“Rescuing Grandma’s Recipes” Transcript

Samin Nosrat: Hey, this is Samin, and you're listening to Radio Cherry Bombe. You're the bombe!

Kerry Diamond: Hi, Bombesquad. You're listening to Radio Cherry Bombe, and I'm you're host Kerry Diamond. Each week we talk to the most inspiring women in and around the world of food.

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Kerry Diamond: Radio Cherry Bombe is going back on tour. The Food for Thought Tour is kicking off in about a month or so, and we are coming to a city near you this year. Ready? I'm gonna read all the cities we're going to. Nantucket, Portland, Maine, Baltimore, Maryland, Savannah, Phoenix, San Diego, Columbus, Asheville, Philadelphia, Houston, Miami, and Kansas City.

Kerry Diamond: We'll be announcing the first six tour dates very soon, but more importantly, if you are interested in sharing your story at one of our live podcast events this season, we want to hear from you. We're saving speaker slots on each of our tour stops for two to three individuals. You'll have five minutes to tell your story via an essay, song, poem, original monologue, Julia Child impersonation, what ever you'd like. If you would like to be one of our speakers, go to cherrybombe.com, click on events, click on 2019 Radio Tour, and look for the application. Applications are due Sunday, May 5, at midnight. So, give a think if you would like to be part of the tour, we would absolutely love to hear from you.

Kerry Diamond: So, on to today's show. I'm speaking with Anna Francese Gass. She is the author of the new cookbook Heirloom Kitchen: Heritage Recipes and Family Stories from the Tables of Immigrant Women. It's based on her blog of the same name, Heirloom Kitchen.

Kerry Diamond: A few years ago, Anna decided to dedicate herself to telling the stories of grandmothers who immigrated to America, and she wanted to share their recipes, many of which were never written down before. Stay tuned for Anna's story and the story of all the incredible people she's met on her Heirloom Kitchen journey. We'll be right back with Anna after this word from Handsome Brook Farm pastured raised organic eggs.

Kerry Diamond: Handsome Brook Farm believes that organic and pastured is the way to go when it comes to eggs. Pasture raised means better lives for hens, better lives for small farmers, and better eggs for you. It's also better for the chefs who depend on rich, flavorful eggs. Handsome Brook Farm own flock of amazing chefs, their mother hens, count on it.

Kerry Diamond: Janine Booth is a mother hen. She's the Australian chef behind the southern inspired Root and Bone restaurants in New York City and Miami. Want to learn how Chef Janine makes her sweet corn spoon bread? The ingredients include Handsome Brook Farm eggs, some scallions, sharp cheddar cheese, and a touch of heavy cream. You can find Chef Janine's delicious egg centric recipes and videos on handsomebrookfarm.com. Where can you find Handsome Brook Farm organic pasture raised eggs? At Publix, Kroger, Sprouts Farmers Market, Fresh Direct, and many natural food stores across the country.

Kerry Diamond: Enjoy my talk with Anna Francese Gass.

Kerry Diamond: So, this is your second time on Radio Cherry Bombe.

Anna Francese Gass: It is, it is. We've got to get serious. All right, let's get serious.

Kerry Diamond: Yes. So, what brings you back?

Anna Francese Gass: What brings me back is that my cookbook is out April 23rd. It is called Heirloom Kitchen: Heritage Recipes and Family Stories from the Tables of Immigrant Women, and I'm here to talk to talk about it.

Kerry Diamond: This cookbook has been a long time in the making.

Anna Francese Gass: It has, I has, because it started as just a hobby blog back in 2015. I had my son, and I working from home recipe testing, and I just kind of had this idea that I needed to get my mom's recipes written down because she's an immigrant and she doesn't write anything down. Like many other immigrant moms, or just moms in general, they cook for us still even though we're adults, and we don't have that need to get them written down because mom's making them.

