Just the title and photo of this book would make me want to pick it up. Who wouldn’t enjoy reading about lost, treasured family recipes; but how many would go to the lengths author Laura Schenone did as she takes us across the ocean to Italy, deep into her ancestral family kitchens to find her great-grandmother’s ravioli recipe. Her original goal was so simple, but things got more complicated as she reunites with relatives. Little did she know when she left New Jersey she would find more than recipes; she found deep, Old World roots complicated with buried family stories and the illusive nature of tradition and memory. How could anyone resist a book with chapters titled, “The Summer of 1957: When Aunt Tessie came to Cook” or “In Lumarzo, All Persons are Schenone,” or “All the World’s a Dumpling,” and even “Ghosts.”
The reader is rewarded with the “lost” recipes in the last chapter of the book. They include ravioli with ricotta, spinach, or mushrooms, but also recipes for minestrone, gnocchi, and pandolce. After you finish the book, all you want to do is become Italian yourself and make the recipes! The book is so poignant and fascinating, it made me start to think about my own ancestry and that of my husband, whose family is from Finland. When our girls were in Helsinki visiting relatives, they learned how to make some Finnish staples such as pulla bread and Karelian pies with egg butter. They traveled up to the Arctic Circle to see the “real’ Santa and ate salmon in a sami tent. My husband was thrilled that the girls were learning about their heritage. I was thrilled that they were gaining family recipes. Recipes are a way of keeping family traditions alive. Many things can be passed from generation to generation, but traditional family recipes will never change. Recipes are real and enduring, and include a part of who we are and where we came from.
I wonder what these Finnish relatives made in their kitchens?
A Finnish Sami tent where you can have fresh salmon and a cup of coffee.
Kara at the Arctic Circle in Finland.
Kara with her Finnish cousins, Toni and Sini.