Breaking Bread (A Family History Preserved by Seven Sisters)

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9780967015910: Breaking Bread (A Family History Preserved by Seven Sisters)
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The seven Rossi sisters document their Polish and Italian family's favorite recipes, stories, traditions, photographs, and their genealogy in this hardbound 463-page edition titled Breaking Bread. It is a unique emotional legacy of what the Rossi family is all about. And it is a treasured keepsake of heritage for their children's children to come. The 330+ recipes are the heart and soul of Breaking Bread. This unique collection includes traditional recipes that have been passed down through generations, holiday and party favorites, and delicious home-cooked dishes tested and contributed by dozens of family members.

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About the Author:

The seven Rossi Sisters (Karla, Pam, Tina, Lisa, Therese, Patty, and Tanya) are originally from Michigan, but now reside everywhere from California to New Hampshire, maintaining that closeness is only a matter of geography.

They have dedicated the last 10 years to the creation of this book. It is a reflection of the immense pride they feel for their family, their heritage, and especially for each other.

Review:

"Taste for family life" By HATTIE BERNSTEIN, Telegraph Staff

Seven sisters' labor of love results in family cookbook

What we eat as children leaves an imprint not only on our taste buds, but also on our hearts. Food spells family, tradition and heritage - concepts seven sisters, including two who live in Nashua and Hudson, turned into a book: "Breaking Bread: A Family History Preserved by Seven Sisters.''

The recently self-published book - a 463-page collection of recipes, family stories, snapshots and more - does one better than most cookbooks: It brings to life the people and stories connected to various family specialties. By the time a reader finishes the book, she or he will have gained both cooking knowledge and a warm acquaintance with the sisters and their family.

The authors are the seven daughters of Celia and Herm Rossi of Adrian, Mich.: Karla Rossi, 42, a property manager in San Francisco who writes on the side.

Pamela Rossi Dickey, 41, married to Mark, mother of two daughters, Kristina and Alyssa, part-time radio broadcaster in Detroit and resident of Canton, Mich.

Tina Marie Rossi Currie, 39, married to Brian, living in Dexter, Mich., and working as a home decorator.

Hudson resident Lisa Nute, 37, married to Steve, mother of Addison, Melanie and Wesley; full-time information services manager for the Hudson Police Department.

Therese Louise Rossi Benish, 35, married to Nick, living in Sturgis, Mich., and working as an accountant.

Patricia Ann Rossi Jordan, 33, married to Jeff, living in Toledo, Ohio, and working for an optometrist.

And Nashua resident Tanya Lynn Rossi, 28, employed by Transparent Language Inc. in Hollis.

For 10 years these women collected family recipes from the Italian and Polish sides of their family, interviewed older relatives, sought out old photographs, and traveled between coasts and over an ocean to research and document what they hope one day will be a family heirloom.

The book pays tribute to another sister, Mary Beth, who died in infancy, and to parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and others touched by this large family.

The idea took root during a wedding reception.

Talking among themselves, the sisters agreed they should preserve the recipes for the dishes on the table. Family food, the sisters told each other, offered more than a fleeting pleasure. It also held their childhood memories.

"We wanted to preserve the great time the seven of us had growing up,'' Tanya says. "For our kids and their kids; to document our favorite stories.''

Years later, with dozens of recipes already collected, the sisters began to tackle the job of translating their idea into something concrete. Lisa's husband, Steve, took on the role of technical advisor. Karla volunteered for layout and design. The sisters' mother agreed to test recipes at home for accuracy and taste. Their father became the cooking "guinea pig.''

"The project blew up,'' Lisa says.

Friends invited Tanya to join them on a trip to Italy. She went, believing it would be a chance to research the family tree. Lisa and Steve, their three children and Tanya traveled to Ellis Island to trace the route taken by the sisters' Italian and Polish grandparents.

"My mom tested so many recipes that my dad said, 'If she makes this stuffing one more time ...'" Tanya says.

Two years ago, mother and sisters met in New Hampshire to put the finishing touches on the book. Lisa's husband set up "computer central'' in Tanya's Nashua apartment. Printers whirred 24 hours a day. Lisa and her mother duplicated recipes for a family Thanksgiving.

"There were memories, laughter, tears,'' Lisa says.

She says her parents and extended family were eager to contribute. Her mother went to her local church organist to ask if he could put music to a Polish lullaby she had sung to her daughters, now a part of the book; aunts and uncles recounted family stories; Vicki Siembor Desjardins, an aunt in Rhode Island who once worked for the New Yorker, did the editing.

