Raised in NY, schooled in Rome, living in Tacoma? Yes, her mother and father were appalled when she left their home in posh Westchester to live in a trailer in Arizona. But when you’re open to life, stuff comes ‘atcha and Francine has a catcher’s mitt.
Back in NY however, it wasn’t all champagne and chocolate. Wealth wasn’t part of the package. Immigrant Italian grandparents raised her mom to be frugal and thrifty and … cheap. Mom’s parents had lived through the poverty, Ellis Island and finally a new life in the US and had managed to run a successful corner grocery business in the Bronx throughout the Great Depression. Still, they came out of it with no bankruptcy and solvency at the end of the road. Grandpa was a butcher, Grandma was the boss and Sundays were spent at their house for a big meal and a lot of stories.
Home arts aren’t put aside in frugal homes. Francine learned to darn socks, make her own clothes, and use it till it was worn — then turn it into something else. Food came fresh out of the backyard or grandpa’s big freezer. With a butcherblock and a meatlocker in the basement frozen large chunks of cheaper cuts were just something you knew how to create meals from and it was GOOD. Fruit trees, flowers, herbs, vegetables etc weren’t just raised to be pretty, they were there to keep you whole food healthy. The side benefit of course was that you saved for the lean times.
Good times came in the fall for the harvest. Francine’s family canned and made wine. Pickles, tomatoes, sauces, jams, jellies, were stored in the basement’s attached root cellar next to the Boy Scout gear. The musty earthy smell of basements always reminds her of being sent to the root cellar for another jar of home-canned tomatoes to make the sugo (sauce). Seeds were saved for next year, especially the basil and tomato seeds!
Art was fostered in her home and at 16 Francine received her own darkroom. Experimental photography became a passion. She was seen wandering Ferncliff Cemetery with a camera and friends dressed in costumes. Why not? Her passion for photography and a Regents scholarship led her to explore visual art abroad in Rome.
Westward HO! At 21, Francine left NY and found her way to Arizona and Nevada desert where she attempted a garden in the desert. Thankfully, the dogs dug it up before she had a chance to see the fruits of her labors die in the desert heat. In 1983, she and her husband moved north to Washington state to raise a family. As an at home mom, the lessons of her younger years gave her a leg up on keeping a solid household based on common sense. Learning to garden all over again with the NorthWet (spelling deliberate) climate was a challenge. Why wouldn’t the tomatoes grow like her dad’s did? What was wrong with the peppers? Why were the eggplant so wimpy? Problems to solve, lessons to learn, challenges she takes on with both sleeves rolled up (though often that’s just to make some bread).
Now, she homesteads on a city lot in Tacoma, surrounded by rental homes and falling down houses. But the Urban Renaissance is happening and she is right smack in the middle instigating change.
Jason is the product of two Carolina blue collar baby boomers from a small farm town where tobacco and soybeans are king. The writing was on the wall as early as age three when he decided that he’d be involved in the kitchen by emptying the pantry to play restaurant and grocery store. Ever watching, asking questions, and participating, he’s had his share of picking and shelling beans, canning tomatoes, artichokes, peppers, shucking corn and growing squash plants you could play inside of. Typical farm life, minus the animals. Fast forward many years to college where he was the star of the show and the apartment was packed with people who’d heard and came to get a home cooked meal like mom made.
Now, he resides in the land of Forrest Gump–the sea islands of South Carolina where professionally he is a science specialist for the local K-12 system and consultant with the International Baccalaureate organization, spreading the spark of knowledge and internationally-minded global citizenship to anyone who has the (mis) fortune of crossing his path.