Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Not my Mother's Kitchen: A Book Review with Recipe

Shortly after I moved into the new house, I received a package from Cam of Culinary Adventures with Camilla.  I opened the package and found the book Not my Mother's Kitchen by Rob Chirico.  I sent Cam a private message asking if I had won this book from Foodies Read to which we both belong.  Cam responded saying that when she had reviewed the book on Foodies Read, I had mentioned that it sounded interesting, so she sent it to me.  That is just the kind of person Cam is and I was blessed to get to meet her in person last week when I was in California.

Image result for not my mother's kitchen 

Cam gave the narrative of this book 1 star out of 5 while giving the recipes 4.5 stars out of 5.  While I didn't dislike the narrative as much as Cam, I wouldn't rate it much higher. You can find Cam's complete review here.  My main problem with Chirico's story is that he gives the impression that because his mother did not enjoy cooking and being in the kitchen, that he holds her in disdain.  Chirico does not seem to be able to embrace the fact that we are all built differently, with different tastes, likes, dislikes and attitudes.  

I could easily say, as Chirico did, that my mother was not much of a cook.  But that would be only part of my mother's story.  You see, by the time I came along, my mother had already been married for 21 years and had spent 17 of those years raising my brothers.  Now, if you were to ask my brothers, they remember Mom as a wonderful cook and a woman who spent a lot of time in the kitchen.

I was born in 1958, during the advent of Campbell's soup casseroles and frozen dinners.  My mother was working outside of the home and took great advantage of being released from the kitchen by using all the new, prepared foods that were available.  Mom would still cook occasionally but for the most part we had quick meals made using all the modern convenience foods.

My sister was born 6 years after me.  Her childhood food memories are mostly of eating out at restaurants.  My parents financial situation was much more comfortable than before and they enjoyed going out and being served instead of serving.

All this as just some background as to why Chirico's story struck a nerve with me.  He made his mother seem very one dimensional and left you feeling that he felt that, somehow, his mother should have shown her love for him through food regardless of the other ways she showed him her love and concern.

I had also just finished reading Stir by Jessica Fechtor, who in a complete 180 from Chirico, talked of how she felt the love and warmth of her grandmother through food even though she could never remember her grandmother cooking anything.  Fechtor learned from her grandmother that buying and providing the very best that she could was how she showed her love and affection to her family.

In Not my Mother's Kitchen, Chirico states he had never had garden fresh vegetables while growing up.  I was lucky enough that my parents had a garden and summers were filled with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.  One thing that Chirico and I did have in common, however, was that certain vegetables were never even thought of or looked at in our house.  The only greens I can remember as a child was spinach and that came from a can.  My mom, like many of her generation served us canned veggies at every meal.  The were mushy and flavorless and I thought that was what vegetables tasted like until I got out on my own, started cooking and experimenting and discovered that while I had thought I hated vegetables (except for tomatoes, cukes and peppers) I actually loved them....they just hadn't been cooked properly for my taste.

The recipe I chose to showcase from this book is Sauteed Tuscan Kale with Toasted Pine Nuts.  One of the things with which I do agree with Chirico is that food is best simply prepared to allow it's natural goodness to shine.  This was a perfect recipe to bring out the earthy, bright flavors of the kale.

As a gentle slap to Chirico I put in a clove of garlic minced instead of a measurement.  This drives him crazy because garlic cloves come in all different sizes....I am of the mind that if you are cooking this dish, you know exactly how much garlic you like and will pick the size of clove accordingly.

Sauteed Kale with Toasted Pine Nuts
slightly adapted from Not My Mother's Kitchen by Rob Chirico

1 bunch Tuscan (flat leaf) Kale
3 T. pine nuts, toasted
2 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of crushed red pepper
drizzle of Balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Stem the kale and wash the leaves shaking them to remove most but not all of the water clinging to the leaves.  Cut the leaves into ribbons.  Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over med high heat.  Add the garlic and crushed red pepper, cook and stir for a moment or two until fragrant and lightly browned.  Add the kale and stir to coat with the olive oil mixture.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and let cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender.  Uncover, raise  heat to med high and allow any liquid to evaporate.  Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar while still on heat and toss to coat. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired and turn into a serving bowl topped with the toasted pine nuts.  Print Recipe


  1. Wonderful review...and recipe, Wendy! I remember frozen spinach from my childhood. You know, the kind that comes in a block. ;) I'm so happy to have met you last week in real life. Come back to California again soon.

    1. I hope to Cam and I will definitely look you up again. Maybe it will be over a weekend and we can meet up at Dracaenas.

  2. My mom wasn't much of a cook either. But she tried her best to feed her kids. That is what I will always remember. And she didn't want us to know how poor we were. So she tried to make it exciting.

    1. Exactly Paula, our mothers did the best they could with what they had....financially, technologically and mentally...the author couldn't see that.

  3. I really love pinon nuts. Thank you for a wonderful recipe that features them. I can't wait to ask for this to be on the menu. The Chef is getting tired of his job. This may be an indication that he now realizes that he had a magician in the Kitchen all those long years. lol

    1. Ah Zip...I am sure he appreciates all you did and is anxious to have you back at the helm.

  4. What a great surprise for YOU! Great review.

  5. I've got the kale and pine nuts, and will try this tonight! My mom was a fairly good cook, but with 7 kids to feed daily, she took some short cuts and didn't always love the process. We need to appreciate that they did their best and put food on the table. Some don't get even that.

  6. Yay for book sharing! I'm glad you liked the recipes at least. It is easy to forget for those of us who are super into food that most people just want to get a semi-nutritious meal on the table quickly.


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