When magazine writer Suzan Colon lost her job as the economic crisis came to a head, she found something even more wonderful to replace it: a beautiful life, and a brilliant and thoughtful idea for a book: Cherries in Winter: My Family's Recipe for Hope in Hard Times.
The book--a quick read with print large enough even for those of us who just might be starting to need bifocals--revolves around how Colon's family history sustained her and inspired her through times of trouble. While they cooked classic family recipes, Colon's mother told her stories about her family's past. And then Suzan found the writings and recipes of her "Nana" Matilda, who created a life during the Great Depression and WWII years with strength and verve. The lesson that Suzan Colon uncovered from her family allowed her to recognize her own ability to weather the storms occuring in her own life.
Cherries in Winter is a lovely and relaxing book--but it isn't the perfect read in all circumstances. Clearly, it is not a political or analytical discussion of the economic crisis. Neither will it make much sense to anyone who has struggled with any real poverty or hunger. She and her family have plenty to live a comfortable life--just not the upscale life they had led before. The book will most appeal to those of us who have been required to cut back on our luxuries but are still doing fine--and those of us who have chosen a simpler life during this time (or before the economic crisis began).
But at the same time, the changes for Colon's family were very real. As the author says, "I used to tell my parents they'd never have to worry about their old age, that I would take care of them. Can I say that now?"
The title of the book, Cherries in Winter, is the author's articulation, handed down from the matriarchs of her family, of the idea that very occasional and very special treats can help us maintain a sense of balance: the importance of "spending extra, just once in a while, where there is no extra to be spent. Because." Why? "It's a deep breath reminding us not to become miserly in spirit. We may be broke but we're not poor."
What is your extravagance, your "cherries in winter"?
In the end, Colon recognizes her bounty: "It wasn't at all bad--sometimes what looked at first like more rotten luck turned out to be fate's little crooked smile."
I highly recommend this light but thoughtful book as the thing to pick up as you relax with a cup of tea in front of the fire--or as you sit under the leaves falling in your backyard on a warm autumn day like today.
(This review is an update of a post I put up on my knitting/gardening/personal blog when the book was released in hardback. In order to celebrate its publication in paperback, the publisher was kind enough to send me a review copy.)
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Check out other great "weekend cooking" posts at Beth Fish Reads.