By Abigail Delgado
A line of people is waiting for a turn to have a copy of the book, My Little Lovely Kitchen, signed. As soon as they get to the front, they have the opportunity to exchange a couple of words with Ana Costa, the book’s author. Some of them ask for extra advice and some promise that they are going to start cooking now that they have the book. Ana never imagined she would be in this phase of her life 27 years ago when she came to the United States. “For me this is a moment of personal realization. I am excited and happy; this is my dream,” says Ana while she fights back the tears in her eyes.
When Ana and her family lived in Brazil, they were among the thousands of Brazilians who suffered the impact of the financial crisis that hit the country in the eighties. All of the sudden, Ana’s husband lost his job as bank manager and Ana, who was just starting a new business, had to declare bankruptcy.
“I made a drastic decision and the same year I traveled alone to the United States of America in search of a better way to provide for my family and with faith that I was going to reunite with my family later on,” explained Ana, who after six months of washing dishes in a restaurant and cleaning houses, was able to save enough money to bring her family over to start a new life in the States. A year later, her family was granted legal permanent residence, which made things easier for them.
As a young woman, Ana liked to spend time cooking but she was not interested in the kitchen at a professional level. Plus, she had some memorable failures. “When I made my first feijoada (a traditional Brazilian stew with beans, pork and spices), I almost killed my husband because I never tasted the dish before serving it and I put lots and lots of salt in it,” Ana remembers, laughing.
Nevertheless, here in the States, destiny led the way to Ana exploring her aptitude in the kitchen, through an opportunity to work for a catering company, where she met a very influential person in her life. “I had worked at different parties when I met Carolyn Greene, who noticed my talent and she was the one who said to me that one day I was going to succeed, because I had a special gift.”
Ana held on to what Greene had said, and in spite of the fact that she was not a fluent English speaker, registered herself in Peter Kump’s School of Culinary Arts to learn more about baking and pastries and improve her abilities in food preparation. “I used to work during the week and study during the weekends,” Ana said, continuing, “Thanks to this experience, I had to opportunity to work backstage for a TV cooking show hosted by Martha Stewart.” Eventually, she graduated from culinary school.
The idea for My Little Lovely Kitchen, a bilingual cookbook in English and Portuguese, was born three years ago, when she met her friend Rubia Santolin, who is the co-author of the book. Santolin, who at that time was recently married and had close to zero experience in the kitchen, started to ask Ana for tips and recipes that could help her become a better cook. Ana would share with her friend various recipes and tips. As time passed by, they realized that they had collected more than a hundred of Ana’s recipes and had the idea to gather them in the form of a book, a compilation of appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts that, according to Ana, anyone could prepare. “The purpose of the book is to help those who don’t have culinary experience to make practical, delicious and well-presented dishes.”
Over two decades ago, when Ana arrived to the States, she knew that life in this country was not easy for an immigrant, but that didn’t stop her from continuing to fight for her goal. On the contrary, her husband Jose Costa and her sons Carlos and Mauro inspired her to keep all of her dreams alive and to never give up. “My American dream was to become a professional and see my kids doing the same,” she said, adding, “This country gave me the tools make my dreams come true; probably in Brazil I wouldn’t be able to do what I did.” Ana is now thinking of a second book and continues creating new recipes to enrich the lives and tables of all the people she meets.
You can follow Ana her at her blog, http://myllk.blogspot.com/, or you can also obtain a copy of My Little Lovely Kitchen by calling 203- 257 1518 or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org