By JULIE MARIE BUSH
OBSERVER Staff Writer
For Roberta Dewey of Fredonia, cooking is a family tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation. Ever since her grandmother Helen Szymanski taught her how to make her first cherry pie as a little girl, she has kept her passion for cooking and shared it with others.
OBSERVER Photo by Julie Marie Bush
Fredonia resident Roberta Dewey poses with her new cookbook, “Our Very Best Recipes: Three Generations of Recipes,” currently on sale in the local area.
Dewey is now sharing her family recipes in her newly-published cookbook, "Our Very Best Recipes: Three Generations of Recipes." Her grandmother left a big impression on her; she is one of the women she thanks in the cookbook's dedication for showing her "so much passion and love of baking and cooking."
"She was always so encouraging," Dewey said over lunch. "That's why I put cherries on the cover of my cookbook."
In keeping with tradition, the first thing Dewey taught her youngest daughter, Mary Elizabeth, was how to make a cherry pie.
She also credits her mother, Betty Dombrowski, and her aunt, Dorothy Szymanski, for instructing her on how to make traditional Polish dishes and how to become a great cook. Her aunt, grandmother and mother would make the Polish sausage and the golabki and the pierogi. Her mother taught her how to make red velvet cake and she would always make it for her on her birthday.
"I'm always cooking and baking constantly," Dewey said. "My kids said to me, 'Mom, you need to start putting down the family recipes because if something happens to you we won't know where they are.' Then of course the neighbors would have a garden and they would bring stuff over and I would bake for them. Then I would bake for friends. They would say, 'You really need to start a cookbook.'"
She decided back in the spring of this year to finally heed their advice. With the help of the internet, recipes passed down from generations of her family and some cookbook kits, she made her dream a reality.
"I did everything online and it was wonderful," Dewey said with a big smile. "It only took me six weeks to complete the cookbook and I wasn't rushing it. I worked whenever I had free time. I thought I would have 100 recipes. I ended up having 247."
Her husband of 42 years, David, is the "taste tester" for all the pies, cookies and cakes she bakes. His favorite dish that his wife makes is her apple pie.
"He raves about it," Dewey said. "He enjoys it. No complaints."
Her children, Tyler, Tammi and Mary Elizabeth, reminded her to include the recipes that she made for them when they were growing up in their Polish household. She prides herself on how simple the recipes are and that they don't have a lot of ingredients. Some of the recipes she has seen in other cookbooks required too many ingredients that were hard to find - those cookbooks ended up collecting dust.
"I like things you can make by just opening up your cupboard and use and being able to make anything," Dewey explained.
Although the process was mostly worry-free, Dewey still fretted before she saw the final copy.
"When I received the boxes and I was scared to open them, thinking, 'Oh my gosh, is it going to be OK? Did I make any mistakes?'" she said. "My friend said to me, 'No matter what kind of book you pick up, there is always some kind of mistake in it.'"
Dewey buys 50 to 75 pounds of flour at a time from Sam's Club depending on how much she is going to bake. She always get bread flour cause she likes better than regular flour.
"It's a little bit finer, it's between cake flour and regular flour," she advised.
She gets her molasses and sprinkles, and parchment paper all online because it's so much cheaper than buying it at a store. Every time she makes something, she changes it a little bit. She makes cookie baskets for friends for Christmas time and during the year. When M & R has their Christmas open house, she makes cookies trays for that. She makes cookies for her church, the Family Church on Lakeview Avenue in Fredonia.
She always encourages her family to show off their cooking skills. Her daughter-in-law Ashley Dewey entered her lemon loaf into the county fair and won first prize. The recipe can be found in the cookbook, aptly called Ashley's Lemon Loaf. Her daughter Mary Elizabeth won first prize with her carrot cake. Her granddaughter Brianna won first prize at the county fair for her chocolate chip cookies, found in the desserts section of the cookbook titled Brianna's Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Dewey had been entering recipes in the OBSERVER Reader Recipe Contest for 15 years. She took first place in the dessert category last year for her Coffee Cheesecake with White Chocolate Raspberry Mousse with an Oreo crust, and her Best Ever Sticky Ribs took second place in the main dish category.
Dewey had her book signing for her cookbook in October at M& R Greenhouse in Sheridan. The cookbook is available for purchase at M & R Greenhouse and Florist Shop in Sheridan, Tuscany in Fredonia, and The Studio in Dunkirk.
In her spare time, she loves teaching her grandchildren how to cook and everything they cook is from scratch. Caty, John, Dora, Wyatt, Alexis and Brianna are credited for helping be her taste testers, students and helpers.
She taught her oldest granddaughter Caty to make cinnamon rolls. During the process of baking five batches for the big family, Caty was getting impatient and asked, "When is this going to be done?" Dewey replied, "You can't rush perfection." She said her granddaugher's cinnamon rolls turned out even better than hers.
"I was so proud of her," Dewey said. "Now for Easter and Christmas she is in charge of making them and she does a great job."
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