It took me years to realize that there is no fairy tale life. It sometimes seems that way, looking at someone else's life. But everyone has something to cope with on a personal level.

Many years ago, I was working on a benefit for the San Francisco Opera, and the guest star was Beverly Sills, one of the great operatic voices of the time. She was a beautiful and gracious lady and assisting her was a delight. We were doing (what else) a cooking demonstration as a fundraiser, so she was preparing some favorites she made for her beloved daughter, Muffie. As we were chopping and chatting about our families, she mentioned that her daughter had been born completely deaf.

My eyes filled with tears realizing that her daughter had never heard her mother’s world-famous, extraordinary voice. Always a good crier (the old Kodak commercials had me in five seconds), Beverly stopped chopping to comfort me. I learned a lot from her — acceptance of what is and courage to deal with it. I always have believed that cooking for someone can be an act of love. It was certainly love that inspired some of the Sills’ family favorites.

Berry Pudding Cake

  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 cups raspberries
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In 9x13-inch baking dish mix blueberries and raspberries with 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Spread level.

In a bowl, whisk eggs, olive oil, orange peel, vanilla and remaining 1 cup granulated sugar. Then stir in flour, baking powder and salt until just combined. Pour batter evenly over berry mixture and gently spread to cover berries.

Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes until the top springs back slightly when gently pressed in the middle. Let cool at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving.

Sweet Corn and Onion Salad

You can make this salad up to one day ahead. Sprinkle with chopped chives and very thin slivers of lemon peel for garnish, if desired.

  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

In 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium high heat, stir chopped onion in oil until lightly browned, three to five minutes.

Add corn and broth, stir until liquid is evaporated, about eight to 10 minutes. Pour into a bowl and add lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve warm or cool.

Petite Peas with Greens

  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups frozen petite peas, thawed
  • 2 cups finely slivered romaine lettuce leaves
  • Salt and pepper

In a small bowl, mix sour cream, mayonnaise and vinegar. In another bowl mix peas and lettuce. Stir dressing into vegetables, add salt and pepper to taste.