A family favorite that travels well

Norine Dagliano of Hagerstown has been making Pumpkin Cake for more than 25 years

Norine Dagliano of Hagerstown has been making Pumpkin Cake for more than 25 years

May 23, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

"I don't like to cook the same thing twice," said Norine Dagliano recently in the kitchen of her Hagerstown home.

Dagliano, 52, came to Hagerstown more than 20 years ago from a small town south of Buffalo, N.Y. Her name wasn't Dagliano then. Her marriage had ended, and she and her kids, ages 3, 5 and 7, lived with her sister and husband for about nine months.

A sociology major in college, she always has worked in employment training and got jobs in the field first in Carroll, then Frederick counties in Maryland. As part of her work, she received training to be a professional rsum writer.

Early in the 1990s, Dagliano worked as a volunteer at The Maryland Theatre. She became friends with a couple of other volunteers who introduced her to their son. Keith Dagliano cooked dinner for Norine with a Billie Holiday album playing in the background. Three months later they were married.


Although Norine Dagliano is in the business of writing rsums - she started ekm Inspirations, a career management service, in 1992 - her own would be difficult to write. She wears several hats in the field at her Hagers-town office and three days a week in Pennsylvania.

Norine Dagliano loves to cook. She stores clipped recipes in a couple of binders' plastic pages. She doesn't recall where she got the recipe for the Pumpkin Cake she shared. Making it for more than 25 years, it's a family favorite and it travels well. She mailed one to Las Vegas, Nev., for her daughter's birthday, and it arrived "fresh from the oven" warm.

How often are you in the kitchen? Keith doesn't cook anymore?

He makes spaghetti sauce. But he saw how much I like doing it and that I'm good at it, so he just got out of the way.

So you cook dinner every night?

Before I was gone three nights a week, I would cook every night. Especially when the kids were home. I was always planning. Keith works nights - second shift. "What can I cook that Keith can eat for dinner tomorrow?" So I usually was cooking things to make sure there were always leftovers.

Where did you learn to cook?

I don't know that anybody ever told me. There was a neighbor in East Otto, (N.Y.) who was a school nurse and married to a dairy farmer. She hired me when I was 12 to come and help clean her house, and I did all the cooking for her.

Did she tell you what to cook?

No, I would just look for things. Food was such an important part of my life. And I liked being in the kitchen. I was one of these weird kids; my mother always said that I was old when I was 5. I loved to be cleaning house and cooking.

Did you cook with your mom as a kid?

I don't remember cooking with my mom. My mom was always cooking. My mother was a good cook. My mother worked full time, had seven kids. The youngest one was in the hospital in Buffalo the first three years of her life. So my mother had these children, had this job, had this trip back and forth ...

What did she do?

She was a nurse's aide. And my father, like Keith, worked second shift, so we only saw him on the weekends.

But I remember every meal was meat, potatoes and two vegetables. I can't ever remember her missing fixing us dinner. And I don't know how she did it.

So I know that early, especially when my sister was in the hospital, I kind of assumed the responsibility of taking care of things around the house.

I probably never cooked with her because she wasn't there. I cooked for her a lot and took care of the kids a lot and cleaned for her a lot.

When was the first time you made this sandwich - Keith's Dagwood?

It was probably about 10 years ago.

The cake you've been making longer than that. What about the salad?

I call that a Mediterranean Pasta Salad, and I've been making that since last night.

People will comment about me being a good cook, and I'm not sure why everybody isn't a good cook that likes food. I look at recipes and say, 'OK, that sounds good, I guess I'll make it.' I can only think of one time I made a recipe that tasted awful. And I know there's a lot of awful recipes out there, but I think I just have a knack for picking the right recipes.

Do you follow recipes closely or do you improvise?

I think I follow recipes pretty close, but I'm always trying new recipes, which most people don't do.

There are core ingredients that I have to have in my house and that serve as the basis of almost everything: garlic, extra virgin olive oil ... artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, lots of herbs, pine nuts, feta cheese, good balsamic vinegar. I sort of look for those things. When I made that salad last night, it was taking all those things that I like and throwing them all together, and saying 'OK, that tastes pretty good. I better write this one down.'

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