How to Cook an Aching Heart by Aileen Suzara ’06

Aileen Suzara ’06 is a Filipina/American educator, cook, eco-activist, farmer and adobo champion. While completing a B.A. in Environmental Studies at Mount Holyoke College, she fell in love with the power of story to highlight and to create change–from the voices of climate change fighters to the stories of California’s farmworkers. Aileen’s writing appears in The Colors of Nature, Earth Island Journal, Growing Up Filipino, Hyphen, and more. She blogs on food, farming, and place at Kitchen Kwento..    

As an undergraduate student, I realized with dismay that I was not meant to be a biologist. I was more interested in biology’s sweeping narratives of evolution, adaptation and attraction than in following good lab protocol. But many years later, there is one lesson that I remember as mystical. It’s a process as familiar to the home cook as it is to the researcher.

There are some proteins that change their structure through exposure to heat, or a compound like salt or acid. Take away the change agent, though, and it reverts back to origins. Yet for other proteins, once exposed at a certain threshold they never return. We can see this as lime juice seeps in and “cooks” tender raw fish into kinilaw, or in that quick flash of an egg hitting a hot pan. This second cooking is about total transformation, disruption so complete there is no going back.

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Hot Comfort by Karen Berman ’78

Karen Berman is a writer and editor who specializes in food and lifestyle topics. After graduating from Mount Holyoke, she worked as a newspaper reporter in Connecticut, covering local government and politics, the environment, consumer affairs (she twice won the National Press Club Award for Consumer Journalism)—anything but food. But when she became the paper’s lifestyles editor, she was intrigued. A year later, she quit her job and went to Paris to study at Le Cordon Bleu. She returned home with a culinary certificate and began freelancing and since then, has authored four cookbooks, including Friday Night Bites: Kick Off the Weekend with Recipes and Crafts for the Whole Family and Easy Peasy: Snacks and Treats to Make and Eat, published by Running Press in 2009 and 2012 respectively. She is currently managing editor of NYFoodstory: The Journal of the Culinary Historians of New York and blogs about food and books for She lives in Connecticut with her daughter, who is now eleven. In her spare time, she serves as poetry editor of The Lyon Review.

Is Chinese baby formula dairy or soy based? The question occurred to me so suddenly and with such force that I had to check myself to make sure that I hadn’t blurted it aloud. But no. The other parents-to-be sitting in the meeting room in the offices of Spence-Chapin, the venerable New York City adoption agency, were listening undisturbed to our social worker, who was explaining yet another item in the mountain of paperwork we had to complete before we would be put on a waiting list that would eventually result in a trip to China to meet our longed-for daughters. I tried to listen, too, and to take notes, but I couldn’t help picturing an innocent babe, placed into my arms fresh from the orphanage, the only home she’d ever known. Would she like the formula that I’d bring from America for her? Would she recoil at its unfamiliar scent? Oh, God, what if she hated it? What if, in our first hours and days together, when she’d be assaulted by newness at every turn, I couldn’t offer her the comfort of a familiar mouthful of food?

Chicken soup is a common classic comfort food ...

Chicken soup is a common classic comfort food that might be found across cultures. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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