Gloria Revilla Doyle wrote this book for her children as they
graduated from college and were ready to assume their adult
lives, to give them the nuts and bolts of cooking and food
preparation. They needed a guidepost to help direct them.
Her mother, Antonia Ramos Revilla, was the great cook of
the family. She inspired then all.
Food has always had the highest importance in her family’s
life. Preparation and eating food was the daily ceremony around
which they gathered. They came together to eat and to connect
with one another. They shared an appreciation of the tasty
meal; they shared their adventures and misadventures. It was
an occasion they honored every single day. Not cooking a meal
never occurred to her. Carry out food was not an option.
For Gloria, high-quality food and coming together is as important
as anything that goes on in the world. It is the stuff of
This edition of my cookbook is dedicated to my mother, Antonia
Ramos Revilla. The whole world knew her as Toni. She is known
as Dama to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The
daughter of Spanish immigrants, Emilio and Juliana Ramos,
she was born in 1916 near Vacaville, California. They lived
within a tightly held small Spanish community, highly disciplined
and hard working. The influences of her early life were Spanish
with food at the center. Special days were honored with family
My mother was the product of two worlds, the Spanish colony
where she was born and raised, and the American sensibilities
in the culture of California. My grandparents’ vision
of educating their children led her and her brother to the
University of California at Berkeley from which they both
graduated. There she met my father, Roberto Revilla, a student
from Chihuahua, Mexico who graduated with a degree in electrical
engineering in 1938. They married in 1939 and moved to Chihuahua
where I was born. After two years they returned to California.
Daddy became a successful businessman, owner of a construction
company, Valley Builders, and entered into a life typifying
the American dream. Blessed with a happy marriage and good
fortune, Daddy and Mother were well suited. Sharing a sunny
ebullience, they supported one another and reinforced each
other’s strengths. Possessing enormous charisma, they
were wonderful to be around.
My mother is a great and grand figure, blessed with beauty,
style, and myriad talents. She could do anything with mastery.
She was a teacher of Spanish. Not only did she teach us, her
children, to converse and read and write in Spanish, but she
taught the children of her friends. She also taught at Fresno
State College, now University. The McClatchy Company, owners
of the Fresno Bee newspaper, sponsored my mother
in two television programs. In the 1950s she taught Spanish
on KMJ TV, channel 24 NBC, Here’s Pepe,
featuring Pepe the Puppet geared especially to children. In
the 1970s she had another program which featured my beautiful
mother presenting the ins and outs of conversational Spanish
* * * * * *
In addition, she was a gifted practitioner of what Martha
Stewart refers to as the domestic arts. She managed beautiful,
well run houses and gardens and was a master chef de cuisine.
Everyone loved eating at her table. She was an ebullient and
gracious hostess, and attracted interesting people from all
walks of life, from places near and far.
My mother and father are my great inspirations. They lived
an elegant and gracious life, traveled widely and were interested
in everything. Music comes to mind. Daddy played the guitar
and sang, along with my mother and my sister and me, Mexican
and Spanish songs. He studied the classical guitar. Great
followers of classical music, my parents enjoyed the symphony
and the opera on a regular basis. I remember many family festivities
with Daddy and other musicians singing and playing the guitar
in the house, as well as being treated to evenings with beautifully
trained classical musicians playing the Spanish guitar. In
later years mother and Daddy had evenings with string quartets.
* * * * *
My parents entertained often and imaginatively, set an elegant
table, served delicious food, and presided over fascinating
conversation. As a young mother I was worried that my table
and food would never measure up to my mother’s. It was
true. It never did, but we went home often and enjoyed my
parent’s bounty and extended family largess. Grandchildren
and sons-in-law adored Toni’s food and gatherings as
* * * * *
In the 1960s when they were in their 50s, my parents built
another house, their third. Some 40 miles to the east in Tivy
Valley, outside of Fresno in the foothills on the road to
Sequoia National Park, they bought 67 acres and planted an
almond orchard. Toward the back of the property was a hilltop
with California oaks overlooking the Sierras in the distance.
