TOME — A trip and fall in early 2022, resulting in a broken wrist, forced a local artist to slow down and look for something she could create one-handed.
When local potter Jan Pacifico tripped and broke her right wrist, she couldn’t throw pots, cook or even comfortably hold a book and read.
“When you’re used to being very active, it’s so hard,” Pacifico said. “Plus, I’d broken (the wrist of) my dominant hand, so I thought this would be a good time to work on my book.”
A book about her family and its history — strictly for her family — was a project Pacifico had been ruminating on for a while. So she hauled out her laptop and started typing out family recipes, with her left hand.
The result is a 200-plus page, large format book that lovingly intertwines the story of family and food. The recipes in “Sunday Sauce: The Story of a Family and its Food” come from Pacifico’s family — grandmother, mother, father, children and in-laws — and have been collected throughout her life.
“The Sunday Sauce is a family recipe. Most of these are family recipes and there are ones I’ve gotten when I lived in Mexico, when I was in college, from the folks with the Valencia Community Garden,” she said.
From cheesecake to salsa to the eponymous Sunday Sauce to her husband’s infamous Boiled Dinner, the recipes all have a story and are intertwined with her family, friends and life experiences, including her recent 80th birthday.
“When I wrote it, I thought I was writing it for my family and didn’t think of the general public, but people ended up being really interested in it. I thought, ‘Really? I mean it’s my family. Why would anybody else be interested in it?” Pacifico says with a chuckle. “But people kept telling me this is so universal even though it’s specific to your family.”
The recipes in the book vary from a labor-intensive and hearty Beef Wellington, to a simple but melt-in-your-mouth rotisserie chicken to the ultra no-fuss Boiled Dinner, the second meal Pacifico’s husband, George Ridgeway, ever made for her.
“… I’ll give you the recipe exactly as he told it to me,” she writes. “You take ham, some cabbage, some potatoes and boil the **** out of them. When it’s done, you slice the ham and slather butter over everything.”
Looking back, Pacifico remembers playing with dough in her grandmother’s kitchen and wonders if that’s what made her interested in playing with clay.
“Cooking and the presentation of (it), they just go together,” she said. “People who are interested in cooking, they’re usually interested in creative things.”
As Pacifico began her creative journey in pottery, she writes in the introduction that it was no surprise she gravitated towards pottery that was primarily used in the kitchen. Best known for her earthy, rustic functional stoneware, Pacifico recounts her first attempt to get her name out there.
Pacifico made a trek to Santa Fe and the famous Canyon Road galleries looking for a location interested in carrying her work. She found a shop that had brightly-colored earthen-ware and asked the shopkeeper if she would be interested in carrying a new ceramic artist.
When she disclosed she made functional stoneware, the response was rather unexpected.
“It was so funny. Her voice was just so pathetically stereotypical. ‘Functional stoneware — how borrrrring!’”
The Canyon Road reject laughs heartily at the memory, no worse the wear for the experience.
Whether it’s cobbler for a lazy day, antipasto or the Sunday Sauce, Pacifico’s book has a something for all tastes and abilities.
With 300 books printed and about half gone, they’re going quicker than slices of Nana’s Chocolate Cake.
“It’s just so surprising to me because, like I said, it’s just a story about my family.”
Jan Pacifico will hold a book signing for her new book, “Sunday Sauce: The Story of a Family and its Food,” and a show of her new clay works from 2-4 p.m., Sunday, July 30, at Tomé Art Gallery, 2930 N.M. 47, Tomé.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.