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Posted: August 8, 2022

Michele Romano keeps family recipes alive

By Mary Giuliano

Reading the forward section of Michele Romano’s book ‘Romano Toscano Top Secret Italian Family Recipes,’ I laughed out loud on reading that at family gatherings a turkey dinner would be accompanied by spaghetti and meatballs as this was followed in our home growing up.

Michele, a petite dark-haired beauty with a friendly manner and infectious smile has been interested in cooking and baking since she was a child. However, it seems the entire family was adept in the kitchen, and they looked forward to getting together to compare and share recipes. But she learned most from her family friend, Chef Luigi Toscano who welcomed her in his kitchen and was very generous in explaining and sharing ideas and information on how to create various appetizing meals.

Michele states that she loves Italian food for its diversity of recipes as each area of the country or even each town has its own way of cooking and baking. She uses the freshest non- genetic modified and organic ingredients when possible and purchases fresh herbs in bunches that she places in containers of water, tents with a clear plastic bag to keep crisp in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Her book is dedicated to her father Joseph who she thanks for being a most loving and giving father in every way, and also in memory of her two brothers Darrell and Dana who passed away in 2018 and 2019 and also Luigi Toscano who passed in 2008. Losses devastating to this close-knit family.

Michele Romano, left, with Nic Giuliano and Dan Kropinak

Michele’s family is from Creston known as one of the first families to settle there. Her great grandfather Francesco Romano emigrated from Italy in 1897 and wife Carmella and son Charlie followed in 1903. Carmella and Charlie were on the first train that came through the Frank Slide after it had occurred.

Michele said that Francesco had brought with him a family heirloom, the Italian pole bean, known as Romano bean. Michele’s father was given the bean seed and told “Giuseppe never lose these beans you will never find bean seeds like these again.”

The careful care of the bean seeds has been protected and gained her dad the nickname Joe and the Bean Stalk. She says they are “jam packed with sweetness; these beans are incomparable to the taste of other green beans.” This prompted a quick memory of the beans my own father grew on tall poles and the seeds he produced each year that he coveted.

Michele says the family also has a worn out copy of an old Italian cookbook filled with recipes that have been lovingly passed down through the generations. Although many ingredients are only available in Italy the family has managed to create some favourite recipes from it.

Michele is the consummate cook; she thinks and breathes recipes growing as much as possible in her garden and buying from local farmers.

She credits Dan Kropinak, her husband of 17 years, for nudging her to write the book, and says proudly all the photos in the book have been taken by Dan.

On meeting Dan it’s obvious how proud he is of Michele’s ability and creativity. He encouraged her to share the recipes by writing a cookbook and began by pulling a somewhat reluctant Michele along by having a website built, titled Michele Romano Recipes with free recipes shared and next a blog with stories connected to her recipes.

Dan is a huge fan; he grows and maintains the garden and enjoys his job as official taste tester. “I get to eat a great gourmet meal every day,” he said.

Asked how they met Dan says he was born and raised in Creston and used to chum around with Michele’s uncle. One day he saw Michele who was a teenager at the time and smitten by her good looks he said “wow, that’s the most beautiful girl I have ever seen”, to which her uncle responded that he better not get any ideas about his niece.

Dan jokes that it was good advice as he was already married at the time. later he relocated to Vancouver for 20 years, became father to three children and sadly had his marriage end in divorce.

During those years Michele married, had children and after 16 years the marriage crumbled ending in divorce. Thirty years passed before Dan and Michele had opportunity to meet. Dan returned home for a visit and as luck would have it he showed up to her uncle’s house where Michele was visiting that day. Fate, chance, or providence, it seems this couple was destined for each other because sparks flew and as each was now unattached the romance blossomed into a wonderful marriage.

Dan accompanies Michele to book signings in various communities as the book has been well received by the public. The manuscript itself is of thick glossy pages replete with colorful photos of mouth-watering dishes of meats, vegetable and desserts.

The recipes are separated into different categories and have easy to follow directions with lots of information. Personally, I enjoy seeing the variety of ways recipes are changed using different ingredients. For instance, Michele has a recipe for making meatballs including celery and grated carrot, something I intend on trying.

Check this book out you won’t be disappointed.

Congratulations Michele, and looking forward to this next book you are in the process of writing.

Lead image: Michele Romano, right, with Mary Giuliano.  Photos by Mary Giuliano


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