Anna Francese Gass: I just thought, you know what? These recipes are so special to me, they're special to my kids, why don't I start a little project where I write them down? So, I did that, and then I had my second incredibly amazing idea, which is I could reach out to my friends. I didn't realize it, but I have so many friends that are also first generation, and kind of like this United Nations of friends, so I reached out and said, "Hey, I want to provide a service. I want you to let me cook with your mother, and in return, you're going to get a recorded recipe. A recipe that you can keep forever." The response was pretty amazing, and lots and lots of people, so a little project turned into a really big project, and here we are four years later, and it's now a cookbook. My fourth baby.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, right. You have three kids?

Anna Francese Gass: Three children.

Kerry Diamond: Amazing.

Anna Francese Gass: Yup, so this is number four.

Kerry Diamond: Wow. So, what was the light bulb moment? Why and how did you decide you wanted to make this into a bigger project?

Anna Francese Gass: You know, it's so funny. I think that you just kind of have to dream big. So, when it took off and I saw the response on social media, the response on my website, and just kind of people reaching out and saying, "What about my mom? You need to cook with my mother." I thought, "Wow, this is really cool, and this could be something more," and then I had a girlfriend say, "Anna, you've recipe tested on like ten cookbooks. What about your own?" Sometimes that's all it takes, is for someone to really say, "You could do this, too."

Anna Francese Gass: The other about the blog and the cookbook is that when I was cooking with the women, by accident, a very happy accident, the first woman I cooked with I asked her while we were cooking, "Why did you come to the U.S.," and that one question just kind of exploded into these amazing immigration stories. So, when I started the blog, I thought to myself, "I can't just share the recipe, I really need to share the story, too, because it's just as important." So, when I pitched my cookbook, I said the same thing. I said, "I'm sitting here proposing a cookbook to you, but there's one thing I really want to express to you that's really important to me is that I also want to share the woman's story."

Anna Francese Gass: I ultimately went with Harper-Collins, who has been such a champion of this book from the beginning, and did everything I asked for and more. So, I think when you're looking at this book, I absolutely want you to try the recipes. It is a cookbook. It will be in that part of the bookstore, but please read their stories, because the stories are inspiration and dynamic, and some of them are really surprising. You know, you see somebody walking around and you just really have no idea what they've been through.

Kerry Diamond: You really have no idea. Are there any through lines that go through their stories? Any common denominators why they came here?

Anna Francese Gass: Absolutely. So, everybody came here for a better life, and we say that and we talk about the American Dream, and as Americans it's kind of almost just like this catch phrase, but it's so true. This is, I think, why I had the light bulb moment. Because, when I was cooking with Nellie in Long Island, who's from Greece, she was the first woman I cooked with after my mother, the story hit so many familiar notes for me. I knew there was more, and I wanted more for my children. I think it's really important to remember that when we're walking around, because we take it for granted.

Anna Francese Gass: I'm not here to make anyone feel bad, but one of the women said to me, "The U.S. is just so enchanting," and that really struck me because, I mean, we walk around, we moan and complain. Traffic, long hours, all the things as Americans we complain, but it's a great place to be and people want to be here, and the reason is they look at their lives and what they have. Not even so much for themselves, every one of these people moved here for their children. Even if they didn't have kids yet, it's what can my future children have, and that's what's so amazing and that's just a testament to our mothers that love us so much. And, our fathers too, because a lot of these people came over with young families or however it is they got here, that's the common thread.

Kerry Diamond: Tell us your mom's story.

Anna Francese Gass: My mom grew up in Calabria, Italy. She had a very happy life, but she told me, "I always just wanted more. I always thought that there was more out there." She met my dad by chance. My dad is Italian, but he's second generation, grew up in Rhode Island, and went to Italy to study abroad. So, he met my mother when he was studying abroad. They married, and my dad really wanted to stay in Italy, because you know, as an American he was very enchanted by Italy, and my mother wanted to come here. I was born in Italy. My big joke is I'm also an immigrant. It's not a joke, it's actually true, but I came here when I was one so you can't detect my Italian accent. So anyway, yeah, I came here as a one year old and they did ultimately stay. My sister was born here. But, she said she was very excited to leave. She was young, and now sometimes she'll be like, "Why did I come here?" You know? That's the joke.

Kerry Diamond: Where did they settle?

