Ann Romney learned to cook from watching her mother and her maternal grandmother in their kitchens.
“They set the standard pretty high,” Ann Romney said in an interview with the Deseret News. “But beyond that, it was the feelings that I had — the comfort and the security — that's what got into my bones as a young girl, and seeing how important it was to bring people to the table and to make those opportunities of sharing love and sharing friendship and sharing life at the table.”
Romney, wife of 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, began to keep a recipe file of her own. When her first son got married, she compiled a little cookbook of traditional recipes for her daughter-in-law.
Those recipes and the traditions around mealtimes and holidays became the basis for her book “The Romney Family Table: Sharing Home-Cooked Recipes and Favorite Traditions” (Shadow Mountain, $29.99), which is a part-memoir and part cookbook.
“There were so many stories involved with the importance of why you bring people to the table and what that really means,” Romney said. “It was a really fun project.”
The book also includes photos from the early days of their family, including Ann feeding Mitt wedding cake, and family photos from trips and meals when their boys were young; and more current photos of grandchildren with “Mamie” and “Papa.”
“There can be so much joy that can come from family. There can be so much joy that comes from good eating and bringing people to the table,” Romney said. “That is where memories are made and that’s where the joy in life is centered in the heart of the home.”
“The Romney Family Table” includes more than 125 recipes, including her husband’s favorite Meat Loaf Cakes that are served on his birthday, and traditional desserts that have been passed down from her mother and grandmothers. Others are from menus, meals and treats from holiday gatherings, and recipes for breads, soups, salads, main and side dishes, and desserts that are common in the Romney home.
“The recipes were the easy part,” she said of compiling the book.
As she and her family began to compile the recipes, including several from her daughters-in-law, there were many stories, traditions and photographs that Romney wanted to include, too.
“There’s nothing like making the heart of the home a place where people want to come to,” Romney added.
There were lessons other than cooking and baking learned and memories made in her family’s kitchen, too. As she raised her boys, the kitchen was not only a place for food preparation, but where her family gathered.
“I love having an open kitchen,” Romney said of both the layout and having people pull up a stool to talk while she’s cooking. And sometimes she’s the one joining others in the kitchen.
“It’s really fun for me to be in the kitchen with my daughters-in-law when they are cooking,” she added.
Romney also shares, at times humorously and tongue-in-cheek, stories of raising and feeding five energetic boys (and how she survived with her sanity intact as a young mom) along with how they celebrated holidays with a young family and now with a larger, growing family.
“It was never perfect,” Romney said of raising a family. “The boys misbehaved more than they behaved . As you see them mature and grow up and be parents themselves is when the rewards come.”
She would dress them in their Sunday clothes on Saturday night to make getting ready for church easier. She would also use the same philosophy on getting Sunday dinner ready so that it was a time to talk after church.
“It takes hard work and it’s a frustrating time. It’s never perfect,” she added about raising a family. “It’s messy, but it’s joyful.”
She also shares how her son Josh picked up the tradition of baking rolls for Christmas Day and Mitt makes the mashed potatoes. And after years of trial and error with the turkey, that’s been delegated to their daughter-in-law Mary.
Everyone has a different favorite kind of pie they like to have at Thanksgiving — except for her oldest ,who doesn’t like pie.
Now as a grandmother, there are some traditional dishes she’s passing along to the next generation of Romney cooks.
When she’s making Welsh Skillet Cakes (a modified recipe from her paternal Welsh grandmother) and Roulage or Chocolate Log, which are family requirements to learn, she’s sure to invite those who haven’t mastered them yet to come to a mini-cooking class.
Proceeds from the “Romney Family Table” will go to benefit the Center for Neurological Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where she has been receiving treatments since she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998.
“They have done some remarkable work with research and identifying key approaches and technology that can be applied to neurological diseases, including MS,” Romney said.
Mitt and I started a vegetable garden when we were first married and had the dilemma of what to do with all the zucchini from plants that were so prolific. We ate it raw, we sautéed it, we combined it with grated potatoes and onion and sautéed the whole mix in olive oil. This is another delicious option.
1 cup diced Vidalia onion
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cups sliced zucchini
¾ cup grated Gruyere or Parmesan cheese
4 eggs, beaten
¼ cup dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a skillet, saute the onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil; add zucchini and sauteed onions in layers. Sprinkle with cheese. Pour beaten eggs over the cheese. Top with bread crumbs. Drizzle butter on top. Bake 50 minutes.
Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Olives
Roasted sweet potatoes and homemade applesauce are nice sides with this dish.
2 pork tenderloins (1 pound each)
Salt and pepper
3 cups mixed green and black olives with pits
½ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
5 sprigs thyme, stems removed
3 sprigs rosemary, stems removed
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle salt and pepper over tenderloins; wrap individually in foil and place on baking sheet. Roast 40 minutes.
Place olives in a bowl. Zest the lemons and spread over olives. Squeeze lemon juice over olives. Add remaining ingredients and toss. Place olives in single layer on baking pan and roast at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes.
Remove roast from foil and let stand 10 minutes. Slice meat and top with roasted olives.
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