Francesca another family foodie in the making


Looking back I should have realized it years ago when we were at a favorite South Florida restaurant, Oceans 234 in Deerfield Beach (link here).

Most children who have outgrown the booster seat but still need to kneel on their chair to reach the table do not eat Edamame, soybeans in the pod.

But there was Francesca Schena, my sister’s youngest child, collecting empty pods in her throw away bowl and building a perfect mound (she is also creative like her artist mother and talented sister). The funniest part of this story to me is that it was my first time tasting edamame and it was Francesca who taught me how.

“Aunt Jude, you sort of suck off the salt and pepper then gently squeeze the pod and kind of pull them out with your teeth. But don’t bite it, that’s gross!”

Since then whenever I eat edamame I think of her.

At first glance, my sister and I are not two soybeans in a pod. She is lean and athletic. I am not. She has long glistening straight hair. Have you ever seen me? I do not. She moved away from home soon after college. I did not. Her children have always eaten what was presented to them. Mine did not. (My son did catch up, however, since I had the ultimate meltdown when he was 3 or 4 and revolted against being a short-order cook. Of course, my mother-in-law was right, you don’t have to kill the monster you don’t create.)

But, close your eyes and hear us talk and you may have a difficult time telling us apart. Get us in the kitchen and you will find the same passion drives us both to not only feed our families but to satisfy that inner hunger that makes us feel loved and grounded. I guess we never gave any thought to our love and passion for food because our mother was the ultimate culinary model of a home cook.

Mom donned that apron and created amazing dishes, both sweet and savory. The Urban Dictionary defines foodie “a person who spends a keen amount attention and energy on knowing the ingredients of food, the proper preparation of food and finds great enjoyment in top-notch ingredients and exemplary preparation.”

If you include the phrase “Francesca is” to the above definition you are describing my 11-year-old niece. She first learned the phrase foodie about a year ago when her friend Crystal told her about a television show on Food Network called “Chopped.”
On that show four chefs are given baskets with secret ingredients and must make an appetizer, main dish and dessert with a chef being eliminated (chopped) after each round. She would come home from school and put Food Network on rather than the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, trying to find “Chopped.”

Occasionally she would, but the rest of the time she would see other shows like “Sweet Genius” or “Cupcake Wars.” She likes competition shows and baking shows best.


Francesca and her friend Mackenzie play “Chopped” sometimes at home. They will do afterschool snacks or lunch and choose the ingredients the other has to work with. She says the secret is to give each other things they like to eat. This is a really great way to learn to cook because you have to envision how the ingredients work together. There is no judging, just enjoyment.

The topic of crepes came up when we were on vacation together last week. We went to a crepe restaurant in Deerfield Beach but realized we could do way better at home. We did a few dessert crepes then my mother taught her how to make homemade manicotti.

Not only was it a delicious meal, it was made by three generations of Russo women. It’s a memory I will hold dear forever.

I asked her what her favorite food was. Her answer: “a food, a meal or a course?” Seriously?

She says she loves spaghetti and meatballs with Gramma’s sauce. Her favorite food to make is cupcakes. Graham crackers and milk is her favorite afterschool snack and chocolate chip pancakes are her favorite breakfast. Her favorite thing to drink: virgin mango daiquiri. She says she cooks at least once a day.

A few weeks ago, she made deviled eggs. Heck, I don’t make deviled eggs! She gets recipes from cookbooks (she is starting a collection), magazines but rarely online. Some of her favorite things to cook, however, come from the top of her head. I asked her to give me an example.

Here is a favorite dessert or snack.

Francesca’s Ice Cream Sandwich Toast a frozen waffle (or make your own) Cut waffle in half and put a few small scoops of your favorite ice cream on one half and place the other half on top. Top with maple syrup and whipped cream.


When Francesca is not playing “Chopped” or watching food shows she’s a competitive swimmer, plays soccer, softball and tennis. She is president of the St. Hugo of the Hills children’s church choir in Michigan. When she grows up, she does not see herself doing anything food-related for a living. She does see herself enjoying making food for herself and for her family.

It appears the apple does not fall far from the tree.

And, in our case, where there is an apple, something yummy is sure to follow!

Have a yummy week!