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Breaking Bread

Breaking Bread: Recipes and Stories from Immigrant Kitchens

Lynne Christy Anderson
Foreword by Corby Kummer
Photographs by Robin Radin
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Breaking Bread
    Book Description:

    Through stories of hand-rolled pasta and homemade chutney, local markets and backyard gardens, and wild mushrooms and foraged grape leaves—this book recounts in loving detail the memories, recipes, and culinary traditions of people who have come to the United States from around the world. Chef and teacher Lynne Anderson has gone into immigrant kitchens and discovered the power of food to recall a lost world for those who have left much behind. The enticing, easy-to-prepare recipes feature specialties like Greek dolmades, Filipino adobo, Brazilian peixada, and Sudanese mulukhiyah. Together with Robin Radin’s beautiful photographs, these stories and recipes will inspire cooks of all levels to explore new traditions while perhaps rediscovering their own culinary roots.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94564-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VIII)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. IX-XII)
    (pp. XIII-XIV)

    Lynne anderson lives in my neighborhood—Jamaica Plain, a part of Boston—and is as proud of its diversity as I and the rest of us who choose to live here because of it. But my, what she found in our shared streets! A whole world of cooks, mostly women, living the cultures they came from at the markets I shop in and the kitchens I never see or even imagined were here.

    But Anderson, a former professional cook turned teacher of immigrant communities, found them. Families recently arrived from Ireland, Greece, and Italy, traditional Jamaica Plain mainstays, and from...

    (pp. XV-XVI)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    I have a distinct memory of my favorite food. In my mind, it sits on the sideboard in my grandmother’s dining room in Connecticut, where so many of her delicious desserts made their appearance. Its meringue peaks curl toward the ceiling and are a light golden brown, as if the tips had been glazed with a brush. The granules of sugar sprinkled over the top of the pie before it went into the oven reflect the afternoon sun streaming in through the nearby window, and the memory of the pale yellow custard, just a hint of which reveals itself between...

  6. Scooping the Memories Dmitra’s Lebanese Stuffed Grape Leaves, Hommus, Tabbouleh, and Pita
    (pp. 7-21)

    While dmitra, her mother, and her husband, Farid, pick grape leaves off vines that grow along this stone wall enclosing the southern portion of the Arnold Arboretum, her children play on the sidewalk nearby. Nine-year-old George chases his twin sister, Jessica, and when they get too close to the street, Dmitra tells them to stop. It is an exquisite Friday evening in June, and the late-afternoon sun casts a pale orange light on the wall, the grapevines, and this family of five. They arrived several minutes earlier, each carrying a canvas bag, and Dmitra and Farid, who is also from...

  7. It’s Like a Continuum Nezi’s Cape Verdean Katxupa (Cachupa)
    (pp. 23-31)

    There is nothing quiet about Nezi’s kitchen. In the midst of four chattering parakeets in a cage by the window and the whimpering of Kiki the dog begging for scraps, Nezi’s nine-year-old grandson, RJ, break-dances past the stove. His older sister, Maura, calls out over the onions frying and the coffee brewing that she’ll answer the phone. When Layla, Nezi’s daughter, opens the fridge to show us some of the ingredients they use in their cooking, RJ warns, “What ever you do, don’t eat that blood sausage. You’ll end up in the hospital!” His eyes are smiling as he awaits...

  8. Add a Place at the Table Fausta’s Italian Fettuccini
    (pp. 33-41)

    Fausta looks across the kitchen table at me, her large brown eyes both curious and melancholy as she considers the direction her life has taken. Although she’s been in the United States since she was a teenager, she still struggles to feel comfortable in a place so different from her native Italy, with its focus on food and family. She recalls memories from her childhood spent in a small coastal town outside Rome, where she’d help her grandmother, mother, and aunts during the summers to prepare food both for the store they owned and for the multicourse meals they all...

  9. Foraging Together but Alone Yulia’s Russian Mushroom Casserole
    (pp. 43-49)

    The dappled light that filters through this outer Cape forest of pine and oak casts irregular patterns on the hill in front of us. As we wander toward it, the ground below shifts in a palette of color: first, the fading copper of pine needles that have fallen earlier in the year; next, a wispy mound of pale turquoise and silver that is a patch of moss growing in our path. “I’m the champion,” a voice calls out gleefully from above, interrupting the quiet. Twelve-year-old Andre has just found a big one.

    It’s the orange-cap boletus mushroom we’re in search...

