Columnist compiles memories, recipes

BY LINDA MANTLE, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Dorothy Firestone’s memories serve her well.

A food journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch among other publications, Firestone thoughtfully shared those memories and her culinary expertise with readers of the St. Louis Jewish Light for 12 years in a column she titled “TableTalk”. The term, she says, encompasses everything, “anything that has to do with what comes to the table,” which enabled her to write about cooking, travel, personalities and any number of topics relative to the pleasures of food.

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Now, she uses that title for her just-published cookbook, TableTalk, A Cookbook and Memoir, with cover and illustrations by her daughter, Amy Firestone Rosen. The book is a compilation of Firestone’s favorite foods and food stories, because for her, the two are integral to her most memorable experiences. As she says, “I’ve always found enormous connections between food and stories and stories and food.”

Firestone says the book started out as a primer for her grandchildren. But as she approached the labor of love, she found memories “jumping out of my pantry.” Recipes came with stories attached. Aromas and tastes stir up vivid memories of cherished family occasions and travel experiences, which Firestone captures through thoughtful recollection. Each section is spiced with personal reminiscences evoked by a particular recipe. Just as with her “TableTalk” column, Firestone spins a tale with an engaging personal style, easy to read, with deft humor, that has universal appeal. Her creative ideas for columns, many of which are included in the book, continue to entertain as they provide a menu of tempting recipes.

The range of recipes covers appetizers, soups, salads, grains, main dishes, vegetables and sweets. Firestone shares her own favorites, along with those of renowned and admired food writers and chefs, most of whom she has interviewed.

She credits family and friends for their contributions that have become personal favorites. Firestone is happy to pass on lessons learned and knowledge gleaned, including little-known historical food facts and techniques and hints from famous chefs/food writers she respects. She’s even included winning recipes for challah, kugel, coffee cake and strudel from the “TableTalk” contests she conducted through her column.

The recipes in TableTalk, A Cookbook and Memoir are uncomplicated and easy to follow, and while they are meant for beginners, seasoned cooks will appreciate the results of Firestone’s passion for the pleasures of the table.

Pasta with Pesto Sauce, adapted from one of Firestone’s favorite cookbook authors, Marcella Hazan, brings to mind a fond memory, which she recollects in “Running Out of Spaghetti,” a lesson learned early in her married life. It is as easy as it is delicious.

“A House Divided” introduces Firestone’s own zestier Russian Thousand Island Dressing, which looks easy enough for a bottled salad dressing kind of cook to try. “Imps in the Kitchen” leads to Firestone’s Matzo Ball Soup recipe, with the admonition, “Never crowd the pot.” With Trout Sauteed with Fresh Sage, the reader experiences “A Memorable Meal in Stresa” and “Life in Vienna” introduces Helene’s Hungarian Goulash. Pasta with Basil and Fresh Vegetables, Chicken Breasts Poached in the Microwave, My Chili, Creamed Spinach inspired by Julia Child and Ginger Sesame Salmon serve as examples of the kinds of recipes that should have broad appeal for discriminating tastes. In the sweets category, Firestone has included the recipe for a friend’s Double Chips cookies, featured in her very first “TableTalk” column in 1995.

Firestone introduces her book with an original poem, The Onion, which ends…”Boiled, roasted, baked in any measure, Onions turn our weeping into pleasure.”

That cooking is her pleasure is evident throughout TableTalk, A Cookbook and Memoir. This is the kind of book that is sure to become what Firestone calls “the cook’s best friend.”

TableTalk, A Cookbook and Memoir is available at Borders, some Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, the St. Louis Art Museum Gift Shop and the Jewish Book Festival.

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