The book begins in the old country with accounts of Aunt Vicki's trip to Poland to meet the relatives and Tanya's travels to Italy to do the same. It documents weddings and births, brimming with personal stories and photographs.

At the start, the sisters took more than 100 orders. Demand keeps growing, Lisa says.

Tanya says the book was a labor of love. For at least one sister, she adds, it was even more.

Karla "once told me she was so afraid of a fire, that she'd lose it, that she put the computer disks in a bag around her neck and went out to a restaurant,'' Tanya says. "She literally dedicated her life to (it).''

Lisa says finishing the book was stressful. Because of technical limitations, Karla could work on only one chapter at a time. She had no printer and mailed the disks to New Hampshire for printing.

"We're a close family anyway,'' Lisa adds. But, "This book brought us closer. We spoke so much on the phone.''

She says after her boss, the Hudson police chief, brought home copies of the book, she learned his wife was doing most of her cooking from the collection.

"He said her brother was joking (and said), "OK, what on the table is not out of the Rossi family cookbook?''' -- The Nashua Telegraph

Belleville's Rossi sisters preserve family history and good eating in 'Breaking Bread'

December 30, 1998

BY SYLVIA RECTOR Free Press Food Writer

It all began reasonably enough over dessert and coffee at Therese Rossi Benish's wedding reception.

The seven Rossi sisters, Italian on their father's side and Polish on their mother's, had a simple, sweet idea: They ought to write down some of their parents' and grandparents' old recipes before ...well, before it was too late.

Everyone was getting older. What a loss it would be if the women failed to record the authentic recipes they had grown up enjoying.

Grandma Flora Rossi made pizza fritta better than anyone else. They loved pirog, the tricky, rice-stuffed bread that Busia, their Polish grandmother, had brought from the old country. And no one would want to lose great-grandmother Theresa's recipe for spaghetti meatballs with raisins as the secret ingredient.

So the women began asking relatives for recipes for their booklet. The response was enthusiastic. Soon other favorites were being added -- such as Aunt Josephine's cheesecake, Pam's husband's salsa, Lisa's pasta with peas and prosciutto and dill pickle soup from a Hamtramck restaurant.

The project grew. And grew. And grew.

This summer, eight years after they began, the Rossi sisters finally finished their book, "Breaking Bread."

It's a cookbook, of course, but along the way, it evolved into a record of their family's European roots, a classic photo album of generations of Italian Rossi and Polish Siembor relatives, and a richly documented personal history of growing up in Belleville in the '50s, '60s and '70s.

Hard-bound in a brown, black and sepia cover, the book contains 463 pages, 327 recipes and more than 600 photos, making it one of the most elaborate family cookbooks most people have ever seen.

Relatives were flabbergasted, says Pam Rossi Dickey of Canton Township, the second-oldest sister. "I think most people were expecting something more like a church cookbook," she says.

Even people they don't know are interested and inspired.

"Everyone looks at the book and the first thing they say is, 'How'd you do it?' They want to do one for their family," says sister No. 4, Lisa Rossi Nute of Hudson, N.H.

Many of the inquiries have come over the Internet, where they're marketing the book at members.xoom.com/BreakBread and providing links to some other food and family-oriented sites.

The first 200 copies went to family members who preordered books and to family friends. A second printing of 200 copies arrived this month. With so deluxe a book and such small press runs, their costs are high. Even charging $45 apiece for the second printing, the Rossis won't make money.

But that was never the point.

History told through food

"This book is not only a gift to our parents," Herm and Celia Rossi of Adrian, "but to our extended families, including all the generations to come," the sisters write in the introduction.

Because of "Breaking Bread," their descendants not only will have an authentic polenta recipe, they'll know why the Rossis have a Christmas polenta party and why everyone has to taste some, even if they hate it.

"Grandma Flora always insisted upon it for good luck," the sisters write.

Their children and grandchildren will know how to make Polish babka, the traditional Easter bread, and jelly-filled paczki rolls.

And they'll always have Muffins From Heaven, a favorite family recipe obtained from nuns of the Dominican order. As a joke, it appears next to a photo of the smiling nuns from St. Anthony's Catholic Grade School in Belleville. (For the muffins, combine 4 cups of Bisquick baking mix with 5 tablespoons of sugar; gradually stir in 12 ounces of beer. Bake in a 12-cup muffin pan in a 350-degree oven for 40-45 minutes. "You can repent in confession later," the book says.)