  10. A Savage Loves His Own Shore Barry’s Irish Dinner: Baked Fillet of Sole, Mashed Potatoes, and Carrot-Parsnip Mash
    (pp. 51-59)

    “There’s someone i’d like you to meet.” I’m surprised at Barry’s announcement when he welcomes us into the apartment. He said he’d be cooking alone to night. “This is Mum!” When we enter the kitchen, the silhouette of seventy-two-year-old Maura Nolan moves in and out of focus on his laptop screen. She smiles back at us from her kitchen table in Carraig na bhFear, the village in County Cork, Ireland, where Barry grew up. Barry’s computer is outfitted with Skype software, which allows him to make phone calls and video conference with his family back home. He brings the laptop...

  11. Swapping Food on Sundays Johanne’s Haitian Soup Joumou
    (pp. 61-67)

    The louis family kitchen has a comfortable, lived-in feel, with several easy chairs pushed against the dark paneled walls and a TV blaring Friday night sitcoms. The gas range is covered with pots filled with boiling liquids, their steam filling the room with the rich scent of beef stock and fresh thyme. Johanne stands over the stove, bringing a large wooden spoon to her lips before she turns to greet us with an eager smile, introducing two of her younger siblings, Tracy and Emmanuel, who, at twelve and thirteen, are more than a decade younger than Johanne. They stand at...

  12. Living the Culture Every Day Xotchil’s Venezuelan Asado Negro, Insalata Repoyo, Plátanos, and Arepas
    (pp. 69-79)

    Spending time with xotchil feels like reconnecting with an old friend. She loves to laugh, and entertains me with stories about her family back home as we linger in her kitchen or, on other occasions, stroll through the garden in her backyard. The lines in Xotchil’s face are set from her broad smile, and her pale blue eyes glimmer mischievously when she recalls her experiences both in the United States and Venezuela. At times, however, her face may unexpectedly take on a serious expression, and then her eyes look gray, not blue.

    She laughs now about“las muchachitas,”the girls,...

  13. Eating Alone Saida’s Moroccan Couscous
    (pp. 81-87)

    To watch saida sort through a platter of steaming couscous, methodically separating the tiny pieces that have stuck together in the cooking process, is mesmerizing. She goes at the task quietly, her fingers working their way through the granules as she moves from the left side of the tray slowly over to the right, never stopping until all of the clumps have disappeared. This is something she will repeat several times during the cooking process. Her face, wrapped in a beige head scarf today, reveals delicate features that often appear thoughtful and serious. Now, however, they register surprise, her brown...

  14. Quiet in America Xiu Fen’s Shanghai Fish and Vegetable Dinner
    (pp. 89-103)

    Xiu fen is in her element today, wheeling her carriage purposefully down the aisles of C Market, a large grocery store in Chinatown. The sounds of Mandarin, Cantonese, and Vietnamese surround us as we make our way toward the produce section, maneuvering around the many families shopping on this Sunday afternoon. Xiu Fen calls my attention to the things she likes to buy here: piles of leafy green pea tendrils, eggplant, water chives, Chinese celery, and baby bok choy. There’s a certainty to her movements I don’t recognize. When I usually see her, bagging groceries at the large American natural...

  15. Remembering Where You Started Roula’s Greek Spanakopita and Dolmades
    (pp. 105-115)

    Roula carefully articulates her thoughts in a low, measured tone one moment, then raises her voice slightly the next to underscore a particular point. She spreads her hands over the table, marking off invisible boundaries as she moves from one subject to the next, explaining why her family first immigrated here more than thirty years ago and how Greece has changed since she’s been gone, then listing the reasons why its food is still so much a part of her life after all these years. “I’m totally addicted to this,” she says of spanakopita, the classic spinach and feta pie...

  16. Eating the Flag Riqueldys and Magdani’s Dominican Sancocho and Bollito
    (pp. 117-125)

    The valera sisters wear their dark hair pulled tightly off their faces, giving prominence to their large brown eyes, which are at times inquisitive, at others, playful. Dressed in identical jeans belted tightly at the hips, hoop earrings, and gold chains, it’s easy to confuse these two young women. Magdani and Riqueldys spend a lot of their time together; they easily answer for one another or pick up where the other has left off in conversation, often espousing the same opinions and drawing on similar experiences. They answer my questions in the hip lingo of American teenagers and possess an...

