Joseph F. Berenato
Area native releases cookbook
At 83 years old, Rosedale native Eleanor Rodio Furlong has just released her first book.
Titled A Taste for All Seasons: A Healthy Blend of Italian and American Cuisines, this cookbook is the culmination of years of work, life experience and education.
“As I was getting older and writing—I’m doing some other writings—I was writing another book that had recipes in it. I had taken a course in creative writing, and the professor suggested that I pull the recipes out—that they really weren’t for that story—and put them together, so I started doing that,” Furlong told The Gazette.
Furlong, now a resident of Naples, Fla., said that, around that same time, members of her family started “dying off.”
“I’m the youngest of eight children; my parents have deceased, and five siblings have deceased. I get calls from nieces or nephews, and they’ll say, ‘How did Grandmom make this? How did Grandmom make that?’ I’ll tell them. The cookbook started as a way to document family recipes, to make sure that members of the family who wanted to know how Grandmom made this; the answer would be there. It grew into A Taste for All Seasons,” Furlong said.
Furlong said that she did most of the process of creating the book by herself.
“I shopped, I cooked, I made the pictures and then I snapped them with my plain iPhone, because I did not know if it was going to lead to where they’d tell me that I need a photographer, so I just took them with my phone,” she said.
Furlong said that she has always enjoyed cooking, watching the process from a young age. When she was roughly 6 years old, Furlong had one of her first culinary experiences alongside her cousin, Jean Woelfel.
“We had a chicken coop in the back where we had chickens, and my mother told me to go out and collect the eggs. So we get this basket, and we go out and collect the eggs. I had not baked bread, but I was watching them make pasta dough and pies—my mother would make 16 or 18 pies for Thanksgiving—so we collect the eggs, and we had a peach orchard in the back of the house. The ground was soft around the edge of the field from the cultivator, and Jeannie and I took the basket and went to the edge of the grounds. We had a water pump in the back of the house near the chicken coop; we took a bucket of water to the edge of the grounds, we broke the eggs in the dirt and we made pies out of the dirt and water and eggs. I made my first pie—a mud pie,” Furlong said.
Fortunately for Furlong—and the readers of A Taste of All Seasons—that particular dish was not representative of her usual diet at that age.
“We were eating a healthy diet, an organic diet, unbeknownst to me, when I was young and being raised on a farm. We ate what the land produced, so processed food was not a part of our diet. I did not know that tomatoes, for example, and pumpkin came in a can until I was an adult. Everything we ate was from the farm; if it didn’t come from the farm, we didn’t eat it. I think once or twice a year my father and mother would go to a grocery store and buy some special things, but everything else? My brothers went fishing, my father was on the farm and we ate what the farm produced,” Furlong said.
Furlong said that many staples of her diet then come at a premium now.
“I remember, as a young child, my mother going out into the garden, to the yard—my mother was an avid gardener; she loved her plants and flowers—and she would go in the early morning hours. She always had an apron and a little knife in her pocket, and she’d dig little dandelions out of the ground. She’d come in, put them in and we’d eat dandelions and beans. I thought poor people ate this way; I don’t know. Now, I tried to find dandelions here in Naples, and I paid the highest price for them—and they’re not as tender as what my mother picked,” Furlong said.
Furlong credits her work as a psychiatric nurse clinician with helping to inspire her and to help her to better understand “not only human nature but to gift people the importance of health and nutrition.”
“Coming from healthcare, I’ve always read health books and cookbooks like people read novels. When I started writing my recipes for my family, I actually had more than 100 cookbooks here at my disposal of authors and people that I have followed and looked at, and nutritionists that I had read about, so I knew a lot about chemistry and food and vitamins, and things of that sort. I know what’s healthy and what’s good for you—or not. When I was working in healthcare back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, unfortunately, the medical field at that time was not as cognizant of how food should be your medicine, but I believe that; food is really medicine,” Furlong said.
After retiring from that field, Furlong put that idea into practice with her sister, Rita Ransom—who, at 92, lives with Furlong in Naples—in the mid-1990s.
“She and I, on the spur of the moment, in a 24-hour period, looked at and purchased a restaurant on the Boardwalk near Atlantic City, at the end near Margate. We named it Riel Café. After three years of work, I wanted out; we sold it because I was too tired. I said, ‘This is more difficult than working in the mental hospital,’” Furlong said.
Despite having owned a restaurant, Furlong said that she is not “a professional chef, nor a professional cook.”
“I’m a home-based cook who loves to cook and entertain,” Furlong said.
All of these experiences led to the creation of A Taste for All Seasons. Furlong said that approximately 75 percent of the recipes in the book are authentic ones that came from her family.
“There are maybe 10 percent of family recipes that I’ve augmented. For example, the Italian ricotta cheesecake; I took the original ricotta cheesecake that my mother made, and changed it by adding some lemon zest and cream cheese to it. Maybe five to 10 percent were something that I, like a salad with pomegranate seeds and orange and fennel. My mother used all of those things, but not in that combination. I maybe made a salad and took a pretty picture of it, but they’re with things that I was raised on,” Furlong said.
While writing the cookbook, Furlong said that she had to work largely from memory—and recognized a trait that she shares with her late mother.
“My mother never had, there was not one recipe that was written down in her handwriting or in a book. She never kept anything. I only had to go by what I remember her doing and recreating the recipe in my kitchen. She didn’t use a recipe ... To this day—I wrote a cookbook, but if I go in the kitchen I don’t take my book out to see what I wrote. I just do it. It’s funny how things go on,” Furlong said.
After the book’s release in February, Furlong had copies shipped to her niece, Joann Daunoras of Hammonton, for any local residents who wish to purchase a copy. Furlong said that she is also planning to have a book signing event in Hammonton, and that she and Ransom are planning to drive for the trip.
“I don’t want to get on an airplane and get sick, even though I had the vaccine—so we’re going to drive slowly, and it’ll probably be somewhere in late spring or early summer that I come down. I’m going to have a book signing, because three friends already called Joann. She told them she had the books, but they said no, they want to get them from me when I come. If they buy the book now, they can always come to the book signing, and I’d be more than happy to sign it,” Furlong said.
For her part, Daunoras said that the family is incredibly proud of Furlong.
“She decided that this is something she wanted to do, and once she got into it, she said it was a lot of work but she didn’t want to back out. I was at her house, way before COVID, in Florida. In her office, there would be papers all over the floor, different books and different stories. She’s a very good writer; I’m just so very proud of her,” Daunoras said.
To purchase copies locally, Daunoras can be reached at (609) 287-8754. A Taste for All Seasons is also available through online sellers like Amazon or Barnes and Noble.