My husband, Frank Berta, grew up in a small town in Illinois. He was the only son in a family of five children. They didn’t have much, but they always had enough food to eat so most of his childhood memories are fond ones. Food was always central to family gatherings, whether a fish fry at his grandmother’s on Friday nights, or Saturday chicken dinners from the VFW tavern. When he was 10 he received a little red diary for Christmas. His first entry was about dinner _ “today we had chicken and it was delicious.”

Frank taped this picture in his diary.

Frank’s mother is a phenomenal cook, and so are his sisters, and his first wife, and his daughter. His son is no slouch in the kitchen either. But Frank did not become serious about cooking until he married me, Dina _ a career journalist and so-so cook. (Hamburger Helper, anyone?) I grew up in Aurora, Colo. I was also raised in a family of five kids, but my mother hated cooking and still does.

A mother’s daughter

Frank and I divided household chores pretty evenly. I’ll gladly do dishes and clean up the kitchen if I don’t have to do grocery shopping or cook. Frank always loved to shop for food and try recipes. A heavenly match!

A couple of years after we married, we volunteered to help prepare the weekly community meal for our church. We eventually became directors of the culinary arts ministry, preparing meals, catering small conferences, overseeing volunteers, ordering food and equipment. Frank and his first wife also once ran a gourmet coffee cart at a local hospital.  With his experience and my knowledge about the restaurant business as  writer for an industry trade journal, we thought we knew enough to know what we were doing.

We gave it our  all over the course of nearly three years. We did the best we could and earned positive media reviews and a 4 1/2 star out of 5 star rating on Yelp.com.


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