Anna Francese Gass: Rhode Island.

Kerry Diamond: In Rhode Island, okay.

Anna Francese Gass: Yeah. We went back to where my father was from, and that' where I was raised until I left for college. I went to NYU, and then I met all these great people, and then had this corporate career, but then ended up ultimately in food.

Kerry Diamond: What was your corporate career?

Anna Francese Gass: I went to NYU, and I studied psychology, because I thought I was going to be either a psychologist or a therapist, social worker, and then I graduated and realized I couldn't afford to stay in New York if I continued on that path. So I said, "Okay, I'm just going to take a break and I'm just going to do something to make a little money," so I went into insurance. Makes sense, right? But no, I got hire by an insurance company, I was making good money and I was able to afford to stay.

Anna Francese Gass: September 11 happened. I was downtown at the time. I wasn't in the World Trade, but I was on Water Street. That was kind of crazy. So, we were very close. Luckily not close to any danger, but it was a really scary day, and evacuating and leaving. My husband, my then boyfriend, was up the street, so I went to go find him. September 11 just, I think, changed the world in so many ways, and how we felt about things.

Anna Francese Gass: I ended up leaving insurance, going into mortgages. Did that, and then had all fast forward, married, two kids. I just wasn't happy. I tried to fit into a certain mold, follow the money so to speak. It's easy to say this now at my age, but I think it's really important to follow your heart and what you're good at, because that's when you shine. I had my second daughter, I was miserable, and my father said, "You love cooking. Why don't you think about culinary school?" And, I did it. I did it at night-

Kerry Diamond: Where did you go?

Anna Francese Gass: French Culinary Institute, downtown Manhattan. I was living in Stamford, Connecticut. Three nights a week coming into the city, leaving my babies with my mom. Nine months. Don't know how I got through it, but I did. Best thing I ever did. It's an amazing school. Some people knock culinary school. I think it was pivotal for me because I knew how to cook. I mean, I went to culinary school at 29 years old, so I was definitely one of the older people in my class. I feel like I learned the trade. I think that when you do something, whether it's plumbing or electrical, whatever it is that you choose as your passion, when you learn the way it was standardized, and the French standardized cooking, there's something to be said for that.

Anna Francese Gass: I'm not saying that you can't have an amazing culinary career without it, many people have, but I don't think you should knock culinary school. I think it's amazing, and it was important for me. And, the school, which was run by Dorothy Hamilton Cann, an amazing woman who has now left us, she felt that way, and that's how she got Jacques Pepin there, and she got all these great chefs there to teach. I just felt like they really helped springboard my career.

Kerry Diamond: You said that you went into recipe testing. I'm sure a lot of our listeners are like, "I would love to go into recipe testing." How did you make that happen?

Anna Francese Gass: French Culinary Institute made that happen. I will be honest with you, it's why I love them so much. I was there and I said look ... I went into career services, and I think you need to utilize career services. I did that in college and it helped me, and I did that in culinary school. And I said, "I have two kids. I cannot go work a line. I love food media. I'm a Food Network junkie, and I want to know how I can do something like that. So, the woman there, Gina Novack, she's still there, said, "Okay, you're going to have to do some restaurant work, but let's see what we can find you."

Anna Francese Gass: Two months later, they said, "Martha Stewart has an opening in her test kitchen. Do you want to do it?" I was like, "I'll mop the floors at Martha Stewart. Just get me in the door," and they did. I interned there, and what I love about Martha is because of her high bar of excellence, that test kitchen is run like an operating room. I mean, first of all, pristine.

Kerry Diamond: Just like our office?

Anna Francese Gass: Much like this office. Everything labeled, categorized. I worked for someone there named Juanita, who has now recipe tested this book for me. Juanita really taught me how to recipe test, because it was simple things like, "Juanita, I have sour cream. Do you measure that in a liquid measuring cup or a dry measuring cup?" Silly things, but you learn the science of the recipe, and Martha would say, "If it's not perfect, you don't print it." And, that's how it should be.

