved here with three children when my mother was 36 and my dad 40 years old. My mother shared so much with me about growing up in Italy and balancing things on her head was something she did every so often. As she had told me growing up, that going to the market, to the "font" [the font is a small cement pool with a spout pouring fresh running water where women would gather to do laundry], while working in the vineyards picking grapes, in the orchards during olive harvest and carrying things from one place to another around the land or countryside, my mother would do her chores carrying baskets loaded with items on her head. This picture of my parents, in the backyard of thier home in Texas standing by the grape arbor, with my mom playfully carrying the pan on her head to my dad’s delight captures the essence of my parents. It always makes me smile and it warms my heart to see the radiance of love and warmth that is such a part of them both. It was perfect for the cover of the book and perfect for this website.
My parents were all about generosity, hospitality and kindness, all grounded and routed in love. The love that guided their lives remains with us in beautiful memories that transcend time and generations. In ways I will never understand, my parents legacy and the loving spirit of our family touches the lives of people who never met or knew them. As I looked at the picture of my mom and dad, thier joyful smiles beaming, the Word that kept coming to my heart was from 1 Corinthians 13:13 “So faith, hope, love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” Hence “Made with Love - A Tribute to My Parents ” began to take form.
My cookbook is more a storybook with recipes, personal to my family to be sure. I recieved my copyright on September 26, 2006. In 2007 I had a limited number of my working draft copied and bound, I was ready to share it with my family, everyone got a copy for Christmas. My initial goal to share the stories and recipes with the generations of our family achieved. However as I continue to receive positive feedback from people who enjoy preparing recipes that I have given them and continue to recieve requests for the cookbook from friends and acquaintances.
As a result, my plan has been to shorten the stories and remove a number of the pictures that are personal to our family that make printing the book more costly. This is still a work in progress. To be sure it has been a long time in the making and there are many more memories and experiences that have been created in the meantime to share. The most significant is meeting the love of my life, my beloved John while volunteering in the kitchen at our beloved retreat house. John is a kindred spirit and his parents and siblings, much like mine value family and exteded family friendships and gatherings which is a great blessing to us. We love spending time cooking together, at home or volunteering and John's love and passion for cooking continues to grow as he develops his amazing talent for making homemade bread, pasta and pizza. Together we enjoy making old favorites, creating new dishes and sharing time around the table with family and friends. Our home, much like my parents home is filled with hospitality and love as we share in an ongoing tribute to my parents legacy and as we create our own.
Thank you for stopping by. May His peace, love and joy be with you always,
This is a picture of an article that was featured in the home section of our local paper a few years
back. Paul another volunteer cook at our retreat house mentioned to his wife Sissi who worked for a local newspaper that I was writing a cookbook. Sissi passed the informaiton on to the
food editor who contacted me for an interview. Of course in the tradition of my parents I prepared a mini feast of some of my favorite dishes for the writer and photograher to sample during the
interveiw and to take home with them. It was a blessing to share about my parents, their legacy and the cookbook. And it was exciting to have it featured in the Home section of our