  17. A Happy Straddler Soni’s Indian Lamb Biriyani, Tali Machhi, Matur Paneer, Bhartha, Roti, and Halwa
    (pp. 127-143)

    Little urvi, age three and a half, smiles shyly at me from her perch on the counter. She looks like a centerpiece in the middle of Soni’s work space, sitting surprisingly still for a small child as she watches her mother prepare a fillet of tilapia. Her outfit, a gold, black, and red printed dress from India, complements the colors of the polished granite countertop, as if the space were made specifically for her. A row of mirrorlike beads hangs from the neck of her dress, and she pulls at them while she watches her mother move about the room....

  18. This Is America? Genevieve’s Ghanaian Nkatekwan and Fufu
    (pp. 145-153)

    Genevieve walks toward the kitchen, tying an apron loosely around her waist and reminding her girls, Abigail, eight, and Barbara, six, to put their coats and backpacks away. Everyone, including Genevieve, has just returned from school. She begins to pull yams, peanut butter, and plantains down from the shelves above the stove as she chats with a friend who has just stopped in. When the phone rings, Genevieve picks up the receiver and hands it to her cousin, Cynthia, in the other room watching TV with the girls, and then turns around to tell me what’s on the menu tonight....

  19. More Relaxed but a Little Tired José’s Mother’s Salvadoran Quesadilla
    (pp. 155-161)

    The east boston neighborhood where the Ramírez family lives is vibrant on this beautiful Saturday morning in May. The sounds ofcumbia, salsa, and merengue float through the windows of cars passing though this busy intersection. We walk by a small market selling Latino products; the doorway is bathed in sunlight and frames two teenage boys wearing T-shirts and jeans, who watch the action on the street with feigned disinterest. As we make our way to the row of three family buildings where José lives, a sleek jet glides surprisingly low, just skimming the rooftops. The startling roar of the...

  20. Bringing Good Things with Food Liz’s Brazilian Peixada
    (pp. 163-171)

    Liz is preparing sunday lunch in her boyfriend’s apartment today, located on a quiet street behind Boston College, on the outskirts of the city. Her son, Alex, fifteen, and nephew, Guilherme, in his twenties, come in and out of the kitchen, checking on the status of thepeixada, a traditional Brazilian fish dish that Liz learned to make from her grandmother. The boys laugh about Liz’s sometimes unconventional cooking pursuits, explaining how they’ll hear her moving around the kitchen at odd hours. Liz cuts them off: “It’s true! I cook all the time, any time! Like the other night, I...

  21. Keeping the Connection Flowing Aurora’s Filipino Adobo
    (pp. 173-179)

    Hi lo, the large latino supermarket in the Hyde Square section of Boston, is uncharacteristically quiet on this weekday afternoon. On Saturdays, when I sometimes come here, I’ve had to work my way past groups of shoppers—usually women—chatting in Spanish as they pick through piles of limes that sell ten for a dollar or running after children who have disappeared down the soda and juice aisle. Today, however, the store seems like a different place: no half-unloaded crates of corn flour or fifty-pound bags of rice make passage difficult through the narrow aisles; no salsa music streams through...

  22. Food, the Great Icebreaker Yasie’s Persian Kashk-o-Bedemjan and Kou Kou Sabzi
    (pp. 181-191)

    It’s yasie’s voice that someone might be drawn to first. Clear and melodic, it rises and falls with the twists and turns of her story. When she tells me about the Persian foods in her native Tehran, she speaks quickly, gliding over the Farsi wordstaftoon, barbari,andsangakas she describes the wonderful brick-oven breads she longs for here. But then her conversation may slow, and she’ll articulate her thoughts more carefully, especially when she tries to explain the difficulties an Iranian might face coming to this country. It’s as if she herself is still attempting to understand the...

  23. Man in the Kitchen Zady’s Rice and Lili’s Kedjenou and Aloko from Côte d’Ivoire
    (pp. 193-205)

    The tiny counter in zady’s kitchen is stacked with ingredients he picked up at the Afro-Caribbean market yesterday. There’s a package of tilapia—two fish that have been gutted and sliced into thirds with heads and tails left intact—bags of frozen okra and fresh spinach, a small pile of chicken bones, and a bowl of shrimp, whose shells have been removed. Empty pots and pans are spread over the stove in preparation for the various dishes that Zady and his girlfriend, Lili, will cook today. He lights the burner under one pan and slices mushrooms into the oil that...

