In the News
May 3, 2016
Peabody resident shares from her mother's collection of recipes on Mother's Day
Susan Mineo collected her mother’s recipes into a book and gave them to her on Mother’s Day of 2011. I’m glad I did it while she was still with us, so it was a living tribute,” she says. Gloria Mineo, who would have been 85 on Sunday, April 24, died last October following her third battle with breast cancer. But as Mother’s Day approaches again, Susan’s gift is now giving back by keeping her mother’s memory alive.
“It’s a part of my mother, still with me through that book,” she says. “When I hold it, I feel very close to her. When I’m cooking, I can hear her voice in my head.”
Susan, who grew up in Salem and now lives in Peabody, started compiling Gloria’s recipes 10 years ago, when her parents were living in Florida.“She had index cards, hundreds of index cards, and my father had bought her photo albums — she had put them in there,” she says. “I think she had three or four of those books. “I said, ‘I should start typing those recipes so we don’t lose them.’ She said that was a good idea.”
When Susan visited her parents, she would borrow one of the photo albums and bring it back to the North Shore, then mail the transcribed recipes back to Florida. “She would edit them and send them back,” Susan says. “I would make the corrections. We did this for three and a half, four years.”
The final version has 344 recipes, which Susan had printed at a copy shop, complete with an index and a picture of her mother on the cover. “My son enhanced the front cover,” Susan says. “He superimposed her picture on her baked macaroni in the background.”
Susan’s father, Santo, was born in Italy, while her mother’s family came to Salem from Italy in 1910. Every day after school, Gloria would get the dinner going for her mother to help feed a family that included her sister and identical twin brothers. “They were all born in the same week, on the 19th, 24th and the 25th of April,” Susan says. “You couldn’t plan it if you tried.”
From that early age, it was clear that Gloria was talented in the kitchen. “As terrific a cook as my grandmother was, my mother took it to a whole new level,” Susan says. Gloria drew from Italian traditions, but she also enjoyed experimenting with new recipes, which she usually gave a new twist. “She had a sense of what would enhance anything,” Susan says. “She could make something from nothing, and it would be gourmet.”
But food to Gloria, even more than nourishment or a source of pleasure, was a way to share.
When she lived in Salem, she would cook for all the children in her neighborhood, located behind St. Mary’s Church, Susan says. Later, when she was living in Florida, she would cook plates of food for people that were sick, which Santo would deliver.
That legacy of generosity, as much as the recipes themselves, is embodied in her cookbook. “That book is symbolic of who she was,” Susan says. “Food, in the Italian culture, is love, and that’s what that means — it’s all about love. It’s giving, it’s unconditional.”
When Gloria moved back to Massachusetts, after Santo’s death, Susan eventually became her caretaker. Her mother spent five days in hospice at Care Dimensions in Danvers before she died in October, and they buried her with a copy of her recipe collection.
“I kept the master copy, which was her copy, because I had a hand-written note to her in this book,” Susan says. “It said, ‘Happy Mother’s Day, I love you.’”
To help her grieve, Susan has been active in both group and individual counseling services. “Care Dimensions allowed me, and continues to allow me, the slow walk into my new normal, a world without my mother,” Susan says.
That walk is easier to take because she has the cookbook she created with her mother, from which she has drawn a recipe to share with readers of The Salem News. “My mother was a loving human being, even if she didn’t know you,” Susan says. “It always came out in food.”
2 boxes ladyfingers
2 cups espresso coffee, room temperature
2 pounds mascarpone cheese (Italian cream cheese)
1/3 cups of sugar
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
1 box custard pudding (cooked, not instant) or 1 box instant vanilla pudding
1/3 cup sherry wine, a good one
1/3 cup Kahlua
½-1/3 cup sugar
1 pint heavy cream
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 dark chocolate candy bar, use a good chocolate
Beat mascarpone, cream cheese and sugar. Whip until creamy soft. Add custard or pudding and whip until soft and airy. Fold in 1 cup of whipped heavy cream.
In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or pan, place a thin layer of cream cheese mixture in the bottom of the pan.
Mix Kahlua into espresso coffee and add 1/3 cup of sugar. Dip the ladyfingers quickly into espresso and layer them in the pan on top of the thin layer of cream cheese mixture. Add ½ of cheese mixture on top of the cookies. Dip second layer of cookies quickly into Kahlua mixture and then add the rest of the cream cheese on top. Sprinkle with sifted cocoa and shaved chocolate bar.
Using a pastry bag with a star tip, use the leftover whipped cream to design (piping) the edges of the pan.
Refrigerate until set, about an hour, then serve.