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

by Suzan Colón

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A memoir that isn't all about the author and her navel-gazing: instead it's a charming conceit that wraps around three generations of women and some lovely recipes. A quick read, not so much because it's easy to read (it is! Suzan Colon is a wonderful writer!) but because you won't want to put it down. ( )
  JaniceLiedl | Mar 31, 2013 |
Colon's memoir is a heartening account of a suddenly unemployed writer who draws inspiration to batten down the hatches in hard times from old family recipes. Colon intersperses her memories with anecdotes from her mother, and family histories of her grandmother, who learned to save pennies during the Great Depression. The different women do blur together (two of Colon's relatives are confusingly named Matilda and Matilde) but this is, overall, a light, encouraging read about working with what you've got.
  Sarahfine | Apr 7, 2012 |
Suzan Colon lost her job as a magazine writer. Although her husband is employed and has benefits, she must still watch her pennies. She turns to economizing, rediscovering her grandmother's recipes. She includes moments in her family's story from three generations. Unfortunately the narrative did not flow well and was full of poorly constructed sentences and incomplete sentences. What should have been an enjoyable read for me turned out to be a chore. The best part of the book were the copies of the handwritten or typed recipes. ( )
  thornton37814 | Oct 27, 2011 |
You've heard the expression "Good things come in small packages." Well, CHERRIES IN WINTER by Suzan Colón is a delightfully good little book. At a diminutive 5 x 7.5 inches, it fits nicely in your hands and just feels good to hold. However, it's what's inside the package that really counts, and from the opening lines of the preface to the last few words of the acknowledgments, this little book is a feast of family fortitude. (I know, I've got to lay off the alliteration.) Colón's family members are by turn plucky, quirky, spunky, funny, hardy, and inspirational. I really wish I knew them. You'll wish so, too.

In an effort to trim her budget after being laid off, Suzan Colón digs out her grandmother's recipe folder from storage. Inside, she doesn't just find instructions for creating hardy and inexpensive meals. She finds a time capsule that introduces her not only to her grandmother who died when Colón was young but also to her great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother. Some of my favorite parts of the book were the brief glimpses into the daily lives of ordinary women over the course of the last hundred or so years.

One of the main principals to which Colón aspires is to be able to live frugally without being miserly. To achieve that requires mindfulness of one's choices and an appreciation for the gifts of mere existence. She conveys this beautifully in the little vignette from which the book derives its title. Believe me when I say I will most likely never eat cherries again without thinking of Manhattan.

I loved this book. When I give a book 5 out of 5 stars, it has to be more than really good. It has to have the "WOW! Factor." It's hard to define the WOW! Factor. It's a feeling of awe that comes over me as I'm reading a book. If that feeling is sustained throughout the entire book, it's a WOW! What made me say WOW! as I read this little book is that the author writes with a precision and economy that makes every word count. She manages to amuse and inspire as well as give us a little social history all while telling simple entertaining stories of her family. Just as CHERRIES IN WINTER is about how to economize while not feeling deprived, Suzan Colón's memoir provides us with a feast in just a few little bites. ( )
  MissMermaid118 | Sep 15, 2011 |
Subtitle: My Family's Recipe for Hope in Hard Times ( )
  Elishibai | Apr 9, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
Found among Matilda's recipe file and personal papers:

Advice to My Future Grand-daughter
While I am young and have not forsworn
Valor for comfort, truth for compromise
I write these words to you, the unknown, unborn
Child of the child that in this cradle lies:
'Live, then, as now I live; love as I love
With body and heart and mind, the tangled three,
Sell peace for beauty's sake, and set above
All other things -- ecstasy, ecstasy.'

-- Jan Struther
Confession Without my illusions
I should die
Coward, I,
Who cannot face things
As they really are
But always seek
The shooting star,
The Christmas Tree
And only see
What I want to see.
-- Matilda Kallaher
Dedication
For Mom, Dad, and Nathan.
First words
"You know what you have to do now," my mother tells me. "You have to put up soup."
Quotations
The women in my family have certain traits: height, prominent noses, and the ability to rationalize spending extra, just once in a while, when there is no extra to be spent. Because.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385532520, Hardcover)

Amazon Exclusive: Kim Sunée Reviews Cherries in Winter Kim Sunée is the author of the bestselling memoir, Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home. Sunée has been featured in the New York Times, Ladies’ Homes Journal, People, ELLE, and Glamour. She was the founding food editor of Cottage Living and a former food editor for Southern Living, and she has appeared as a judge on Iron Chef America. Read her exclusive Amazon guest review of Cherries in Winter:

When I started reading Suzan Colón’s Cherries in Winter, I didn’t know if I should feel relieved that someone had written a book so perfect for coping in these challenging economic times or if it would be better just to lose my sorrows in an entire lemon meringue pie. Luckily, this book allowed me to do both.

Like the author, I lost my dream job as an editor for a national magazine. And like the author, I also spent much of my childhood with my grandfather, spending time in his kitchen, eating his food, and, in my case, listening to stories of his German family and how they arrived in New Orleans.

"Every family has stories," Colón writes. "...One only has to reach back and the stories are there, tales of courage and plain dumb luck that make us shake our heads in disbelief and respect for the ones who came before us."

