Recipes of Hope

How cooking has saved a mother from her grief.

This article, written by Samantha Melamed, appears on

An Italian mom’s cookbook born out of grief, brought to life on Kickstarter

On Christmas Eve 2013, Elisa Costantini lost her husband of 55 years. Her life more or less stopped.

After more than six decades of cooking the ravioli, ragu, and risotto of her native Abruzzo for family, friends, and strangers, she barely had energy to make mac-and-cheese.

“All I did was sleep. There was no way to go on. See, my husband and I, we were kids when we got married,” said Costantini, 77, a petite woman with a thick accent and a helmet of brown hair. She’d been in love with her husband since he rode into her village on a motorcycle. “I said, ‘How am I going to do my life?’ ”

Her son, Frank, 42, who had been living abroad, returned the next June to find her house in chaos.

He began helping her get things in order, cleaning out his father’s things. When they got to her boxes of recipes – creased, sauce-stained scrawlings in Italian on receipts and envelopes – he stopped. “I said, ‘We need to organize this for the grandkids.’ ”

They began putting together a cookbook.

“Little by little,” she said, “I started to live.”

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