Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

It Happened in the Kitchen

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

It Happened in the Kitchen

Article excerpt

A REPORTER once asked Rose Nader what made her son tick. "What makes the others not tick?" she replied.

In the Nader home, civic spirit was the norm. Her son Ralph is, of course, a household name, the man who took on General Motors and showed that one individual could still make a difference. Ralph's two sisters - Laura and Clair - and his late brother, Shafeek, pursued similar if less-publicized paths.

Lots of ticking occurred in that family, and Mrs. Nader has received many letters over the years asking for her secrets. What did she feed them as children? What did they talk about at dinner? In response, Mrs. Nader has written a book, and it just may surprise those who have a stereotyped view of the man.

Many on the right have portrayed Ralph Nader as leftist and even subversive. But it turns out that he was weaned on the same "traditional family values" that his critics so often espouse. He differed from them only in expecting the world of business to live up to these values too.

"It Happened In the Kitchen," is the title of Mrs. Nader's book (available from Kitchen, Box 19367, Washington DC 20036, $9.) There are recipes for simple Middle Eastern dishes that were the family favorites, from stuffed eggplant to a pistachio pastry called Ma'mool. But what happened in the Nader kitchen was much more than lunch and dinner. "Food is more than sustenance," Mrs. Nader writes. "It is an expression of health, affection, cultural transmission, stimulation, teaching, transmission, and bonding."

The story began in Lebanon, where Mrs. Nader was raised under a sod roof, in a small town. There were eight daughters and four cousins, and many of her memories revolve around the kitchen - the storytelling and aphorisms, the brick oven in which they baked bread. Rose became a schoolteacher before sailing to America with her new husband, Nathra.

They settled in Winsted, Conn., where Mrs. Nader turned the family kitchen into the kind she grew up in. She told stories at lunch time, long sagas that might last for weeks. She engaged the children in conversation about school and life, feeding them with aphorisms as well as hummus: "A person who practices telling the truth is likely to discover more of it. …

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