, Salem, MA

Local News

October 23, 2013

Dinner with Doris

Peabody grandmother cooks on national TV


“I know. But there is a lot of salt.” she said.

Some things were cooked ahead. “This is the make-believe part,” she told Rocca.

Brown’s affinity for food is flavored by growing up in a Peabody with ethnic treats on every corner. Her parents brought the foods of the Portuguese Azores. When she visited neighbors, there were Polish, Greek and Italian dishes.

“I can cook every nationality,” Brown says.

In a different era, she might have been a chef. But Brown graduated during World War II.

“I became Rosie the Riveter,” she says. She performed a careful, life-and-death job, attaching wires to tiny lights meant for fighter planes. “I wanted to go to the beach, but I had to work.”

Postwar, she attended Bryant and Stratton business school and became an accountant.

“I worked as a bookkeeper,” she says.

That included a stint at Smidt Leather and work at an elegant Salem dress shop, where she annoyed management by taking photos of dresses and going home to make near-perfect copies for herself. “When you’ve got no money, you’ve got to be good at everything. Cooking. Sewing,” she says.

She married and had three children, including one adoption and two whose appearance after 30 was a happy surprise.

“I didn’t even know I was pregnant,” she says.

A broken marriage left her on her own, which provided daughter Breen with material for her book, “Growing Up with Doris and Still Alive to Tell the Tale.” It tells of mom “single-handedly raising her three children and feeding them on a shoestring budget.”

(Both the book and cookbook are available at with some profits going to the Danvers Food Pantry.)

Food led the way to Brown’s second marriage. Her future husband came for a night on the town and got delayed.

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