Debbie Neft and Lori Rothstein met in kindergarten and became fast friends. After graduating from college and beginning their careers, they began to call home and send e-mails. “They started asking us about recipes,” said Debbie’s mother, Naomi Neft. The questions ran the gamut from general (“What should I make?”) to the specific (“Can I substitute this for that?”) Naomi (above right) and Lori’s mother, Cynthia (above left), soon decided to put together their family recipes for a handy reference for their daughters.
“We went to Kinko’s and had the pages bound into a book,” said Neft. Their daughters loved the book. “We began to think, wouldn’t it be good to ask well-known women, those who had always inspired our daughters, to contribute their recipes to the book,” said Neft. Her first target was Marlo Thomas whose book, Free to Be You and Me, had been so loved by her daughter during her growing-up years. (Thomas eventually contributed a recipe for Chocolate Souffle). Other names were soon added to the list and the two women began a letter campaign to solicit the recipes.
Actresses and politicians with agents and press offices were easy to reach. Others required days and days of research. “We had our share of returned envelopes,” laughed Rothstein. Soon, however, the recipes began to pour in. The first response they received was from Katie Couric, who sent in her recipe for Lemon Loves. “We thought that if someone at her level of celebrity could do this, we would probably get a good response,” said Rothstein.
They did. Senator Elizabeth Dole sent a recipe and congratulated the women on their project. “Cokie Roberts sent us a whole meals-worth of recipes,” Neft said. Those who contributed recipes included First Ladies (Nancy Reagan, Rosalynn Carter, and Laura Bush), authors (Lucinda Franks, Perri Klass, Jane Smiley), designers (Diane Von Furstenberg, Adrienne Vittadini, Josie Natori, Judith Leiber), actresses (Glenn Close, Rosie O’Donnell, Shirley MacLaine, Jane Fonda, see her recipe under Entertaining Around), as well as senators, congresswomen, business women, and educators. More than 80 women sent in recipes.
Surprisingly enough, Neft and Rothstein were still considering this project something they would just pass out to their daughters and their friends. When their girls suggested having the book published, they found an agent, Julie Barer, who sold the book to Ballantine.
Recipes from Neft and Rothstein, as well as tips and information about cooking, round out the choices in the book. The categories include everything from bread and breakfast foods, to soups and salads, to poultry, meat, and seafood, and many different desserts.
The book has been a steady seller, particularly around holidays. “It’s good as a gift,” said Neft, who noted that she often adds a spoon, whisk, or spatula, when she presents it as a hostess gift.
Neither woman had any professional culinary training. “Just cooking for our families all these years,” said Neft. And now their daughters will be able to carry on that tradition.
Recipes for Our Daughters
By Naomi Neft and Cynthia Rothstein
Available online at www.amazon.com
Also available at Keesal & Mathews
1244 Madison Avenue, between 89th and 90th Streets