My book, Pavlova in a Hat Box, Sweet Memories & Desserts, is a loving tribute to my eighty-seven year old mother, Doris Mary Cope-Havens-Filippetti-Force-Huston, who sang blues and jazz in our kitchen and baked hope into our hearts. One can get a sense of the many colorful stories just reading the hyphenated names. And certainly there were stories! My mother was a single mother in the 1960s living in a small town in upstate New York, and it was in the kitchen where she experienced some liberation. She could unshackle chains of limitation to create sustenance that nurtured and strengthened her children. She prepared for the future by nourishing her children's bodies so they could flourish and live well beyond her own experiences. It was also a therapy room full of conversation scented with cinnamon, chocolate, and the perfumes of her women friends and sisters that were popular of the day, such as Youth Dew, Lily of the Valley, and the Eau de Emerald she sometimes wore.
On May 30th, I celebrated the release of Pavlova in a Hat Box at a book launch at Damiani Wine Cellars on Seneca lake, outside of Watkins Glen, New York. It was a stellar day and I felt as if I had come full circle in my life because I was back in my hometown area, a place I once wanted to flee. At the event, the CD of piano improvsations played in the background. It was composed by Linn Brown just for my Pavlova book and as I listened, I suddenly recalled the circle I once made as a young teen. Linn, another neighborhood friend, Connie, and I had stood outside on a summer evening and grasped hands in a circle dance as we prayed for world peace looking into the clear star studded sky. In the ensuing years, I danced in many circles to Irish music, and now here I was full circle, brimming with love, home with myself more than being home with family and friends. What is it that we need to do to come home to ourselves? Taking the arduous journey to become a novelist has been just one way for me to do so and then creating a book full of sweet desserts and memories has widened my circle of life. I think back to that small circle of friends praying to the stars and wonder at our innocence. And I can't help believe that some of that sparkling night of the stars has fallen upon my life and in many ways, the prayer has been answered.
I close my eyes and recall being on my mother's lap, feeling her heart beat out consistent love for me, reminding me to acquire my own rhythm and dance of life for the years ahead. I remember sitting on the cherry tree trunk in my backyard feeling the sureness of stength and beauty of this lap as well, but also being reminded that there would be hardness in life. Many of the recipes in Pavlova in a Hat Box have cushioned and softened the lining of the shell of my childhood that slowly cracked open as I emeged into an adult. Yes, I wanted to flee my hometown at one time. I think I wanted to flee from myself. And perhaps at times, even flee from my mother. Pavlova in a Hat Box, Sweet Memories & Desserts is not an ordinary cookbook. It's about coming home in a full circle of life.
And take a listen to my dear mother still singing the blues!