The Wooden Spoon

Posted: December 4, 2012 in Uncategorized


My sister, Natalie, and I created a book called, The Wooden Spoon. We included family recipes, historic photographs, and stories. These stories were mostly stories of miracles that God performed on behalf of the Phillips-Fontana family. This family is unique in that a brother and a sister from one family married a brother and a sister from another family. Consequently, there are very strong ties between the Italian/Norwegian families. We decided that these recipes and stories were too good to keep to ourselves, so the book is now available for purchase on Enjoy!

The Wooden Spoon

The key to so many good recipes is in the sauce. Each family has its own special recipe, seasoned to fit the unique flavor of the family. Our family’s particular marinara sauce takes eight hours to cook. Every person has an opinion on how it should taste. There is the right way that has been handed down for generations, and then there is the way that Aunt Lori makes it when Grandma’s not around (wink, wink). One thing is for certain: in this family, no one is allowed to use anything but a stainless steel pot to cook and a wooden spoon to taste. These things are absolutely non-negotiable. Around the dinner table at our family, you’d typically hear arguments about the correct way to pronounce a particular Italian word, how the food turned out, and what we’d be eating for our next meal. Grandpa Fontana would be in his chair playing the mandolin, making a mouse out of his handkerchief to jump for the kids, yapping like an obnoxious little dog to scare the cousins, or telling you one of his famous “did you hear the one about the..” jokes. And if you’re not used to loud, get used to it or don’t bother talking!

Great-Grandma Fontana stands proud at 4 feet 7 inches, she is also affectionately known as Tiny Nonna. She makes her sauce and spaghetti every Saturday night. Friends and family come hungry for delicious food and a hefty helping of love. This year she will have lived a full century. Many faces from around her table have gone on before her: the love of her life Grandpa Fontana, intelligent quadriplegic son Matt, his beautiful and talented daughter Suzette, and her daughter Matilda’s husband Al. All the memories of their voices we all hold dear. Tiny Nonna, you make us who we are, you live to remind us of the love that binds us, the family ties that won’t let go.

Love at First Sight: Inez and Pasquale Fontana

Pasquale (or Pete, or Pat as he was sometimes called) was a young man who had a distaste for rules and a voracious appetite for beautiful clothing and beautiful women. He had a date the night he met his bride, but the date was not with her. His friend had convinced him to give up his date for the night in order to come play the mandolin at a party he was having. He convinced Pat to come because of all the beautiful women that would be there. At this party he spotted a somewhat shy sweet little girl with big brown eyes. As their eyes met, she later confesses, she knew that he was the one she would marry. Only seventeen at the time, she was not sure she would be allowed to go on a date with him. Things progressed nicely, even though she had to take her two younger sisters on almost all her dates and she could only see him once a week. When he proposed, everyone was excited. Pat had especially grown attached to Inez’s mother, Matilda.

They were excited until one day. A mysterious man pulled up next to Inez as she was walking along the street. Another man pulled her into the dark car for a little “chat.” Inez was frightened and began to cry. The man assured her that he meant her no harm. But then he began to tell her of the many young women that her fiancĂ© had proposed to. One of them had been the man’s daughter. He warned her sternly to go straight home and tell her parents to have this man checked out, that he had suspicions that Pat must have had a wife and children that he was hiding somewhere. Inez went straight home and the family had his background checked and then had a serious talk with Pat. Thankfully, he was just a big talker and had never intended to marry any of the women to whom he professed his love. Inez was the one woman who always had his heart. But this scare let him know that if he did not mean business, he’d better watch his step!

The Gasoline Incident (from the stories of Mother Phillips)

Phil had been fixing his oil burner which he installed in our brick chimney that had an opening into the kitchen. In doing so he had set a tin can, which contained gasoline and some chemical acid, on the floor close to his work. Sharon, our 9 months old baby, was crawling on the floor. I don’t know how it happened but somehow she got ahold of the tin can and drank some of its contents. She became violently ill. I gave her some milk to try to counteract the poison. She became limp and seemingly lifeless. Her face turned blue, especially around her mouth. The other children were very concerned and, as usual when there was a need,we prayed for God to help us. Elsworth was sitting on a stool with his head in his hands rocking to and fro, then he spoke loud and clear, “Mom, the Bible says, ‘If we drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt us.'” I nodded and said, “That’s right.” I laid Sharon on a couch which was in a room close to the kitchen and went upstairs with the other children to their bedrooms and, as a parting goodnight, said, “Be sure to pray for Sharon.” They said they would.

When I came back downstairs I again took Sharon into my arms and she was still limp and blue. As we prayed, she suddenly began to cough and I hurried to the bathroom and out of her came the deadly poisons. Her color changed to normal and she acted as though nothing had ever happened to her. I set her in her high chair and she smiled and waved her arms gleefully. I fed her and she ate her food and was back to her normal self… This was truly a miracle! The next morning she was riding around in the house on her tricycle as if nothing had ever happened.

My prayer is that you would consider the miraculous power of an Almighty God in your life! God bless.


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