Cooking from the Heart, a Share Our Strength Book to Fight Hunger 100 Great American Chefs Share Recipes They Cherish
The organization Share our Strength "is a national nonprofit that inspires and organizes individuals and businesses to share their strengths in innovative ways to help end hunger." Michael J. Rosen serves on the Board of Directors for Share our strength, and has edited and authored some 50 books of various types for adults and children. A good portion of the proceeds from Cooking from the Heart aid this organization.
Cooking from the heart is refreshing, warm and rich. It is a collection of 100 recipes with forwards of stories by each of the chefs explaining why they are so meaningful to them. While reading the stories and recipes we are invited to innately (as Gale Gand put it "Maybe cooking is genetic.") relate to grandmothers and aunties introducing us to a new sense of appreciation in the kitchen, tastes and smells remembered and shared with pride, changes to tradition in new lives.... This book is full of wonderful gifts from chefs offering us pieces of themselves. I love how the stories don't seem highly edited as if Donna Nordin was sitting next to me, getting to know me as a friend, affirming "She (grandmother) just couldn't write down a recipe. It was all the feel of the dough." That made it special for me chefs shared things that energize us, transporting us into their lives ever so briefly, puling us into our own personal culinary and gastronomic history, tapping us on the shoulder about current relationships we have with friends and family in relation to spending time preparing or tasting food. Tom Douglas wrote about his father bringing home a five pound block of shrimp, "There are times when you feel rich in your life, and its not money in the bank." After I read Lidia Bastianich's efforts to introduce smells and sensations to her grandchildren, I took a break and ventured into my herb garden... "When they were small, I would crush herbs from my garden under their noses sage, basil, rosemary, and bay leaves." I adored Roberto Donna's recollection of growing up in an Italian kitchen, fresh bread stuffed with prosciutto for breakfast, eagerly anticipating the day he was tall enough to help make the raviolli... "On tiptoes, I could see the pockets in the dough, and I'd roll the meat filling into a short rope between my hands and then pinch off a piece and then go down the line, pinch, pinch, pinch....." The mother in me chuckled at the visual of Frank Stitt "I remember he (Grandaddy White) would pull my brother and me bumpety-bump with those mules on a sled through the cornfield for the best ride of our young lives. Corn stalks became rifles to us, and dirt clods were the most explosive of hand grenades." I imagined dirt streaked faces and laughter now that's my idea of good clean fun. Jody Adams wrote "Every Christmas... all the girls would put on a play in someone's attic... and on Christmas Eve we'd invite all the parents to come up to what we considered our huge stage up there in the eaves. And after the play we'd serve everyone of the Christmas cookies we'd baked." We need more of that today.
Many of the recipes are delightfully humble and delicious, created with items we would probably have in our pantry and ice-box  Oliver Saucy's Classic Swiss fondue, Bruce Heldreth's Cheese Blintzes, Robert Del Grande Buttermilk Doughnuts, Linda Bastianich's Ricotta Gnocchi with Contessa Sauce, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Baeckà¶ffe, John Ash's My Grandmother's Beef Stew, David Garrido's Pork and Potatoes with Orange Juice and Coca-Cola, Kevin Von Klause's Texas Pinto Beans, Hubert Seifert's Mallorcan Almond Cake, and Charlie Trotter's Dylan's Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ganache Tart. Others are witty and gorgeous with lively new influences Allen Susser's Lobster and Mango Summer Rolls, Anne Kearney's Duck Liver Mousseline with Sweet and Sour Prunes, Craig Shelton's Soupe De Poisson, Floyd Cardoz's Goan Pan-Roasted Cod with Kanji and Pickled Mango, and Gary Danko's Port-Roasted Figs with Licorice Ice Cream.
To sum it up, this genuine, good, warm to the heart quilt made me smile, over and over again. Cooking from the Heart will be on my Christmas gift list for friends and family whom I know will be touched by it.