June 05, 2013
Sue Cicero brings a community together one serving at a time
Sue Cicero stands in the kitchen at the Senior Center in Driggs where she prepares meals for the Seniors of the West Tetons three days a week. Photo by Sarah Schneider
Leaving out the mushrooms in the corner of a casserole for one regular attendee of senior citizen lunches is one way Sue Cicero serves those in the community through her cooking.
“I like taking care of people,” she said as she prepared lunch for the Seniors West of the Tetons Tuesday morning.
She moves quickly through her kitchen in the City Center; mashing potatoes, molding meat loaf and brewing coffee. By 9 a.m., three hours before the seniors arrive, she has a peach cobbler on a ginger cookie crust already in the oven.
But she also made sure to make a gluten free desert for one of her regulars.
Raised in a large Italian family in Los Angeles, Cicero said it was expected that she learned to cook. She doesn’t use recipes, except for the gluten free foods she started learning to make in the past few years.
“I don’t make institutional food. I make my own food,” she said.
During her career she has owned two restaurants in the valley, but putting in 16 hours a day wasn’t what she wanted to do once she had her daughter, Lia, who is now 11. These days, on top of cooking for the seniors three days a week and catering for several other groups and organizations like Meals on Wheels, Cicero cooks for her
family almost every night.
“I’m kind of the town cook,” she said.
And lunch at the Senior Center feels and tastes like a home cooked meal. After a prayer is said, everyone sits down at the table and enjoys each other’s conversation over a hot meal.
As a self-proclaimed health nut who believes nutrition is important for every aspect of life, Cicero cooks fresh, unprocessed food. She recycles and gives scraps to small farmers for compost.
With donations from local farmers, Cicero makes sure there is a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fruit and vegetables in every meal.
But occasionally, she reluctantly makes an all-American meal of meat loaf, mashed potatoes, peas, a roll and desert. While it isn’t entirely healthy, she said she gives the regulars what they like.
The bond she shares with the people she cooks for is apparent as she greets them with a smile and a hug. She said she gets very attached to them and loves the social aspect of her job.
In a kitchen she says many in the valley would love to have, Cicero brings 35 years of experience to the table.
“We have happy, well-fed seniors,” she said. “That’s my goal in life.”