Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Family Connections by Mike Colicchio



I grew up in an Italian-American family. We thought we were just like everyone else. Until I was a young adult, I was totally unaware of how unlike everyone else we really were. Food was of course essential to our well-being, but it went well beyond sustenance. It was our lifeblood, our entertainment, our social network and our passion.

Everyone cooked. Mom, Dad, both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles...everyone.  It wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t picture perfect but it was wholly satisfying. I grew up in a northern New Jersey city famous for its Italian immigrants. Many of my relatives lived within walking distance and this meant that a home cooked meal was literally just around the corner. Even though all were related, each had a wonderful uniqueness about their dishes never leaving me to contemplate food boredom or other cuisines.

Four distinct memories often flood back into my consciousness. Each involved food and many relatives. It was hectic and loud but was overwhelmingly delicious.

I can remember nights eating four dinners. I would  start at an Aunt’s, move onto a Great Aunt’s, then to my Grandparents and finally home where my Mother didn’t believe for a second that I was only eating her cooking.  She fed me anyway!

During my early childhood, Sundays were spent sitting around the table at my paternal Grandparent’s home. I would sit there; listening to rapid fire Italian while munching on anisette toast. I would also sneak a bit of anisette--but just a tiny bit as I was no more than four or five years old. Tragically, my paternal Grandfather passed away suddenly when I was five and my Italian lessons and anisette tasting were greatly curtailed.

Every Sunday my brothers and I would wake up to the smell of meatballs, sausage, braciole and bacon frying. Eggs and bacon were made to order by our very own short-order cook, Mom. She spent the entire day cooking. I spent the entire day eating macaroni and gravy, meats, bread, wine, salad, and a cake or pie to round out the meal.  Now I’m certain we missed a few Sundays here and there, especially in summer, but to miss two consecutive Sundays would be sacrilege. I’ve continued this tradition with my now college age daughters. Although modern life doesn’t allow for a weekly ritual, I’ve been able to transfer these traditions to them as they have watched me cook this meal many, many times. 

The last and most frustrating memory involves the perfection of the simple dish of peppers and eggs. I often slept next door at my maternal Grandparents. There I had my own bedroom and I could eat without anyone telling me to eat less! Gramps was a truck driver and he would be up before dawn frying the peppers just so in olive oil and marrying them at just the right moment with scrambled eggs. I have been trying my entire life, to no avail, to replicate this favorite dish of my childhood.

Now lest you think that food is the story, it’s really just the stage. The real story was the family connections, the discussions, the laughter, the arguments and the development of lifelong friendships with my cousins. The table and the food that threatened to collapse it was only a backdrop to the real purpose, to tell the family stories that unbeknownst to us children would continue to be told through the subsequent generations. There are very few tangible reminders of life as it was. Social media and iPhones were a half century in the future but the mind preserves just as well if not better than today’s technology.  Family connected through food can never be broken apart!

(Gram's 90th Birthday, 11/00.  left to right -- brothers Tom, Mike and Phil with Gram.)

From 2005 through 2011 my wife, daughters and I lived in Texas and Budapest Hungary. When we were deciding where in the U.S. we would return, a wise 16 year old made our decision very easy. She wanted to eat Sunday dinner with Grandma. I needed no other input; New Jersey it was and I knew at that moment that their children were going to be as fortunate as I was. Our family tradition had been preserved.



The author, 52, was born and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey and is a from a large Italian-American family of professional and home cooks. A Certified Public Accountant and management consultant by profession, he is by aspiration a world traveler, home cook, bicyclist, singer and lover of life. He loves all things Springsteen, counts Italy and Hungary as his favorite places outside of the good ole U.S.A. and would spend everyday at the Jersey Shore if possible. He is married and the father of two daughters getting ready to go to college. 

Follow Mike on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram



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Written for Mission Read 2013 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Farm-to-Table Movement (and the books that took me there) by Val Curtis


This is the time of year when it is easier to acquire fresh produce. By fresh, I mean from the farm or, better yet, from your yard.

Whether you are starting small and enjoying fresh herbs or harvesting enough cucumbers to have a winter's store of pickles, you know that the homegrown taste is incomparable to what you would buy in a store.

A few years back, I was a member of a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and the produce was FLOWING. Often I caught myself thinking, "What am I going to make with this?" and as a result, I fell into a group of cookbooks that inspired fresh, seasonal recipes.

In addition, I began reading about the food movement, finding out how to save money while eating well and making my own bread.


Here is a collection of the books and cookbooks that led me through this journey.


Food for Thought:
1. Ominvore's Dilemma and Food Rules by Michael Pollen

2. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (great recipes in here, too!)

3. Real Food by Nina Planck

Cookbooks:
 4.  Moosewood Cookbook and Pretend Soup (for kids) by Mollie Katzen

 5. The New Laurel's Kitchen by Laurel Robertson

 6. Foster's Market Cookbook by Sara Foster

 7. How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

 8. Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle by Dianne Sanfilippo

 9. The Bread Bible: 300 Favorite Recipes by Beth Hensperger

10.  The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook: A Delicious Alternative for Lifelong Health by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Marion Nestle

What are your favorite fresh foods cookbooks?



