If you’ve ever baked it, you’ll never forget it. It’s that good.
And if you’ve loved eating it as much as I have, then you’ll want to help the wonderful woman who created it, who is now waging a battle against cancer.
The ultra talented, James Beard-award-winning Gina DePalma, the pastry chef of New York’s acclaimed Babbo, was diagnosed last year with ovarian cancer that had spread throughout her body. After surviving a nine-hour surgery last year that left her hospitalized for a month, as well as the ravages of six rounds of chemotherapy, her cancer is now in remission. But the 42-year-old is now fighting to regain her strength and health. She’s now only able to work part-time at Babbo.
“I alternate from being hopeful, and grateful that we caught this when we did, to being shocked and stunned that it happened to me,” DePalma says. “I get angry, sad, and truly terrified at what lies ahead. Getting cancer is an isolating experience, even if you are surrounded by as much love as I have been.”
She started a non-profit to help publicize her battle, and to help spread the word about this affliction, which claims so many women each year. Her Cowgirl Cure Foundation will be hosting a cocktail reception on May 18 at Jim Lahey’s New York pizza joint, Co., to benefit ovarian cancer research at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Tickets are $250 per person. Contact David Semanoff at email@example.com for more information.
Beginning today, there also will be a benefit auction to raise funds for the medical center’s research. Among the items you can bid on are dinner for four at Babbo, and a dessert party for four at your house with DePalma. The auction will run for 10 days, so be sure to get your bids in now.
Her hope is that screening for ovarian cancer will some day become as routinely incorporated into a woman’s ob/gyn visit as tests for breast cancer are.
“When the chips came down on me, my friends from the food world answered the call,” DePalma says. “They came to my bedside, and have stood by me. Now that I am going public, I know that the food world at large will hear my rallying cry and stand up next to me as I take this on.”
Ironically, it was last year when she was in Italy to research her next cookbook that she started feeling ill. She still hopes to complete that second book by the end of the year. It will delve even deeper into the culture of Italian desserts, and focus on specific regional specialities.
Meantime, enjoy baking her ricotta pound cake, Sicilian pistachio bars, and calcioni pastries, all from her first book, “Dolce Italiano” (W.W. Norton & Co.). If you’re at all worried about the recent pistachio recall, just go here to make sure yours are safe.
And let’s hope DePalma’s story turns from bittersweet to positively sweet.