Kerry Diamond: Now, not to jump ahead, but you're getting these recipes from all these women who do not, I'm just going to guess, do not cook from written recipes, because any grandmother I know pretty much cooks from what's in her head.

Anna Francese Gass: Right. And so, that's why I'm telling you, it's like this trajectory lead me right where I am, because it's that training, that when I got in the kitchens that was a storm of confusion of throwing this in and throwing that in, I was like, "Okay," I get in my zen moment, and I said, "We're going to do this slow." Can I just say I cooked with the 40 most incredible women ever, everyone in this book, because they were into it, and they're like, "Okay, what do I have to do?" And, it's like, "Okay, see that pinch? Put it in this teaspoon," or "See that handful? Put it in this cup. Is it a cup? Is it three quarters, is it a half?", and they were in. So, they went through it too, because they loved the idea of their recipes being standardized. So-

Kerry Diamond: So you were the perfect vessel for this project.

Anna Francese Gass: I'd like to think so. Yeah, so it all worked out. And then, from there I jumped to Food 52, which most people in food know who they are. Well, I got to start with Food 52 when they were out of Amanda Hesser's apartment, and I walked to her apartment, and I was the on set chef for her for a while.

Kerry Diamond: So, Food 52 operated out of her apartment in the beginning?

Anna Francese Gass: Yeah. Talk about an amazing moment. She opened the door and Amanda Hesser is standing in front of me, and I'm like “woah,” and she walked me up to her apartment and she was like, "This is where you're going to cook." I saw that company grow from six people to what it is today. I was just in there a couple weeks ago, and I said to Amanda, I said, "You don't know how happy this makes me, that I get to walk into this amazing machine after hanging out in your apartment," and she's like, "I know!"

Kerry Diamond: What made you take the leap from this established company, with Martha Stewart, to Food 52, which back then no one had even heard of?

Anna Francese Gass: Because I think that whenever you're presented with and opportunity that sound good and looks good, it might just be good, and the fact that she left the Times and that she was into this, I mean I'm not going to lie, Amanda Hesser, I'm in. You know? That's pretty much what got me there. It was such a smart bet, because Amanda and Merrill never forgot me. I mean, I got pregnant when I working with them with my third, and I said, "I can't do this, but I want to be a part of this," and they did. I mean, I would go into the city when I could, I recipe tested all the cookbooks. Anything that they could find for me, they did, and to the point that they blurbed my book. So, full circle, amazing people that just stayed with me.

Kerry Diamond: That's really nice. Well, I think your energy attracts that. You must have a million friends, because I feel like you meet you, and you just put all this great energy out into the world.

Anna Francese Gass: I think it's the jokes, Kerry. I think it's totally funny.

Kerry Diamond: You do?

Anna Francese Gass: Kerry laughs a lot with me.

Kerry Diamond: Anyway, you're fun to be around.

Anna Francese Gass: Well, thank you. That's very sweet of you to say. I don't know. Yeah, I believe in karma, I believe in the universe. I think that what you put out is what you get. That's what I try to live my life by, and I also got to cook with all these amazing people.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah, so let's talk about this gorgeous cookbook. So, let's start with your mom.

Anna Francese Gass: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: How many of her recipes are in the book?

Anna Francese Gass: Four. So, my mom got a little spoiled. Let's just admit. She's first. We talk about her a lot in the intro. Gina has her day in the sun, and she deserves it. Yeah, so we got all my family favorites in the book. Her Tagliatelle, which are very important to me. That's hand cut Italian pasta. Kerry got to cut them. Check out her Instagram, she did a great job with my mom cautiously watching her from the side. It's a very important recipe to me. The meatballs, and then we-

Kerry Diamond: Don't skip over the meatballs. I know the whole show practically last time you were on Radio Cherry Bombe was about the meatballs, but we do need to talk about them because I think they might be the best meatballs I ever had.

Anna Francese Gass: So Kerry, many people have said this to me, and it makes me feel great because if you talk to any Italian in Brooklyn, they'll be like, "No Kerry, my mom's meatballs are the best." But, I can tell you ... That was a really bad Brooklyn-

Kerry Diamond: You can talk like that because you were born in Italy.

