Thursday, January 12, 2017

Cherries in Winter

Cherries in Winter
Suzan Colon

Cherries in Winter: My Family's Recipe for Hope in Hard Times

Genre: Memoir

Summary (from Goodreads): 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.

Review: This was a quick and interesting read about a magazine writer who lost her job during the recession of 2008.  She used her newfound free time to delve into her family's history, discovering that the women in her family were used to dealing with hard economic times.  Colón linked the past and the present using recipes, but food didn't feel like the primary focus of the book.  Instead, the author took her readers on a journey through the past, learning about her grandparents and great-grandparents, and how they made do with what they had.  Few people that I know were affected by the economic downturn in 2008, so it was educational to read about well-off New Yorkers who suddenly found themselves living on one salary instead of two.  I was a little frustrated that the author made a big deal of saying that she could no longer shop at Whole Foods and that she had to turn her heat down (to a temperature that's still higher than I keep my heat at!).  I have to believe the average person is already living their life the way that Colón did after she was laid off, and for her to make a big deal of it was a little patronizing.

Rating: 3 stars

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