  24. Part of You Goes into the Cooking Patricia’s Costa Rican Sopa and Dumplings
    (pp. 207-217)

    “She reminds me of my grandmother,” Patricia says, nodding toward her niece. “Same face, same body,” she adds, tossing a handful of chopped yucca into the pot boiling on the stove. We are in Shirley’s kitchen today, and she is rifling through her cupboards, pulling out some of the foods she brought back on her last trip home to Costa Rica: coffee;leche pinito, her favorite brand of powdered milk; and jars ofsalsa lisano, something Patricia’s mother—Shirley’s grandmother—makes with tamarind, a sour-tasting fruit that grows in tropical climates. Her grandmother also puts peppers, onions, and allspice in...

  25. Teaching Both Ways Ha’s Vietnamese Goi Cuon and Tuong Ngot
    (pp. 219-227)

    Eight-year-old minh sits on the floor under the counter where his mother and aunt are cooking. In his lap is an open book; above him are bowls filled with fresh mint leaves, lettuce, and rice stick noodles, the ingredients Ha will need to assemble her spring rolls, which Minh and his sister, four-year-old An, love. When Ha asks her nephew if he’d like to help, Minh says, “I can help by eating,” and continues with his book. Ha smiles and shakes her head, but when his mother, Chee, says something to him in Vietnamese, he puts the book down. He...

  26. Preserving Home Sehin’s Ethiopian Yebeg Wot
    (pp. 229-239)

    Although sehin doesn’t seem to relish the task of preparing theyebeg wot, a traditional lamb dish she will bring to her sister’s tomorrow for Easter, she leans over the twenty-five pounds of meat that is spread over her kitchen table with an air of quiet resolve, occasionally putting her knife down to explain the dish’s complicated preparation to me. The designation of Sehin as food authority among her family here—a diaspora of siblings forced to leave Ethiopia years ago—is something I imagine she’s slipped into with a sense of duty, her gesture at preserving the traditions of...

  27. Less Conservative Now Najia’s Spicy Pakistani Dinner: Tandoori Chicken, Palou, Bhindi, Podina Chutney, Salad, and Paratha
    (pp. 241-255)

    The small kitchen where najia and her mother, Perveen, cook their Pakistani foods is so filled with ingredients and cooking implements that hardly any surface is free for the women to work. Containers of yogurt and bowls filled with jalapeño peppers, garlic, and fresh ginger cover the table in the center of the room, and the counters are stacked with frying pans and piles of dinner plates. Perveen is preparing the tandoori chicken, working through a pile of legs and thighs by inserting a small knife several times into each before tossing them into a bowl to marinate. Her luminous...

  28. It’s Okay to Be Different Tanisha’s Panamanian Sorrel Drink
    (pp. 257-265)

    The corner in dudley square where Tropical Foods is located pulses with activity on this cold Saturday morning in January. Several men in oversized coats and sweatshirts linger in a patch of sunshine outside the Afro-Caribbean market, where shoppers who come from places like Jamaica, Trinidad, Panama, Brazil, and Ghana can find thefufuflour, plantains, and fresh tamarind they need for their favorite dishes.

    A mural, spanning the side of the building in seven large panels, is radiant in the sharp winter sunlight. Its bold colors depict scenes from inside the store, giving the area a lively, artsy feel....

  29. Cooking Every Day Limya’s Sudanese Mulukhiyah
    (pp. 267-273)

    Limya is a quiet cook. She floats soundlessly about her kitchen in a red and blacktoab, a large sheet of light cotton fabric that she drapes over her head and wraps around her body. Occasionally a corner of it catches on a kitchen chair or the edge of the stove, and she’ll stop what she’s doing, sigh softly, and unsnag it. When she wraps it around her waist again now, she knots it tightly and then turns back to the mortar and pestle on the counter. This is filled with garlic cloves she’s been pounding throughout the morning. She...

  30. Why Not Teach Them to Cook? Beatriz’s Guatemalan Tortillas con Frijoles y Queso
    (pp. 275-281)

    Beatriz brushes aside a strand of her dark, wavy hair that has fallen into her face and reaches for a ceramic bowl on a shelf near the floor. This is the one she uses for tortillas, something she learned to make as a child when she cooked with her mother and siblings in Guatemala. “It was harder there, because we had to make a fire, so we’d all take turns getting the wood,” she says. They prepared these andchuchitos, a type of tamale, every morning and then accompanied her mother to the market, where they’d sell all the food....

  31. Back Matter
    (pp. 282-284)