The Silver Lining in the Basement

Cover of "Cherries in Winter: My Family's...
Cover via Amazon

“Time is the most valuable commodity. Take stock” says Suzan Colón, a former O: The Oprah Magazine senior editor (she is still a contributing editor for O) who is a Latina of mixed Irish and Puerto Rican descent.

Speaking to Galleycat‘s Ron Hogan, she shares her experience of writing a memoir after being laid off in 2008.

Cherries in Winter: My Family’s Recipe for Hope in Hard Times by Suzan Colon is due out in November, and it sounds like a rather lovely tale of connecting with family and history through food.

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.

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