Anna Francese Gass: I don't know. That was a bad Brooklyn accent. But, what I can tell you is, "No, Gina's meatballs are the best."

Kerry Diamond: I find most meatballs are a lot more compact than your moms. Your moms are fragile.

Anna Francese Gass: They're very fragile.

Kerry Diamond: How do you say fragile in Italian?

Anna Francese Gass: I don't know how you would say it-

Kerry Diamond: Fragile? I just made that up.

Anna Francese Gass: No, that's actually correct, but I don't know if it is when you're talking about food. All right, let's just skip over that. I don't know.

Kerry Diamond: But they're so delicate.

Anna Francese Gass: Delicato. I would say delicato would be a better word for it.

Kerry Diamond: Okay, better word.

Anna Francese Gass: See, all we do is laugh. No, so yes, they're very delicate for a couple of reasons. She's always telling me, because I did this too, when we were recipe testing them, "Lay low on the breadcrumb. You're going to want to put more in. They look really, really wet." Gina says, "No, not too much breadcrumb." They're going to be very delicate, but if you were frying them that would be a problem, but we don't fry them in my family, we just poach them in the sauce. So, as long as you can get them into that nice ball, we use an ice cream scooper in my house. They have to be consistent. Ice cream scoop does the best job.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, interesting. Okay. I don't know why I never thought of that.

Anna Francese Gass: Yeah, we ice cream scoop them. We ice cream scoop them so they're all perfect. My mom doesn't, I do. And then, I drop them-

Kerry Diamond: You're mom does it by hand?

Anna Francese Gass: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and they're always the same, but she's Gina, she can do it. No, so I get them into the bubbling sauce, and I think the other reason why they taste so juicy is she puts sauce in the meatball mix. Those are the two things that make them so amazing.

Kerry Diamond: And then, when you're poaching them, you do this shimmying of the pot, which is my favorite.

Anna Francese Gass: Okay, yes. So, when you're putting them in to the pot, and you just use a standard Dutch Oven, you're going to think that the pot is full and that you cannot fit any more meatballs in. Like me, you might be tempted to get a wooden spoon and start rooting through the sauce. No! Gina will slap your hand. You need to shimmy the pot, because if you shimmy the pot more meatballs will go in. It's like a clown car. They will keep going in, and you will think there's no more room. There's more room, just shimmy. So, that's what you do, you shimmy the pot. And, those are the tricks to Gina's famous meatballs.

Kerry Diamond: They're so good. Tell us about one of the most memorable women you met who's in the cookbook.

Anna Francese Gass: Oh God, don't make me pick a favorite. So, everybody is memorable for different reasons. I'm going to get really sentimental here, because I was just listening to an interview of Diane Sawyer. I don't want to get choked up, but she said, "I'm a part of every person I've ever met," and when I heard that ... I mean, think of everyone she's interviewed, right? I was like, yes Diane, that is so true. Because I am telling you, I can be driving in my car and something that one of these women said resonates with me. I feel like I'm such a better person after meeting these women, because every single one of them gave me perspective, experience.

Anna Francese Gass: That's the great thing too, about being a grandmother, is that you're not in the hamster wheel, right? You're not getting up in the morning and thinking, "Oh my God, how am I going to make it to nine thirty tonight?", which is kind of what I do every day, especially with three kids. It's like okay, the gun goes off, I'm out of the starting blocks, and I'm on [inaudible 00:23:08], and then I pass out in my bed at nine thirty. They're not in that mode anymore. That part of their life is over, so they have this calm about them, and I think when you can sit quiet and have calm you get perspective, and I just love eating that up because I need it. You know, because when you're in it, when you're in the rat race, when you're working every day or your dealing with your kids, or whatever it is that's going on in your life, you kind of forget the bigger picture and they kind of only think big picture.

