Showing love through food

by Paige Turner

For Alice DeSalvo Riedmueller of Center Ridge, preparing meals is more than just a family tradition. It is an outward manifestation of her Italian heritage, southern lifestyle and Christian outlook.

Conway County cook Alice DeSalvo Riedmueller.

“For me, cooking is a way of expressing the love you have for people,” Riedmueller said. “The best way for me to show love to my family is to cook for them. I guess if I had a talent, cooking is what it’d be.”

Riedmueller traces her love for cooking back to her childhood — learning to fry an egg at age 7 in her mother’s kitchen. From those humble beginnings to creating wedding cakes, catering family-friend gatherings and planning holiday feasts, Riedmueller can do it all.

“My mother was a wonderful cook and I learned a lot from her,” Riedmueller said. “It seems to be an interest that runs in our Italian blood.”

Reidmueller began making cakes for her children’s birthdays. The love Reidmueller had for creating cakes soon blossomed into a genuine talent. As her children grew older, the birthday cake transitioned into grandiose wedding cakes that look as good as they taste. Riedmueller said she has been lucky enough to do all three of her daughters’ wedding cakes.

Cooking is a way of life for Riedmueller, and she tries to incorporate it into all areas of her daily activities. Riedmueller is a regular chef for the St. Joseph Catholic Church Annual Spaghetti Spring Supper in the Catholic Point community of Center Ridge and says she gets joy out of preparing meals for people.

“I absolutely love to make homemade spaghetti and bread,” Riedmueller said. “I love to plan a meal. It gives me the opportunity to build a great dinner around a certain event and allows me to be creative.”

Rebecca Simon, Riedmueller’s daughter, says some of her fondest childhood memories were of her mother in the kitchen.

“My mother taught me how to make homemade rolls, and some of my earliest memories were spending time with her in the kitchen as she cooked a delicious meal.” Simon said. “She would even set up a toy drawer in the kitchen so we could stay close to her while she cooked.”

The love for food that Riedmueller has is shared with her family every Sunday. The entire family meets at her home after church service to sit down, converse and enjoy a good meal. Riedmueller keeps the meals traditional and hopes the weekly dinner continues even after she can no longer be the chef.

“It was a tradition that I grew up with,” Reidmueller said. “My little family of five kids and their children and the in-laws and everyone else gather at my house to spend time with one another. It’s fun and everyone gets to catch up on what’s going on in everyone’s lives, and we enjoy each other’s company. It warms my heart to be a part of it.”

Simon says she greatly admires her mother’s outlook on life through food, and she hopes as time passes she can acquire the family talent.

“I hope to one day be as good of a cook as my mother is, and she’s told me that takes time,” Simon said. “My mother shows her love for someone through food, and that is a philosophy that my mother, her sisters and her late mother lived by. I want to do the same.”

Crescent Rolls*

1 tbsp. yeast
1/4 cup warm water
4 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup warm milk
Melted butter or margarine

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand 5 minutes. Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in 3/4 cup butter with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine eggs, milk and yeast mixture; add to the flour mixture, stirring well (dough will be sticky). Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Punch dough down and divide in half. Roll each half into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface; cut each circle into 12 wedges. Roll up each wedge tightly, beginning at a wide end. Seal points and place rolls, point side down, on greased baking sheets. Curve rolls into crescent shape. Brush with melted butter. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.

Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Change racks and bake an additional 10 minutes. Brush with melted butter after taking out of oven and cover with a dish towel.

Yields 2 dozen.

*These are very good when you roll them up with half of a Petit Jean link in them. My kids love these rolls. I have made these rolls for a variety of different events.