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Family Recipe Series: Vicki Solot

In anticipation of our April 11th Edible World event, Sunday Supper and Family Lore, the First Person Blog will feature the stories and family recipes of Philly food personalities. This was going to an every-other-day happening, but we’ve had so many great foodies writing in with recipes, that you can find recipes every day till our event from the likes of chefs, writers and people who just love eating, making and talking about food and family. Click here to see our other foodie recipes.

Everyone at First Person Arts is getting into the family recipe act, including our founder and Artistic Director Vicki Solot! She recalls a time when Hershey’s syrup came in a .25 can and processed cheese was a gamechanger for the industrious homemaking set. Below she shares her mother’s amazing Cherry Cheesecake with Zwieback Crumb Crust.

Want to be like our Philly Foodies? Share a family recipe at our Edible World event! Send your recipe, story and a photo to Karina by April 2nd! Reserve your seat at the event here.

My mother was considered by everyone in her circle to be a fabulous homemaker. Not only did she keep a spotless house, set a beautiful table and sew like a pro (making every article of clothing I wore until I went off to college), she was also a pretty decent cook – excellent, even, by the standards of the times. By that, I mean that she lived by the 50’s-era homemaking credo that less (effort) is more (free time for mom), so why make something from scratch when you can just as easily get it from a package or a can?

Hence, her signature spaghetti recipe featured a can of mushrooms, a can of Campbell’s tomato soup and a package of velveeta cheese. The brown in her famous brown rice recipe was produced by mixing in a can of consommé. And her bundt recipe (which she referred to as her condolence cake) – was made from a package of Duncan Hines Yellow Cake mix, ¾ of a cup of vegetable oil and – get this — a 25-cent can of Hershey’s chocolate syrup.

But her special occasion cheesecake was a recipe to die for. Its crust was made from crushed zwieback, its central ingredient was a pound of Philadelphia brand cream cheese and its topping, a can of cherry pie filling. Easy but elegant – a dessert that would make Donna Reed proud.

It was spring break and several friends from college came home with me for a visit. My mom went all out, as she always did for company, preparing a baked steak (smeared on top with a can of tomato paste and Worchester sauce), the aforementioned brown rice, and a salad topped with her usual — Wishbone dressing. The coup de grace was the cheesecake, which she had left on the screen porch to chill until it was time to serve. After the dinner dishes were cleared, mom marched in and presented the cheesecake, setting it at her place for all to admire, while she brought in the coffee, dessert plates, and serving knife.

It was Freddy, my friend Wendy’s boyfriend, who first noticed. Then Freddy nudged Wendy, and Wendy nudged me, who screamed “Mom!” who rushed in from the kitchen to see an army of ants ringing the cake plate.

In a moment of utter grace, she silently swooped up the plate and disappeared with it into the kitchen. Moments later, she returned to the table — a sly smile on her face and a new plate of cheesecake in her hands.

“Sweetie!” my dad exclaimed, “how fortunate that you made two of them.”

“Of course,” she replied, “it’s so easy, why wouldn’t I?”

– Vicki Solot

Lorraine Lassar’s Cherry Cheese Cake

Zwieback Crust
1 package zwieback crumbs
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 to 1 stick butter
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine ingredients and press into a 12 inch pan.

1 lb. cream cheese
1 cup cottage cheese
3 tbsp. or more flour
Dash of salt
1 tsp. vanilla
lemon rind and juice
4 egg yolks
1 cup evaporated milk
4 egg whites, beaten, folded in

Mix together above ingredients. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour. Cool in oven (NOT on porch!). Top with cherry pie filling.

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