Photos, often several on a page, illustrate dozens of essays about family celebrations, special events and holiday traditions like the visit of Christmas Carol, described by Karla Rossi, the eldest sister:

"From the top of the stairs descended Christmas Carol dressed in a red sweater, black boots and a red felt hat with white fur. In our young eyes, this wasn't really Aunt Carolyn; this was Christmas Carol. In her hand she carried the dreaded Naughty/Nice List," and she would read it aloud to help Santa decide whether the terrified child sitting on his lap deserved a present. (The child always did.)

They'll learn about "wet Monday," the day after Easter, when Polish kids would delightedly douse each other with water to celebrate spring.

There are vintage pictures from the early 1900s; wedding portraits; snapshots of Halloween costumes, Easter outfits and Christmas trees; and photos of child after child wearing white on First Holy Communion Day.

Tanya Rossi, the youngest at 28, writes about her trip to Atina, Italy, to research the Rossi family tree and meet relatives, who immediately seemed like family. Vicki Siembor Desjardins, an aunt in Rhode Island, describes visiting remote Polish villages to meet distant kin -- and everyone crying when they parted. Lisa researched and detailed the ancestors' arrivals at Ellis Island in the early 1900s and their rough introduction to life in America.

The universal themes and scenes make the stories seem somehow familiar, even to people who've never meet the Rossis.

Putting it all together

On an unseasonably warm Sunday this month, the seven Rossi sisters gathered for an early Christmas dinner at Pam's house in Canton. From oldest to youngest, there was Karla, who lives in San Francisco; Pam; Tina Rossi Currie of Dexter; Lisa; Therese of Sturgis; Patty Rossi Jordan of Toledo, and Tanya of Nashua, N.H.

While spouses steered clear of the fray by hanging out in the garage and their dad relaxed on the couch, the sisters and their mom gathered in the kitchen to work on dinner, fill homemade cannoli shells and talk about writing their book -- a process they say brought them closer.

Looking back at the project, they can see what they did right and what they would change.

Perhaps their best move was to encourage the involvement of as many relatives as possible.

There were dozens of ways people could help: providing computer expertise, digging up photos and identifying the people in them, testing recipes, translating Polish and Italian records and letters, helping with travel arrangements and telling family stories that others could write for the book.

Further complicating matters, the sisters began simultaneously researching and compiling an extensive family genealogy, and older relatives helped with that, as well.

The bulk of the work, though, was theirs. Pam and Lisa did most of the recipe collecting. Karla, Pam, Lisa, Tanya and their mom got together in New Hampshire to choose some photos and type recipes and the manuscript, using two computers, a scanner and a printer. And then it was turned over to Karla, who was supposed to do the final edit and design with a desktop publishing program from her home in California.

That's when their cookbook turned into an opus.

Recognizing the potential, Karla sent out a call for more material. "We said, 'Who can write a story about Christmas? Who can write something about family projects?' " she says.

"Karla got everyone involved," Lisa says. "Ultimately, it was an all-out family effort because everybody truly had done something."

The finishing touch came when Lisa and Tanya took the manuscript, contained on computer discs, to the printer. There, they decided to spring for the professional-looking binding that makes the book so eye-catching.

The Rossis have no regrets about the time they invested. "In the process, you create memories," Karla says.

"One thing about this process is that you can't let yourself have regrets," Lisa says. "No one knew much about Ellis Island -- about what it was like to come through there -- and we didn't have many of my grandmother's recipes; she had passed away by then.

"So it was tempting to say, 'Had we only started sooner.' You can't let regrets like that stop you. Whenever you start, you're better off than if you were starting later, or never." -- Detroit Free Press

So far I have purchased four copies of the fabulous Breaking Bread cookbook. It supasses any cookbook I have ever seen, incorporating Italian and Polish recipes, very well written family history of their Italian and Polish ancestors, along with many old and recent photographs. A feat very seldom, if ever, accomplished. The seven sisters and their parents do not only provide hundreds of delectible dishes. They illustrate an example of a hard working family who have survived it all. One is left with a sense of a beautiful family and the importance of our own heritage. The Breaking Bread cookbook measures 10" x 11" x 1 1/2", beautifully bound, and certainly the best investment I have ever made. Every bookshelf should be adorned with Breaking Bread. Sincerely, Beatrice Di Duca -- Beatrice Di Duca, Satisfied customer Beamyval@aol.com

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Sisters, Seven
Published by Seven Sisters & an Angel (1998)
ISBN 10: 096701591X ISBN 13: 9780967015910
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