Welcome to Aunt Kath’s Kitchen!
What is Aunt Kath’s Kitchen?
Imagine walking into the warm, welcoming kitchen of your favorite aunt after a hard day. The delicious aromas of all the foods that are special to you envelope you like a loving embrace and your troubles melt away. You take a deep breath, smile, and close your eyes in serene anticipation of the comforting food – and company – you are about to enjoy.
Aunt Kath welcomes you with a smile, a hug and a kiss. She asks how you are and really wants to know. You immediately feel that you can talk to her about anything. She makes you feel as though she’s been waiting for you to arrive. She takes you by the hand and leads you to the stove to see what she’s cooking just for you.
Sighing, you relax as the cares of the day fade, even just for a little while. Aunt Kath’s kitchen is a happy place – a safe haven where you can recharge and nourish your body and soul, and always feel welcome at any time. It’s a place of love and laughter, peace and calm, where memories of meals past and the anticipation of the meal to come, shared with family and friends, fill your heart with joy.
The atmosphere in Aunt Kath’s Kitchen is open and welcoming, brimming with warmth and joy. It is a positive environment where fun is good, laughter is the best, and everyone can participate in the preparation. From the oldest to the youngest, all are encouraged to help. Conversations flow from food to boyfriends to movies to music. Everyone’s opinion is respected and acknowledged. Aunt Kath’s meals are inclusive, as are her techniques. “Here, let me show you how to do that.” “Try this!” “Here’s a good way to chop the garlic.” “Could you help me slice the tomatoes?” She not only dispenses food but advice as well, and not in a preachy way but rather with love and tenderness.
There is something quite comfortable about standing by the stove next to Aunt Kath. She is so accepting and non-judgmental that, as she reveals what is in her own heart and tells the story of her struggles and joys (and there are many of both), her family and friends, both old and new, find it easy to open up and share their own dreams and the truth of who they really are. Aunt Kath is a great facilitator for getting to the truth and spirit behind each individual’s personal journey. Her food is like truth serum, helping people get to the heart of what really matters in their lives.
As you help Aunt Kathy clean, chop, and cook the food, the conversations range from intimate to delightfully raucous, especially as everyone sits around the table sharing stories, enjoying each other’s company and a meal that was prepared just for them. Her love and joy of life shine through in how she prepares the food and treats each guest. All are made to feel welcome. There are no class distinctions, no wrong answers or ideas, no pressure to eat what you don’t want (but maybe a little encouragement to just try a taste of something new – you may be pleasantly surprised), and, throughout it all, there are smiles, laughter…and an occasional tear.
Now imagine being able to go to Aunt Kath’s kitchen every week to join her family and friends in a celebration of food, fun, unconditional love, and the creation of new memories. This is where you want to be – a feel good place where everyone is welcome, respected, loved, and fed! And it’s right here, whenever you want to visit.
Come back soon!
Who is Aunt Kath?
Kathy Bello (“Aunt Kath”) is not a professional cook. But she is a professional purveyor of love and nourishment to family and friends alike.
Aunt Kath’s philosophy is that food is the connector in all of our lives. We all must eat to live but she raises that necessity to a higher plane. She finds meaning not only in “breaking bread” together but it the entire process of planning and preparing the meal (Who is going to be eating it? What would they like? How will they respond to it?). She prays that God nourishes her guests not only in body but in mind and spirit as well. And she is thankful for the talent she has to provide such meals.
Kathy is not a psychologist but she has had a lifetime of helping people and knows how comforting food can be. Not the fattening things that we associate with “comfort food,” but real home-cooked, made-with-love meals that bring a smile to your face. People open up when they sit down with her around a table and relax. Eating in a loving atmosphere naturally fosters conversation. That’s when the stories start. The food is a bonus; the meat of the matter is the story. It may come out while you’re cooking or while you’re eating, but that camaraderie is what makes you feel comfortable enough to share with your best friend – Aunt Kath.
In Her Own Words…
I was born into a Polish-American, Catholic family who lived in a blue collar area of a small town called Conshohocken. It is located about five miles from the famous Philadelphia “Main Line.”
My earliest memories of family and laughter were always centered around the dining table. Sunday dinner was at my Babci’s who made chicken soup and roasted chicken and potatoes. The chicken was from her coop and she had killed and cleaned it the day before. Sometimes she would even let me pluck the feathers (after she put the chicken in boiling water to make plucking easier). The vegetables were always fresh from the garden or canned from the season before. I was an only child so I looked forward to Sundays with my family when the house filled with aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I was lucky enough to live next to my Dad’s Mom (my other Babci). On weekdays, she made the best, yet most simple, meals: homemade klushi noodles with milk and butter, turkey neck stew, sauerkraut and pork, and mashed potatoes that had small pieces of fatback in them. They were delicious. The special days were the Fridays when she got paid at the pants factory where she worked as a seamstress. She would stop at the Jewish market on the way home and get challah bread, smoked whiting, whipped butter, and sometimes creamed herring. What a treat! (Remember, in those days, Catholics couldn’t eat meat on Fridays.) No gourmet restaurant, even today, could compare to those wonderful dinners.
