More MS news articles for Nov 2001

Perinton woman cooks up a legacy

Her family history inspired Dianna Petrella to deal with affliction tastefully

November 08, 2001
Benjamin Wachs/Messenger Post Staff

People react differently to adversity. Some go into denial. Others make drastic life changes. Dianna Petrella wrote a cook book.

When she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1988, Petrella thought of two people - her father and her aunt Katherine.

"When I was growing up, my father owned a music store in Cortland, N.Y. and after he died his musician customers get together every year, and they have a musical fund-raiser in my father's memory," Petrella said. "It's really neat that his old customers come up - they're in their 50s - and they get up there and tell stories about my dad. My father was such a caring, giving, person. I tell people my father didn't leave us with a ton of money, but he left a legacy money can't buy."

Coming down with MS got Petrella thinking about her legacy and about the meals served by her aunt, her mother and her grandmother during her childhood. The memories of special meals made Petrella sure what she wanted her legacy to be.

"To me, cooking is a way of showing people how much I care for them. It's just a part of me. . . to be able to cook for people and be able to do that for people, to me it's spiritual healing." Petrella said.

Intended first and foremost as a collection of family recipes to pass down to her two children, Elyse, 14, and Anthony, 9, Petrella's cook book is also a way of giving to her Perinton community.

But, it wasn't just a question of copying some recipes from an old box.

"They didn't say 'put a cup of this in and a cup of that in.' They didn't measure anything," Petrella said. "The dishes in my cook book are dishes that I created because I remembered how they used to be. I've been working on some of these recipes for 18 years."

Petrella went through pounds of sugar and butter to test pastries. Hours, days, and weeks went into experimenting with sauces, gnocchis, and pepperoni. She would cook and then interview family members, asking them "Do you remember how this tasted? Is this it?"

Some recipes, such as egg soup and bread baked by Aunt Katherine, she has never been able to recreate perfectly.

But, on the other hand, "I have my aunt's sphagetti sauce down to a tee," Petrella said, citing that as her biggest success.

Her book came out in October and more than 200 people came to a signing at Cerami's Italian Villa.

That, to Petrella, suggests that she's doing something right. "I felt like a princess. I have a wealth of friends that Donald Trump can't afford."

Perhaps most importantly, however, Petrella said that her children understand.

"They see the message. Your life is what you make it. I can stay home and sit in my wheelchair all day in the corner, but, I choose not to do that. I tell my children, what matters isn't how long you're here, it is what you do while you're here. My dad died at 67, that's when I learned that lesson. Seeing how people talk about my father still, I want to pick up where my dad left off. To teach my children what I was taught."

Published by Next Step Magazine, profits from the sale of Petrella's book "Come and Mangia" go to the Hillside Children's Center and the Fairport Central School District. It is available at Martusciello Bakery on Lyle Avenue in Gates; at Village Fair in East Rochester; at Bel-Vedere in East Rochester; Lumbardi's in Fairport; Cerami's Italian Villa in Winton Place Plaza; Park Leigh on Park Avenue; Geneva on the Lake in Geneva NY (that's the only out of town location); Village Hair Design in Fairport; Fine Line Jewelery in Perinton Hills; Monroe Surgical on Monroe Avenie; Pure Penache in Fairport.

©Perinton - Fairport Post 2001