Colón pays respect to several generations of survivors before her; the stories of her relatives are revealed to us through various recipes and moments she spends cooking with her mother. This is a book about food and family and what we inherit from those who came before us. Unlike the author, I did not inherit an entire recipe file of handwritten family favorites and magazine and newspaper clippings of instructions for "Mow ‘Em Down Michigan Apple Pie" and both an old-fashioned method and a modern recipe for "Chicken Pie à la Mississippi."

The book’s first recipe, "Suzan’s Rigatoni Disoccupati" (Pasta of the Unemployed) will provide some comfort to the approximately 500,000 Americans who are newly jobless and negotiating health insurance plans and 401K rollovers. The ingredients, a half pound of spaghetti and a small jar of prepared spaghetti sauce, are common and humble enough that we all have them somewhere in our larders.

I love some of the recipes because of the author’s sense of humor, especially "Suzan’s Attempted Split Pea Soup" to which she adds hot dogs after too many days of ingesting the same meal and because she doesn’t want to waste the already-opened package. Directions: "Marvel at how strangely, surprisingly comforting the hot dog pieces are in the soup, like something a kid would get for lunch. Feel that somehow, all will be okay."

In spite of shrinking 401ks and the sound of pennies dropping into a metal can, Suzan shares with us her deep resolve that if we love one another, feed our souls as well as our bodies, things can only get better. Cherries in Winter includes words of wisdom we’ve heard from our own mothers and grandmothers, but they get a new life here and we pay attention. This is a book about defying "poverty not of the wallet but of the soul." And one example--spending a little extra to relish the joy of "being in Manhattan in Central Park and eating cherries in winter"--teaches us the importance of spending a little more to help keep ourselves "from feeling like less."

"The women in my family," Colón writes, "have certain traits: height, prominent noses, and the ability to rationalize spending extra, just once in a while, when there is no extra to be spent... I got some of their height and all of the nose, but I thought the last characteristic was missing in me. It wasn’t: I just didn’t realize that it only wakes up when we begin to measure ourselves by money, or the lack of it. It’s not a reflexive kick of denial about having less. It’s a deep breath reminding us not to become miserly in spirit. We may be broke, but we’re not poor."

Suzan reminds us that these stories and recipes "offer more than directions for making the comfort food that sustained my family for four generations. They’re artifacts from times both good and bad--not vague references, but proof that we’ve been through worse than this and have come out okay. And right now, that’s something I need to know."

I don’t know how books help us, but when reading Cherries in Winter, you will feel a little less alone in these uncertain times. Suzan Colón’s book will make you want to head to the kitchen with a favorite relative in hopes that you, too, will learn a thing or two, if not about your family then about yourself, about your own hunger and resilience. Colón’s journey helps us remember to celebrate the simple things, like how, in the deep of winter, summer fruit can still taste its brightest.--Kim Sunée

(Photo © EunHo Lee)

Suzan Colón on Cherries in Winter

My mother is a brilliant storyteller, especially of our family’s history. Around the holidays, she can have me in tears from laughing and crying, sometimes simultaneously. There’s no shortage of material--our family is an interesting bunch--and Mom’s delivery is almost stage-perfect. She could read a shopping list and turn it into tragic comedy.

When I got the idea to write these stories in what would become Cherries in Winter: My Family’s Recipe for Hope in Hard Times, I was cooking meatloaf with my mother. I had been laid off and had to economize, and Mom suggested I dig out Nana’s recipe file from the basement. In it, I found instructions for making good, simple food from many years of challenging times that my family had faced. I started making the recipes with Mom, and she’d tell the stories behind them.

I tried writing down what she said, but I lost all the flavor of the way she said it. Next I brought my tape recorder; Mom was initially a little shy, but she soon forgot the little machine was running--especially when I hid it behind the onions.

When I transcribed the tapes, I had more questions. "What year was that? How old were you when this happened? What was Nana wearing? Where were my great-grandparents living then?" A lot of our family stories, like our recipes, have been passed down through generations, and some of the details have been lost. "I don’t know," Mom would say, trying to remember things she hadn’t been told since she was a little girl.

Later, I’d read my notes and see big blanks in my family’s past. It was like having parts of photographs, or a treasured quilt missing squares. I wished my Nana were still alive so she could tell me where she’d been, what she’d been thinking and feeling.

Then I remembered--though I know that isn’t the right or best word for something that came to me, rather than from me--that there had been another box with the old recipe file. I’d been so excited about finding the recipe folder that I hadn’t bothered to look at what was next to it.

I ran down to the basement again, opened the second box, and found the key to my family’s history. In beautiful script and nearly perfect typing, on stationery, work letterhead, and even envelopes, Nana told me our stories. She’d written essays about meeting the father who never admitted she was his. She described my great-great-grandparents in lyrical detail. I read her voice, and it was as though Nana was saying, Here--this is what happened. She was right there, writing the book with me.

I’d never known until then that Nana had wanted to be a writer. Her work had never been published, but one of the happiest moments of my career as a writer was putting our words together. Between Nana’s poetic details, Mom’s rich storytelling, and me recording how I got through my own hard time in this recession, we wrote Cherries in Winter. The book isn’t just about my family; it’s about all of our families. I hope when you read it that you’re reminded of your own family stories. Those, and some good, sturdy food, are what will get you through any hard time. --Suzan Colón

(Photo © Adrian Kinloch)

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:03 -0400)

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The author describes how the loss of her job and the subsequent need to economize inspired her to look for wisdom from her own family's past in the stories told by her mother and in the recipes of her indomitable grandmother.

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