Anna Francese Gass: I think all of them are amazing. I think the woman from Afghanistan sticks out to me, because she came over with her father when there was a big Russian invasion, but she had to leave her mother and sister behind, and she was, I don't know, a young teen. Graduated from high school, went to college, got three jobs to pay to get them out. So, she's in college. What were you doing in college? What was I doing in college? Let's not talk about it. But this woman did three jobs aside from going to school, which she was paying for. Basically worked as an immigration attorney to figure out how to get them from Afghanistan to Pakistan, because her aunt got kicked out of college for being a female, so she's like, this is only going to get worse. Gets aunt, uncle, mom, sister to Pakistan, two trips over, and gets them here. When they got here, the immigration office said to them, "You don't know what your daughter did."

Anna Francese Gass: These are just some of the stories, and I am telling you, you would meet these women and you would just be like, "Oh, another sweet, nice lady," and you have no idea. I'm in these kitchens and I'm cooking, and I'm crying, and I'm laughing. I will never be able to give to them what they gave to me. Everyone is so happy that they're in this book, and they feel like it's their ... But, what they gave to me in just for my life is, I can't even express it.

Kerry Diamond: So, you've very sweetly made us the Arroz con Pollo, right? Tell us about the woman behind that dish?

Anna Francese Gass: So, that's Shelia, and Shelia's amazing. She grew up on the Panama Canal, and is vivacious and hilarious and funny. When I was cooking with her and we're making this rice dish, I spilled some rice on the floor. I was cooking at my sister's apartment because we met in Brooklyn. Long story. I spilled rice all over the floor, so I'm like, "Oh God, I don't know where the vacuum is. Let me get a broom." So, I'm trying to clean up this rice. It's hard to clean up rice. She goes, "Girl, give me that broom," because I was making more of a mess, and I'm telling you anytime someone spills something, I think about her and how she snatched the broom out of my hand like I was some silly fool, and started cleaning up. Such a great lady.

Kerry Diamond: You brought us deviled eggs also, because you know I like deviled eggs. So, thank you for that. But these are special deviled eggs.

Anna Francese Gass: They're from the Ukraine, and they saute carrots and onions, and that goes in the mix. Very simple, but it does alter the taste a little bit, and it's great. And, that's Emily. Ukrainian. Sheepshead Bay. I can't even get into her story, because I will tell you I was in her kitchen weeping. This story. This poor woman trying to get out of the Ukraine, ended up with her family in Italy, almost starved to death before they finally got passage to the U.S. Salt of the earth, amazing woman. Her daughter was in the kitchen with me. All three of us were in tears. When I left, her daughter said to me, "Thank you so much for doing this, because I had never heard that story before. I was seven years old when we came. I only knew it from my perspective, and I just got to hear my mom's." And, you know, as mothers I think the most important thing is you want to make sure your kids are well taken care of and well fed, so that story was just very emotional and very heartfelt, and we have it in the book.

Kerry Diamond: Have you become a better cook since doing this project?

Anna Francese Gass: Absolutely, yes. I learned so many tips, and I learned not to use my appliances so much. So, I'm a big KitchenAid person, whatever.

Anna Francese Gass: So, the funniest thing, when I was cooking with Nellie from Long Island, she's talking about the spanakopita and how you have to make sure that the spinach is really dry. So, I think I'm this big fancy chef. I'm like, "Oh, you know you can put it in the salad spinner and get it really dry, or you could ... What do you do? Do you use cheesecloth?" "I use my hands." Like, "You're right," all you have to do is squeeze it, you know? But, all I keep thinking in my head is all these extra ways that we could do this.

Anna Francese Gass: When I was making the dumplings and she's kneading the dough, I was like, "Do you ever do this in the food processor," and they give you this look like you're nuts. I'm like, "You're right, we're just going to use our hands."

Kerry Diamond: Not such not using the appliances, but did it make you more intuitive? Is that what was going on? Like less afraid to trust yourself?