Val Curtis is the CEO and Co-founder of Bonbon Break and the creator of the Food & Garden site Mental Chew and Val Unplugged. She is a former middle school science teacher who put her career on hold to be at home with her son and daughter in the Pacific Northwest.

When Val breaks away from her keyboard, she enjoys gardening, cooking, hiking, camping, tidepooling, sailing and potlucks. She gets a kick out of combing the web for recipes and then adapting them for her husband, family and friends to enjoy. Through her love of organic cooking, she became interested in growing her own produce and Mental Chew gave her the chance to combine her love of food and gardening as well as explore her new passion for photography. Follow her on Twitter.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dude's Day!













This Sunday is Father's Day; a day to celebrate or remember all of the wonderful men in our lives.  As we at Mission Read continue our tour of food books, here's a list that covers all of the bases from beginner cook to grilling maestro (and they make great gifts for your dudes this weekend)!

1.  Ad Hoc at Home - Thomas Keller (2009)

2.  The Art of Living according to Joe Beef - Frederic Morin, David McMillan (2011)

3.  Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing - Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn (2005)

4.  Michael Chiarello's Live Fire: 125 Recipes for Cooking Outdoors - Michael Chiarello (2013)

5.  The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook - America's Test Kitchen (2012)

6.  Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks - Rick Bayless (2012)

7.  Momofuku Milk Bar - Christina Tosi (2011)

8.  The PDT Cocktail Book - Jim Meehan (2011)

9.  Ruhlman's Twenty - Michael Ruhlman (2011)

10. Smoke and Spice: Cooking with Smoke, The Real Way to Barbecue - Cheryl & Bill Jamison     (2003)


Share your favorite cookbook, Father's Day recipe or cocktail with us and we will post it on our Facebook page and Pinterest boards!  Happy Father's Day!



 ABOUT BETH: Beth Panageotou is the CEO and co-founder of Page’s Corner, Inc.
Beth has a BA from Mount Saint Mary’s University and has a background in public policy and education.  After working in Washington, DC, she taught high school social studies and developed her passion to incorporate multiple learning philosophies, learning styles and student-centered activities within the confines of both the traditional and extracurricular classroom setting.  This carried over to her personal life as Beth left teaching to care for her two wonderful daughters (ages 4 & 7).   Beth strongly believes in the need to stress literacy and creativity in the early stages of child development, as is reflected in the mission of Page’s Corner and the creation of the Mission Read campaign.
Follow Beth on Facebook | Twitter @epan11 @PagesCorner | Blog | Web | Pinterest

("Pots" photo used in slider courtesy of knockknockingblog.com)mr divider hr

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Reading (and Cooking) with Kids! by Beth Panageotou






















In part two of Mission Read's FOOD & PRINT book list, I turned my attention to children's books.  From picture books to classics, this list represents the silly, the touching, the old and the new.  Read the whole list as a family this summer.  As you complete each book, make a dish (and write down the recipe) as a family that represents the story.  You will have created your own FOOD & PRINT cookbook when you are finished...a personal treasure of the time you spent reading and cooking together!  And as Little Pea would say, "Yum, Yum, Extra Yum!"

--> Favorites for Kids:
1.  Alice in Wonderland: Lewis Carroll
2.  The Chocolate Touch: Patrick Skene Catling (2006)
3.  Duck Soup: Jackie Urbanovic (2008)
4.  Green Eggs and Ham: Dr. Seuss (1960)
5.  How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food: Jane Yolen (2005)
6.  The Jungle Book: Rudyard Kipling
7.  The Lemonade War: Jacqueline Davies (2009)
8.  Little Pea: Amy Krouse Rosenthal (2005)
9.  The Magic Cake Shop: Meika Hashimoto (2011) 
10. Silverlicious: Victoria Kann (2011)
11. Stone Soup: Marcia Brown (1947)
12. Tony’s Bread: Tomie DiPaola (1996)
13. Walter the Baker: Eric Carle (1998)
14. Wind in the Willows: Kenneth Grahame
15. Winnie The Pooh: AA Milne





ABOUT BETH: Beth Panageotou is the CEO and co-founder of Page’s Corner, Inc.
Beth has a BA from Mount Saint Mary’s University and has a background in public policy and education.  After working in Washington, DC, she taught high school social studies and developed her passion to incorporate multiple learning philosophies, learning styles and student-centered activities within the confines of both the traditional and extracurricular classroom setting.  This carried over to her personal life as Beth left teaching to care for her two wonderful daughters (ages 4 & 7).   Beth strongly believes in the need to stress literacy and creativity in the early stages of child development, as is reflected in the mission of Page’s Corner and the creation of the Mission Read campaign.
Follow Beth on Facebook | Twitter @epan11 @PagesCorner | Blog | Web | Pinterest




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