The Times West Virginian

September 21, 2011

Keeping up traditions

By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — The “My Favorite Recipe” food for September is tailgating food. Send in your favorite homemade recipes to Debbie Wilson at

When the Angottis head up the interstate and arrive at Duvall-Rosier Field, they’re there to do more than watch their son, Mike Lopez, coach the Fairmont State Fighting Falcons.

They’re there to share time, memories and food with family and friends.

“We’re there at all the home games and some of the away games, if they’re fairly close,” Cindy Angotti said, “And we bring food to them as well.”

There are your typical tailgate goodies: sweets, chips, drinks. But if you’re lucky, she’ll bake a cake and whip up some of her famous steak or sausage-and-pepper hoagies and maybe even some of that buffalo wing dip “that everybody likes,” she said.

“If it’s an early game, we’ll bring a breakfast casserole of eggs, cheese, potatoes and sausage, with peppers and sauce on the side.”

She knows she can’t bring the entire table to snack on.

“You try to have one big thing and then stuff to pick at, appetizers, that kind of thing,” she said.

“My husband, once in a while, will say he just wants to go to the concession stand and get a hot dog,” she said with a laugh.

No matter what she makes, she doesn’t want to face this hungry crowd of children, cousins, friends with empty hands.

“People are counting on the food,” she said. “So, no, I would not go without food. I don’t want to disappoint the kids. And I always save something for Mike and my nephew Joe to have after the game. It’s just a good time. I enjoy it.”

Obviously, she enjoys cooking. And in a way, her kitchen is kind of a culinary United Nations ... Spanish, from her mother, Maria Fernandez; Hungarian from her father, Rudy Torjak; and Greek and Italian from relatives.

“I like to cook all the ethnic dishes ... meatballs and sauce, fettucini, Spanish rice with chicken, cabbage rolls.

“I enjoy keeping up the traditions. If you don’t practice them, you lose them. So I make things to pass on to my kids.”

She grew up in a neighborhood of Spanish and Italian families. Her father grew up among Hungarians and Greeks.

“Now, I don’t do any Greek dishes, but we grew up with that food as well,” she said.

The best thing about all this was neighbor teaching neighbor foods from their homelands, she said.

“They learned from the real McCoys. My grandmother baked bread every Friday and have me take it to the neighbors. That was her contribution to the community. I was fortunate enough to spend time with her as a kid.”

Toss in some Italian relatives up the road in Fairmont, and her culinary education was complete.

“It was neat. They intermarried, so all those cultures came together. It was a little bit of everything.”

She has five children, John and Mike Lopez, Gina Calvert, Francis Angotti and Angelina Angotti, who is a junior at WVU.

“Family traditions are very important. As the kids got older, it became more important to them. They’ve expressed an interest in learning how to do certain dishes.

“It’s part of who you are. There are a lot of good memoriess. Traditions keep families together.”

She learned to cook from an extended family of parents, grandparents and aunts, she said.

“They had such patience in the kitchen. Whatever they were making, they let me make a smaller version. As a kid, I loved doing that.”

“I like all the traditional dishes, but I’m not big with the meatballs and lasagnas and all that. I love Spanish rice with chicken. I make it with Spanish sausage, when I can get it. It’s rare to find anymore. People who make it are becoming very few. There’s an art to it.

“And when I eat cabbage rolls, it takes me back to a different time. That’s what makes dishes so good. Traditional dishes have something special.”

She especially loves watching Mike and his team on the field.

“He works so hard. I want him to have a good season, and for everybody to be happy and enjoy the day.

“And when the Falcons win, it’s just icing on the cake.”

The contest for September is tailgating food. To be featured on the “My Favorite Recipe” page, contact Debbie Wilson at 304-367-2549 or at

Email Debra Minor Wilson at