Dad’s cookbooks make up new library at Farmer’s Pantry store

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) — Many times, Nancy Fiorito tried to enforce the cookbook rule. If her husband, Matthew, brought home a cookbook, he would have to get rid of one already in the house.

Like, you know, maybe he could lose one of the grilling ones. He always did it his own way anyway, without a recipe or any kind of a plan, and never marinated one of the dozen kinds of meat he loved to serve in the same meal the same way twice. Plus he had hundreds of grilling cookbooks. Honestly how many original grilling cookbooks could there be?

And yet, Matthew would always answer that there could be something in one of the grilling cookbooks, or any cookbook, really, he hadn’t tried. And that, more than anything else, was usually the reason their daughter, Dania, got a phone call every few months asking her to assemble another bookshelf.

Well, it was wonderful, because those thousands of cookbooks — yes, seriously — represented most of what they loved about him. Matthew loved the written word, and he loved people and he loved food. And now Nancy and Dania hope others get a taste of that love and passion and insanity when they check out a piece of his collection, reported The Tribune.

The Farmer’s Pantry, 931 Sixteenth St. in downtown Greeley, has a portion of those books available now for checkout: a cookbook library made up solely of Matthew’s extensive collection. Glen Cook (yes, that’s really his name) and Todd Doleshall, the co-owners, agreed to carry the collection after a couple days’ discussion because it fits in with the mission of the store.

“We started it in part because we wanted to offer some healthier food options in this part of town,” Cook said. “One of the challenges of that, we found, is people don’t know how to cook. This is a great way to make that accessible.”

Dania moved to Greeley in 2013 to go to the University of Northern Colorado, and she brought Nancy out here with her. The two almost gave up the collection the first time that year, but they backed out at the last second. They just weren’t ready.

“It was dumb, but something in my body just didn’t like it,” Dania said. “Heartstrings are funny.”

Heartstrings are funny, but that was her father in those 50 boxes of cookbooks. Matthew was a sportswriter and editor for many newspapers, including the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the Detroit Free Press, and he loved to host dinner parties. Dania said they didn’t have a Barbie party for her birthday when she was a little girl. They had 30 people over, including the parents of her friends and their siblings. He was always the one at the head of the table, and he always had a story to tell, which embarrassed Dania at first until she found herself looking forward to it the way the guests did. He was a big man, and a bigger teddy bear, unless you did something that went against his stalwart principles or you screwed up the paper somehow, and then he might hold you over an elevator shaft and threaten to drop you.

He had that stereotypical Italian’s love for food, and that meant Dania grew up eating all kinds of international dishes and buffets of meats and recipes Nancy and Matthew prepared together. Even when she was little, Dania never ate chicken nuggets, pizza or frozen dinners unless she was hanging out with her friends.

It also meant she and her brother, Jason, amazed their college friends because they both knew how to set a dinner table. They knew the names of all the forks and what they were for and where they went. They’d done it since they were 12.

Matthew wasn’t wealthy. He got most of the books from the newspapers that were sent books in the hope they would be reviewed. He also visited many yard sales. But even though the collection probably approached the level of a hoarder, he read every one of them like a novel and used at least one recipe from each one.

This time, once they asked the Farmer’s Pantry to take his collection, they were ready to give it up. It was the time, but it was also the presentation. Cook and Doleshall cataloged them and put his photo as a tribute next to the bookshelves.

Once the customers read a recipe they want to try, they can walk around with Cook, who can offer ingredients and advice. And Matthew will be there looking over his shoulder, overseeing the plans for a big meal, like he always did

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