I was in my kitchen one Sunday night, drinking wine, playing solitaire, and listening to the radio when a piece came on about a cookbook for funeral food. The author grew up in Alabama and declared that any Southern women over the age of 35 had her memorial planned down to the last detail – especially the menu. The way she figured it, if it was going to be your last big party, it might as well be done right. The interview prompted me to take action. I decided to write down all the food and music I wanted at my wake, and put it away with my important papers. As the list became longer, I realized there were stories that went with most of the food. Memories of events connected with my favorite foods started flooding in, stories I wanted remembered after I was gone. It seemed like a perfect way for a true memoir of my life to be written. One more personal moment shaped this project into what it is today – a family memoir with recipes. I was showing my daughter the long list of food I wanted served at my wake when she looked at me earnestly and declared, “You know, you’re going to have to teach me to cook all this, don’t you?” My daughter happens to be a wonderful cook, but did I mention she was vegetarian at the time? Considering my food list was centered around meat, and she was most familiar with baking and desserts, meant I had my work cut out for me. Although she is now back in the land of omnivores, it was during those vegetarian years that the idea of a book filled with family stories and recipes took shape, not to mention its title, No Green Salads – my one specific request for the wake menu. It has taken several years to emerge into the reality you now hold in your hands: Family stories with recipes. I like that. I hope both are enjoyed.
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Patty moved to the bucolic Mattolle River valley in 1954 as a toddler; some of the happiest days of her life were spent in remote woodland adventures, learning to pick blackberries, gather eggs and fill the wood box for the big wood cook stove. She learned that life and death were intertwined like day and night. She and her mother and father could make terrible mistakes and still love each other. It’s called family. About the time she started kindergarten the family moved to Napa – which you could say is her “official” hometown – but the time spent in Mattollia secured a place in her heart that pulls her back year after year. Sixty years on from those first experiences of hearth and garden, she’s still kickin’, just not as high.
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