No matter how disparate demeanors prove, Maria DeMagistris holds that each person whom one encounters can offer a lasting lesson. Blessed to have had many influential individuals fill her life with levity, the West Passyunk product chose to laud the most loving figures of all, parents Theresa and John, by writing “Bringing Them Home,” an homage to their great bond and intense appreciation for Italian cuisine.
“Because of the memories that we created, I feel like such a fortunate person, and I want to share those reflections and inspire others through this book and these recipes,” the Washington Township inhabitant said of the fall-issued tribute that Barnes & Noble recently approved for online purchasing and is pondering placing in stores. “I can never underestimate their effect on me, so I wish to share this everywhere to show the power of love and selflessness.”
With 51 mouth-watering creations that she learned from her matriarch and Naples-born grandmother, the sizable compilation finds the Garden State dweller recalling the joy of gathering for meals at her childhood home on the 2200 block of South Lambert Street and grandmother’s abode on the 2000 block of South 22nd Street. Eager to perfect the provisions’ execution, she found her endeavors much appreciated labors of love, especially since the composition bred even more awareness of how much her children, Brian, David, and Maria, reflect the deceased figures’ goodness.
“Mom and dad helped me to grow into a woman who likewise wanted to nurture,” DeMagistris said of the nonpareils with whom she parted in 2007 and 1994. “This was a tremendous joy to write because I was preserving a part of them and bringing them home, as the title states.”
Quite an accomplished cook and a budding chronicler of such impressionable times, she set out in October 2014 with complete conviction to pen the work, which includes illustrations from David, also responsible for tending to the plethora of photographs bound to lead any inspector to realize the depth of his grandparents’ love and mother’s attention to emulating his grandmother’s great plates. DeMagistris, who arranged the chapters as chronological narratives treating seasonal dining experiences, notably Christmas occasions with which most Italians can relate, deems the book irrepressible proof of the affinity that she hones for her lineage, as John passed along a love for meeting people, which promoting the tome helps to accomplish, and Theresa infused her with a love for cooking. Those gifts, which she will maximize until she joins them in the next life, power each page of “Bringing Them Home” and drive her to believe that nothing can negate a child’s regard for a fruitful upbringing.
“They’re always there for me and my children,” DeMagistris said. “In this life, you see so many people looking in so many places for contentment. From my vantage point, though, you don’t have to go far to find happiness.”
The South Philly-born beneficiary of a loving environment revealed that “every day was a holiday” in her West Passyunk home, as her mother made kitchen creations a central element of their lives and her father added a sense of gratitude to their daily growth through stories, including accounts of his World War II stint in France and Germany as an army sergeant. That familial stability proved vital to DeMagistris, who maintained an incredibly close connection to her begetters when she moved to New Jersey at age 22.
“There was always their love to rely on,” she said of starting her life and enjoying motherhood. “I become quite emotional when remembering how key they have been to my journey, and I know we all lose loved ones and need to move on. It’s said, though, that some relatives become forgotten. That will never be the case with mom and dad.”
John, also a Bronze Star recipient for his feats in the European Theatre, always resonated as a hero to his daughter. Three years after Alzheimer’s claimed him, DeMagistris responded by creating Sharing Life, a five-program-strong brainchild aimed at enriching the lives of children and senior citizens, with the advocate noting she has always held a special place in her heart for the latter. That consideration has resulted in the immensely popular Pasta Tuesday for Dad, a Washington Township-situated successor to Sharing Life that finds DeMagistris and David sating seniors with Old World cooking.
“With Pasta Tuesday, I have met tons of people, and no matter what form we come in, we’re all looking for acceptance, and we’re hopeful about giving it, too,” the overseer said of the weekly outreach. “Everyone has something to give to me, and I find myself so receptive to every interaction and each chance to relate to others. What a joy it is to live my life through meeting people!”
That aforementioned endowment from her father figures to continue to serve DeMagistris, especially thanks to the regard that the healthy concoctions in “Bringing Them Home” are receiving. As she watches her own children age, she believes that no matter the inherent severity that life possesses, a lighthearted atmosphere will always count as the best brand to believe in and replicate. The mixture of meals and magnanimity will serve as the inspiration for a second book containing a little more than three dozen recipes. Nine years after saying goodbye to her patriarch and with Mother’s Day being three days away, DeMagistris looks at the present as a perennial reminder of her mom’s commitment to building a decent future for her progeny and any additional descendants one forkful, hug, and kiss at a time.
“They’re with me every day,” she said. “I’m incredibly blessed to call myself their daughter and immensely happy to share what my mother prepared for her family. May you find yourself so lucky to have such love in your lives.” ■
Contact Editor Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.
Portrait Photo by Tina Garceau
Additional photos provided by Maria DeMagistris