Anna Francese Gass: Well, I started trusting them, because sometimes I'd walk in, I'd be like, "This is not going to work. I don't know what these kids are telling me, but what she's telling me we're going to do is not going to work. Maqluba, which is a Palestinian dish, Maqluba in Arabic means upside down. So, when I was cooking with Fetay, she said, "We're going to make Maqluba," and I go, "Well, what do you mean?" She kept saying, "We're going to make an upside down." I'm like, "Okay, what's an upside down?" She's like, "Well, we flip the pot upside down." I'm like, "Okay." So, she's layering all this stuff in this pot. It's like veggies and then rice and then meat and then rice. I was like what is she talking about? An hour later she puts a plate, she's like tapping, flips, and this beautiful molded dish comes out. You can see every layer of food. I'm like, "Holy smokes."

Anna Francese Gass: So yeah, you do. I mean, they know what they're talking about. The grandma's know what they're talking about.

Kerry Diamond: What's next for you and the blog? Will you continue the blog?

Anna Francese Gass: You know, so this is so funny because I think this is the first time in my life that I have no plan, which is very unsettling for me. I'm a planner. If you know me at all, I'm a planner. I live my life in five year increments. I've been known to say to people that are lost, "Well, what's your five year plan?" I've always had a plan, and I just don't right now. I don't, because I really feel like this book is just going to do some amazing stuff, and I want to see what it does, and I want to see where it goes.

Anna Francese Gass: I said to my husband once in bed, I was like, "You know what, Phil? I think this book's going to change the world," and he's like, "That's great, Anna. Let's go to sleep."

Kerry Diamond: Okay, we're going to jump to the speed round.

Anna Francese Gass: Okay.

Kerry Diamond: Ready?

Anna Francese Gass: I hope so. I'm not speedy, as you can tell. I'll try.

Kerry Diamond: Favorite kitchen tool?

Anna Francese Gass: I'm going to say it, my KitchenAid. KitchenAid can do a lot. It's a work horse. It does it all.

Kerry Diamond: Song that makes you smile?

Anna Francese Gass: Juicy, by The Notorious B.I.G. I'm sorry, it reminds me of high school.

Kerry Diamond: Favorite ingredient to cook with?

Anna Francese Gass: My mom's tomato sauce. You can put it on anything. You could put it in chili, you put it on sauce, it makes great meatballs. We should jar it.

Kerry Diamond: You should jar it.

Kerry Diamond: A food you would never eat?

Anna Francese Gass: I'm not into insects.

Kerry Diamond: What is the oldest thing in your fridge?

Anna Francese Gass: Probably some gojuchang sauce. I don't know. I would say that.

Kerry Diamond: Dream vacation destination?

Anna Francese Gass: I love going to Italy. I've been there many times, but that's my roots.

Kerry Diamond: If someone's going to Italy for the first time, where should they go?

Anna Francese Gass: Florence and Rome. Hit the big spots.

Kerry Diamond: If you were trapped on a desert island with one food celebrity, who would it be?

Anna Francese Gass: All right, I'm going to go on a desert island with Oprah, and let me tell you why. Number one, we wouldn't be stranded for long. Let's just be honest. Gail's sending a chopper. Somebody's getting the Navy. Why are you laughing? This is reality. [inaudible 00:31:12] it's so true.

Kerry Diamond: We're laughing because it's true.

Anna Francese Gass: So first of all, Oprah and I are not going to be chilling out, struggling for too long, and I find her incredibly inspirational. I think that she is bringing spirituality to the masses in an amazing way. I think that she teaches us how to be good people in very bite sized pieces. I love her podcast. Maybe someday we'll be hanging out, but I'm telling you that's who you want to be on an island with.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you to Anna Francese Gass, and congratulations on your beautiful book Heirloom Kitchen, and thank you for bringing lunch to the office for us. You are most definitely the bomb for that.

Kerry Diamond: We'd also like to thank our sponsor, Handsome Brook Farm, for supporting this season of Radio Cherry Bombe. Thank you to the band Tra-La-La for our theme song, and thanks for listening. You're the bomb.

When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.

Nikki Pensabene: Hi, my name is Nikki, and I'm the chef and owner of ByPensa Cake Studio. Do you know who I think is the bomb? Jackie Carnesi, the executive sous chef at Roberta's, because Jackie is not only an amazing and passionate leader at Roberta's, but it also an incredible mom to her son Hunter. She has been a great mentor to me in navigating my culinary career.