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Melting Pot Luck

June 2024
1min read

The Story of Our Common Past Told Through the Recipes and Reminiscences of Our Immigrant Ancestors

by Tom Bernardin, self-published, 254 pages .

Tom Bernardin took a job as a tour guide at Ellis Island in the late 1970s and was so affected by the history of its then-shabby buildings and the reverence of its thousands of visitors that before the island was closed for renovations, he quit and took his own slide-and-lecture show on the road. This project led him to advertise a national search for Ellis Island immigrant recipes, and the results fill this lovely book. Along with a family recipe for Puddle Jelly came Hallie Morrison Block’s story about her grandparents’ arrival from Romania and their “enduring, but not especially happy” marriage, redeemed for Block by the memory of her grandmother “stretching tissue-paper-thin Strudel dough over a long table.” The DePauw family recipe for the Belgian Etsaput (All in the Pot) comes with a story about how Charles DePauw arrived, found American women unsatisfactory, and wrote home to a girl he remembered. The younger sister answered him, explaining that the one he wanted had married but that “she had not found a spouse herself,” writes their daughter, Rachelle.

Bernardin realized in assembling this cookbook that the old country’s food can often be its most evocative and stubbornest tradition. The foods are organized by country of origin, and the book also contains a good history of Ellis Island and “Tips on Tracing Your Family Roots” and on “Preserving a Family Recipe.”

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