My name is Julie Riven. And I’m known as Nonna Julie to my four grandchildren: Cooper (4 years old), Layla (2 1/2), and Cash and Sophia (1 year olds).When I’m not spending time with them in the kitchen, I’m a food writer, stylist, and chef — and now a blogger.
I love to cook and feed others and come by it naturally. I learned from my grandmother, Nanny Fanny. I hope to be the kind of grandmother who also teaches.
I grew up in Montreal, a food city much like Paris or Rome. My mother, Ghita, and her mother, Nanny Fanny, were incredible home cooks and shared this love with me.
Our days centered around food. If the two of them weren’t at the Atwater Market (where dozens of vendors sell their wares year round) or at a boulangerie or Provigo (a popular supermarket), they were at home in their house dresses.
This was back when homemakers wore floral house dresses, which buttoned top to bottom and had big pockets to hold a tea towel for pulling hot pots or pies out of the oven.
My mother Ghita didn’t always encourage me or my three siblings to join her in the kitchen. She preferred to cook by herself. But Nanny Fanny did. She adored our company in the kitchen. She’d pull up a vinyl-covered chair and put it right beside her at the counter so I could stand elbow-to-elbow with her.
Nanny’s life wasn’t always easy but when she was in the kitchen, she was in her glory — and, I realize now, probably able to forget some of life’s hardships.
Every Sunday in the fall and winter, Granny Fanny peeled apples for 8 apples pies she baked (one for each of her 7 children and an extra to share with a friend). In the spring and summer, she picked through quarts of fresh blueberries for more pies. That’s how I remember her.
I went to culinary school to train as a chef because of my grandmother. Then I cooked at Michela’s in Cambridge, Mass. with Todd English, before he was a celebrity chef (he owns Olives and other establishments in the US and around the world).
For 17 years, I co-wrote a popular weekly food column in the Boston Globe magazine with Sheryl Julian. We also authored a cookbook together called The Way We Cook: Recipes from the New American Kitchen(Houghton Mifflin 2003).
As a young married woman, I raised 3 boys. They, too, knew that I took the nightly suppertime seriously. I worked full time and still managed to do it — not only to provide for them, but also as a gesture of love.
Today, nothing gives me greater pleasure then to see my whole family around the table and to prepare something from my childhood. There are few past times as enjoyable and sensual as cooking.
So roll up your sleeves and join me in the kitchen. You don’t have to be a grandparent to keep reading. These recipes are easy to follow, uncomplicated, and they work. Everything you will find in cooknonnacook has been made numerous times. Some are second or third generation.
Make these dishes and pass them on. That would make Granny Fanny and Ghita very happy.