Friday, March 12, 2010


by Suzan Colón is available here on Amazon

CHERRIES IN WINTER: MY FAMILIES RECIPE FOR HOPE IN HARD TIMES is a delightful read. I picked up this book at the library because I'd seen it listed on another blogger's reading list. It was the title that first caught my attention. I have been craving some fresh cherries, though they are no where to be found at the moment. I'll have to wait till late spring.

I read this book on a Sunday afternoon. It is light and easy and thoughtfully written. CHERRIES IN WINTER is about finding one's inner compass during difficult times. It's about reaching back to find the stories of our families, both the struggles and the triumphant times. But it is also about learning to accept one's situation and make the best of it with a positive attitude.

The author, Suzan Colón, now a contributing writer and editor for O, the Oprah Magazine, suddenly found herself laid off during the economic downturn of 2008 from her six figure dream job at a magazine. Her husband was employed, and she was able to work as a freelance writer, but with significantly less income it was necessary for the couple to cut back on expenses. Cooking from her grandmother's recipes and eating at home was one of Ms. Colón's solutions to living on a tight budget.

The book is laced with humor, such as Suzan's Rigatoni Disoccupati, or the "Pasta of the Unemployed". Her recipe consists of 1/2 lb. pasta and a jar of prepared spaghetti sauce. The various recipes that Colón found in a file among her grandmother's things are interspersed throughout this book. As a young child, Colón spent much time with her grandparents, but it is while cooking these family recipes along side her mother, that she begins to learn the stories of the strength of her grandparents as they struggled through difficult years during the Great Depression.

My parents also struggled through the depression and the frugal times of WW II. Much like Ms. Colón's family, my parents have shared their stories of lean times and sparse means that many suffered during this period in history. I've watched my mother live her life as if she were still dealing with those difficult times. Her mother had taught her that thrift was vital in all things. She lived by the motto: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

CHERRIES IN WINTER is not a recipe book, but rather a story about three generations of women who find comfort and stability through cooking and the solace that comes from eating good, simple food. It's also the story of how a positive attitude, a sense of humor, and a splurge now and then can make one feel rich, even when there is little money.

One of the clear messages of this book is that cooking and baking provide excellent therapy for dealing with stress. Toward the end of the book when struggles with infertility are revealed, Ms. Colón turns to her Nana's recipe for lemon meringue pie.

Though Suzan ends up pouring a liquid meringue down the sink, she and her husband then settle for a lemon tart. Suzan realizes that she and her husband already share a wonderfully satisfying life together, even without children. She wants for nothing and feels rich.

Imperfections happen in cooking and in our day to day life. It is best to accept things for what they are and move on in life.

My motto has always been:
"When life gives you lemons . . .

make a lemon meringue pie!"