There Daddy built a grand adobe house with a Spanish tile
roof. Surrounded by gardens, a patio, and a pool, it was large
enough to accommodate the extended family and guests. For
25 years it was a magnificent gathering place.
We had memorable Thanksgivings and fabulous Christmas celebrations
at Tivy. It was a hub of festivity and served as a magnet
for talented and interesting people who came from far and
near. … Patsy, mother’s special friend, referred
to my mother’s parties as going to Mount Olympus. We
had such good times.
When my children completed college and went out into the
world, I was called to put some of this legacy into writing.
The first edition of this cookbook was printed in 1993 exclusively
for the family. I printed nine copies and had them bound by
a local Florentine bookbinder. It became popular among our
friends, an enormous surprise to me. I was prompted to create
a second edition, with additions, in 1997. We printed 80 books
and have since run out of copies. Beyond all expectation,
we are issuing a third version, slightly revised. I added
certain new recipes and a new introduction. The rest of it
remains pretty much as it was in 1993.
We’ve had years of living dangerously, others of living
with improbability. This year, I want to focus on living practically.
I want to highlight the details, the nuts and bolts, of what
it is to put together the daily aspects of life. Food is a
good place to start.
For a long time, it’s been my intention to write down
recipes to give to my children. Some are family recipes of
long-standing, little treasures from my mother and my grandmother,
some are from my Tía Socorro, and still others are
from me — garnered from friends and sources picked up
along the way in 31 years of married life.
When Jessica and I began work on this project, I thought
I might have 25, possibly 30 recipes important enough to write
down. I did not want to put in everything I had ever cooked
or all the recipes in my big collection. I just wanted to
record the important ones. In several afternoons in October
and November, 1993, we have managed to write down and comment
on 87 different recipes. It has been a shocking revelation,
for I do not think of myself as a cook.
When I think of a cook I think of my mother who relished being
in the kitchen. She is a master cook. She loved food and its
When I think of her, I see her in the kitchen. In contrast,
I never enjoyed being in the kitchen much. However, my mother
told me recently, when we were consulting on the details of
a recipe, that I had always been a discriminating critic of
food. She said that even as a teenager, when I had a friend
to dinner, I requested what she should cook and what she should
not cook for the occasion.
Later, in my early married life when I despaired of ever
becoming a cook, Denis told me, “You’ll become
a good cook because you hate eating bad food.” Maybe
that is what has gotten me from there to here — all
One thing has emerged from this collection. This food is
old-fashioned food. It is not part of the politically-correct,
nutritionally-correct genre of the cuisine of the nineties.
The main dishes consist mostly of well-cooked chicken, beef,
pork and lamb with only a few exceptions. The butter and oil
content is reduced from the way in which these recipes were
prepared 30 or 40 years ago. Apart from the soups, there are
no vegetarian dishes.
In the main, it is good-quality, tasty food. I recall a comment
of Pierre Franey. He wrote that as he got older, he gravitated
more and more toward the traditional food he had grown up
with in provincial France. In his time as a chef and food
writer, he mastered all the cuisines, the old and the new.
Still, his comments are telling. I, too, suffer from the same
nostalgia. Many of these foods are from my growing-up years,
others have been added from my married life. The nutrition
content is very high. This food is still good for us. I believe
if one is dieting, just eat less of it.
We can eat meat once or twice a week instead of every night.
Soup, pasta dishes and fish can be featured. There are lots
of ways to reduce fat or caloric intake without throwing away
these wonderful dishes.
Another emphasis crops up as I ponder this. Food has always
had the highest importance in our family’s life. The
preparation and eating of food was the daily ceremony around
which we gathered. We came together to eat, to interact, and
to connect with one another. We shared an appreciation of
the tasty meal; we shared our adventures and misadventures.
It was an occasion we honored every single day. Not cooking
or sharing a meal together never occurred to us. The idea
of carry-out food was unimaginable. For me, high-quality food
and coming together is as important as anything that goes
on in the world. It is the stuff of life.