Just as the plump, wine-red cherries from the Western slope of Colorado ripened (Ranch Foods Direct gets them from the Glenn Austin family at Paonia) I came across a book at the library I’ve long wanted to read called Cherries in Winter: My Family’s Recipe for Hope in Hard Times. Author Suzan Colon, a New York magazine publishing exec, describes being laid off during the current recession but finding herself spending more time in the kitchen, cooking and sharing family stories with her mother, drawing inspiration from women of earlier generations who lived with more uncertainty and got by on far less.
She writes: “I’ve learned that there’s a difference between showing up for dinner at my parents’ house and making dinner with my mother: as the ingredients go into the food, the stories come out of the making.”
The stories teach her that being poor doesn’t mean living poor, if you remind yourself to splurge occasionally on something simple and fabulous like winter “bings,” fine French raisins juicy with “joie de vivre” or a new blue porcelain vase in a store window available for the price of eating only bread and applesauce for dinner.
Another timeless lesson: Change what you can, and make the best of the rest. Looking back over her family’s journey and reflecting on her own, she writes: “Sometimes what looked at first like more rotten luck turned out to be fate’s little crooked smile.”
Hers is a heart-warming book for dispelling the chill of somber economic times. As publisher Random House describes: “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.”
She includes a few old family recipes, including this simple treatment of a picnic staple that makes use of the earthy, robust potatoes now in season:
German Potato Salad
4 slices bacon
1 cup diluted vinegar (1/2 cup vinegar plus ½ cup water)
1/4 cup sugar
6 good-sized cooked potatoes, diced
3 onions, diced
Cut bacon into small pieces and brown in frying pan. Add vinegar and sugar and allow to cook together until heated and sugar is dissolved. Add to cooked diced potatoes and diced onions and allow to heat through.