Saturday, December 19, 2009



My Family's Recipe for Hope in Hard Times


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.

Cherries in Winter
is an irresistible gem of a book. It makes you want to cook, it makes you want to know your own family’s stories, and, above all, it makes you feel rich no matter what.


Last fall, Suzan Colón was happily employed as an editor at a national women’s magazine. She wrote articles, took advantage of an eyebrow specialist who made office calls (and charged forty bucks per pluck), and splurged on sushi lunches without even thinking about it.

Then, like hundreds of thousands of her fellow Americans, Suzan was laid off during the recession. Luxuries she’d taken for granted, like shopping at pricey gourmet markets, getting expensive haircuts, and even owning a car were all suddenly out of her budget, and she and her husband Nathan quickly realized they had to cut way, way back.

When winter came, Suzan cobbled together freelance jobs while wearing layers of sweaters and trying to type in fingerless gloves, the better to keep the heating bill low. She also saved money by cooking at home, and her mother, Carolyn, suggested, “Why don’t you dig out Nana’s recipe folder?” In a basement trunk, Suzan found the tattered treasure holding the old recipes, some written in her Nana’s nearly perfect script, others meticulously type-written, that went back through two World Wars, the Great Depression, and beyond. Reading them, Suzan realized she had found something more than a collection of recipes; she’d discovered the key to her family’s survival through hard times.

Suzan Colón is an independent writer and editor who has written celebrity profiles, personal essays, and general interest articles for
O, the Oprah Magazine; Marie Claire; Jane; Details; Harper’s Bazaar; Seventeen; YM; Mademoiselle; Rolling Stone; and others. She is the author of three young adult novels based on the TV series Smallville, as well as Catwoman: The Life and Times of a Feline Fatale; and What Would Wonder Woman Do? Suzan lives in New Jersey with her husband and two cats.

CHERRIES IN WINTER is a book that is filled with short life lessons as well as some hardy recipes in between. The story tells of five generations of Colon's family and how they made the best of things when things were rough. Suzan had come to need that because she has lost her job as a magazine editor due to the economic downturn. Not that she was alone in this as so many were, and some still are, feeling the results of our economic situation and so she had to pull herself up and decide what to do and she decided to cook as well as write!

So she interrupted her writing and went down to the basement and found her grandmother's cookbook. Her grandmother, Matilda, had left a wonderful collection of her very favorite recipes as well as a running commentary filled with wisdom from her past. Suzan finds that with the cooking, there is also a lesson she can use to help her in her life. The recipes were shared through generations as was the love that went with them. And probably the most important lesson was the one that she leaned about getting through tough times. She came to realize that going through something hard does indeed make one stronger.

In the recipes, you will find really good food but it also is food that feeds the soul and that is for good times as well as tough times. In these recipes, Suzan could see how they related what was in the hearts of the people that were cooking them. In the book, the recipes take us from the depression right up to today's shaky economic times, with stories told, recipes displayed, and life lessons learned. Suzan realized this was how her family had gotten through some awful times and at no point did she not understand that although her life had changed dramatically based on finances, she was never as bad off as some of them had been, or some people around her were right then. This is an easy read, with good recipes, and a simple, but sweet message within it.

Thanks to Kristen Gastler, from Random House, who supplied me with a copy of this book so that I could review it at my request.


bermudaonion said...

This sounds good! I just love books with recipes.

g.g. said...

Nice review...sounds like it would make a friendly gift for someone...thanks for the idea

anjamie4 AT gmail dot com

bison61 said...

thanks-I'd love this book

tiramisu392 (at)