Pour yourself a glass of red wine and settle in for this collection of stories and recipes from author Vince Agro. Centred around his mother’s kitchen table, “from where she steered the family as if the captain of a ship,” we learn of his father’s butcher shop, collecting dandelions, drinking red wine, hunting ducks, butchering chickens and escaped snails. But it always comes back to the kitchen table, and the recipes for the delicious meals his mother, Grace, placed before her family every day. Whether you want to know how to cook cardoons or what they did with those ducks, In Grace’s Kitchen is a wonderful immersion in a way of life that is quickly passing.
You are ready to make the meatballs.
Place a cup of water and your favorite wine beside you. Dip your hand, fingers only, into the water, scoop up enough meat to create a neat meatball by rolling it between the palms of your two hands. Then take a sip of wine. That is the purpose of the wine. Grace rarely used it in her cooking.
Repeat the process until all the meat is gone or you’ve had too much wine – whichever comes first. Then place the meatballs into a frying pan, not letting them touch each other, and fry them in a light vegetable oil until all sides are nicely browned, almost crisp. Most importantly, cook them until they are about 3/4 done. Only then should they be dropped into the simmering sugo.
Another method of cooking the meatballs is to simply put them under the oven broiler. This method is faster. The same principles apply, but Grace preferred the frying method. She maintained they were tastier, but of course that’s because of la padella, her magic frying pan. She loved to fry everything.
Now, the meatballs are ready to place into the tomato sauce, which has already been cooking for 10 to 15 minutes. It will take another 15 minutes to complete the recipe. At this stage, it doesn’t matter whether the sugo was garlic or onion based. It all works well. And it’s delicious.
Also, read about Vince`s encounter with Babalucci (Snails).
Honouring Two Cooks (Nathalie Cooke, Canadian Literature, 08/09/2016)
"Agro describes Grace's culinary philosophy as he introduces readers to the mysteries of favourite dishes from the family repertoire."
All Lit Up Test Kitchen (Tanya Snyder, All Lit Up, 23/01/2015)
"This hearty soup with Swiss chard and green lentils was a perfect starter for a winter feast that included two gluten intolerants having to eat something from an Italian cookbook."
On the Fourth Day of Christmas (Jessica Rose, Not My Typewriter, 17/12/2014)
“I love this book dearly, and it’s one that would be perfect not only for an at-home chef, but anybody with an interest in Hamilton’s not-so-distant past.”
Hamilton booksellers' guide to best books for the holidays (John Rieti, CBC News, 13/12/2014)
CBC has listed In Grace’s Kitchen as one of the top three cookbooks for the holidays.
In Grace's Kitchen: pasta con acciughe (Julie H. Gordon, Shelf Life, 10/09/2014)
"I thought it was going have a strong fishy flavour – with the anchovies and garlic – but actually it was quite delicate and a bit sweet. I don’t think this dish would make a satisfying main course, but if served in the traditional Italian way, where pasta is an il primo served before the meat entrée, il secondo, it is just the thing to whet the appetite."
In Grace's Kitchen: the book and our project (Julie H. Gordon, Shelf Life, 09/09/2014)
“[In Grace’s Kitchen] combines all the charms of memoir, food essay, and recipe book in one volume; it is also light-hearted and quite funny. It is this ease and lightness in the writing that I most enjoy because it reminds me that cooking doesn’t need to be complicated and serious to be good – it’s okay to have fun in the kitchen.”
Harmony's proud, but sad, story to be unveiled (Paul Wilson, Hamilton Spectator, 02/09/2014)
“This new book has more than 50 recipes, including one for dandelion salad, popular with sun-starved Italians looking for the first green thing to emerge from the cold Canadian soil.”
Spring preview 2014: non-fiction, part 2 (Julie Baldassi, Quill & Quire, 18/01/2014)
"Vince Agro’s In Grace’s Kitchen is a collection of family recipes, archival photos, and recollections of harvesting wild plants, snails, and pigeons as part of Hamilton’s Italian immigrant community during the 1940s."
Vince Agro reads from In Grace's Kitchen at the launch at the Waterfront Centre in Hamilton. Thanks to Boris Hofman for the video.
Vince Agro discusses his new book In Grace's Kitchen and prepares a pizza recipe from the book.
Other Titles by Vince Agro
The Good Doctor (2011)