“Heirloom Kitchen: Heritage Recipes and Family Stories from the Tables of Immigrant Women” by Anna Francese Gass, Harper Design, 256 pages, hardcover, $29.99

Professional chef and recipe tester Anna Francese Gass grew up in Rhode Island in an Italian immigrant family eating all the dishes her mother learned in her homeland and carried in her memory.

Gass says her cookbook, “Heirloom Kitchen: Heritage Recipes and Family Stories from the Tales of Immigrant Women,” began when she realized she didn’t know how to make her mother’s meatballs.

“It hit me that despite all of my work in professional kitchens and all of the time I’d spent documenting the recipes of others I did not have a record of my own family’s heritage dishes.”

Side Dish: Recipe for Lucy's Hummus

She began working with her mother to write down all of the latter's cherished recipes. Her “Nonna’s meatballs” project was a success and got her thinking about other immigrants “who expertly cook for their families every night” and “store the recipes in their heads.” She contacted friends who were children of immigrants and asked if she could "borrow” their mothers and grandmothers for the day to record and save their recipes.

In her book, she shares the recipes and stories of 45 women who immigrated to the United States. Gass said it is her hope “that anyone looking through this collection of recipes and stories will remember that true American food is the food of immigrants. It is an amalgamation of the diverse cultures, traditions and flavors that traveled to our shores throughout the last few centuries.”

The book is organized by region — Europe; Africa; Asia; Central and South America; and the Middle East — with recipes from Gina’s Arancini (Rice Balls) to Fethie’s Maqluba (Layered Rice, Chicken and Vegetable Casserole). It is illustrated with 175 photographs, including food shots and old family photos.

“Heirloom Kitchen” is a lovely cookbook sure to please anyone who enjoys learning about America’s diverse food cultures.


Cheramie Sonnier is a food writer and columnist. Contact her at sonnierfood@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter, @CheramieSonnier.