I was also very fortunate to have several uncles who played the accordion. My Dad didn’t play but he did sing. We would all gather around and sing and dance. It was so much fun and the connections to family and friends were irreplaceable. When I was younger, my Mom didn’t cook too much but my Dad, who had been a cook in the Navy, enjoyed preparing food and entertaining. Of course, we didn’t have the easy availability of fresh fruits and vegetables that we have now, but the meals were wholesome and good, even though we used canned vegetables in the winter. As I got older, my Mom began to take an interest in cooking. She learned to make her mother’s chicken soup and homemade bread that are still my favorites today.
I became interested in cooking at a very early age. When I was six years old, my parents had company and I decided to make breakfast. I scrambled a dozen eggs because that’s what I knew how to do. Then I woke my Dad up and asked him how to cook bacon. Needless to say, everyone ate scrambled eggs without bacon that day. (We didn’t have microwaves then.)
At about ten years of age, I began to read magazines that had home cooking ideas. I even got a subscription to Good Housekeeping and I still subscribe to it today. I would read recipes and want to try cooking or baking. Some things came out well while others were a disaster but I always had fun.
When I went to high school, I took the academic courses because I wanted to be a nurse. Because of this career aspiration, I was “allowed” to take Home Economics which involved cooking and sewing. It became my favorite class. I would help with all the school banquets and festivals. I knew the cafeteria workers better than anyone else. We had a mutual friendship and respect for each other. In fact, I received the Highest Achievement Award in Home Economics when I graduated. During this time, I began to cook more meals on my own because my mother was often sick and I would take this an as opportunity to try new recipes and have my time in the kitchen.
After high school, I went off to nursing school. Those were long days, filled with study, work, and, occasionally, sleep. I really didn’t have much time for cooking. But in the summer of ’65, we had two weeks off, so twelve of my classmates and I rented a house in Margate, New Jersey. I told them that I would take care of the food. From my experience growing up, I told them that I would need a crate of chickens and fifty pounds of potatoes. Everyone got hysterical. In fact, in my senior nursing yearbook, the quote “a crate of chickens and fifty pounds of potatoes” appears under my picture!
After nursing school, I married my high school sweetheart, Joe. I think my cooking might have had just a little influence in his decision to propose! He came from a big Italian-American family who loved to cook…and eat. Through marriage, I had found a home along with a mother-in-law and aunts who were wonderful cooks. They were a source of great new recipes which I added to my menus. Before long, I had four children but continued cooking dinner every night and having big parties to celebrate the wonderful milestones of my children and family. I cooked for birthdays, christenings, First Communions, Confirmations, graduations, wedding and baby showers, and, of course, the holidays. It was not always easy because my husband was ill and my children were little, but they always pitched in and helped. Money was often tight so I had to look for sales at the market and plan my menus around them. In fact, I still do that today.
The way in which our food culture has changed over the past fifty years or so is amazing. As a new bride in 1964, I remember reading that you could serve raw vegetables (i.e. cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, etc.) with a dip. I was so excited about this innovative idea that the first time I had my parents and in-laws over, I served a tray of raw vegetables and dip as an appetizer. No one was eating them and when I passed them around, everyone declined. When I came to my father-in-law, he said that the tray looked nice but the vegetables were “raw.” Then my Dad took a couple and said they were good. I was a little disappointed but it was only a short time after that that the salad bar and raw vegetable revolution began. I was only about two years ahead of the time!
Over the years, whenever I tasted something I liked, I would ask my family or friends for the recipe. Many of my husband’s aunts didn’t have recipes for their dishes, so instead they would show me how to make them. They taught me some of the best, and usually most time-consuming, recipes that I still make. The regional Italian dishes like cappelletti, pasatini, torte, and stuffed calamari take a lot of time to prepare. That’s why now my sisters-in-law and I get together to make big batches of the holiday dishes, like cappelletti and pasatini, and have fun doing it. In fact, it is becoming a yearly tradition to get together to make these favorite dishes. We prepare, cook, eat and drink. We look forward to being together and the anticipation of having our families enjoy these traditional dishes, made with love, makes all the work worthwhile. And of course, there is always laughter.
For many years, my children and nieces have asked me to write a cookbook in order to share my recipes with them. I had procrastinated for so long but have now decided that this is the time. The result is “Cooking with Passion and Love for Family and Friends.” It was a labor of love and the culmination of a lifetime of learning, cooking, and sharing. And now, on to the digital age. Through my website and blogs, I hope to share with you my love of cooking and the joy of life. And I want to hear your stories as well.
So come back soon to Aunt Kath’s Kitchen and let’s chat!