I grew up surrounded by foodies. We’ve been known to travel with our own cooking knives and pots because we couldn’t trust the rental to have provide proper equipment for all our cooking needs because even on vacation, we cook. And not hot dogs and hamburger either, although those sometimes make an appearance. I’m talking homemade Clam Chowder made from clams we harvest ourselves in the salt pond. Or Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches made with the bounty of the garden we brought with us from home. When my friends visit my house for a fall weekend of apple picking, there’s usually a turkey in the back of the car. And by that evening, the house is filled with the aroma of baking apples from that day’s picking. A friend invited us to his beach house and we arrived bearing 2 Quiche Lorraines and salad with homemade Buttermilk Dressing. You get the idea…
I guess it is the cross I bear for growing up:
1) a stone’s throw from New York City and the culinary bounty that is the Bronx, the food mecca of Arthur Avenue, to be precise
2) in an area ripe with families of Italian decent who take their food very seriously
3) and with a best friend who married a professional, Culinary Institute of America graduate / French trained chef
For all its perks, there are downsides too. First, a night with friends means a weight gain of a pound a two for me. Second, it’s hard to live up to such greatness. I have a cache of my own signature recipes that I fall back upon. And after years of working in food service, I’ve got good basic skills in the kitchen. For instance, though the head chef at the country club I tended bar at during college was German (and very mean) I would sneak in and ask the Mexican kitchen crew what they were eating. Invariably it was something better than the club members were served off the menu out front. It was in the back that I learned how to make Pico de Gallo, and homemade refried beans. I’ve always been surrounded by food it seems and I absorbed knowledge, whether I wanted to or not. Such as when I worked for a gourmet caterer and learned that Haricot Vert were really just expensive baby string beans.
Anyway, when ARe’s call went out for recipe submissions, the hardest part was choosing which one to submit. I have a bunch I love, and also share on my author website at the RECIPES tab. Ultimately I chose the Cheesecake recipe, a sentimental favorite of mine. You see just as I’m still best friends with the girls I met in school in 5th grade, so is my Mom still friends with her school crowd. Way, way back in the day (we’re talking probably early 1970s if not very late 1960s), right after high school graduation, my Mom’s best friend Linda was cutting hair for a living. This cheesecake recipe was given to her by a client. She shared it with my mother and this is the cheesecake I grew up eating. The one thing I would request when she’d ask what special dish I wanted her to cook for my birthdays, I’d say no birthday cake, just cheesecake.
That is why it’s bittersweet for me to share it with you all. A few years ago Linda passed on much too young after a bout with cancer, but I like to think she lives on not only in the memories of friends and family, but also in the legacy of this absolutely wonderful cheesecake.
If you take the time to download the free Passionate Cooks cookbook here at ARe, I hope you scroll through to the Dessert section in the back and give this recipe a try. It’s actually pretty simple considering how wonderful it is.
Filed Under: Cafe News