As a longtime Produce Pete fan, I was thrilled to learn about They Call Me Produce Pete. Straightforward and easy to read, this recently released book strikes the perfect balance of honest recollections of a humble beginning and humorous tales about Produce Pete’s adventures both on and off camera. Written with New Jersey author Susan Bloom, They Call Me Produce Pete takes readers back to a simpler — though not easier — time.
The book follows Pete Napolitano’s journey from being a young fruit peddler to his experiences in the business world. And of course, the book continues into the last 30 years, covering Pete’s time as a TV personality.
As I read, I enjoyed learning many of the lessons that shaped Pete’s career. I also got a true sense of his lifetime of hard work in his family’s business, heartwarming pictures his family, and a collection of homestyle recipes showcasing seasonal produce.
Chatting with the Authors
As I prepared for my chat with Pete Napolitano and Susan Bloom, I was eager to learn how the two met and began writing together. Susan and Pete met over a decade ago at a harvest fair in Morris County, where Pete was doing a fall produce demonstration.
Susan thought he would be a great person to make contact with and to call upon for occasional comments and facts on produce that she could use in her features. They ended up working together on a monthly column for the Asbury Park Press and other Gannett papers for nine years. And they currently collaborate on articles featured in New Jersey Monthly. Susan clearly had the right idea.
When I asked what prompted them to write this book now, Susan relayed that as Pete approached his 75th birthday, they knew it was time to get his stories down on paper.
One of my favorite sentiments the authors shared with me is a little joke they developed between themselves. Pete says, “Susan writes the way I talk.”
To that, Susan replies, “Pete talks the way I write!” Their easy banter makes reading the book feel like Pete is right there in your kitchen, sharing his life story with you as you cook.
Throughout our conversation, Pete happily elaborated on many of the stories he included in the book. We got to talking about what he considers the most underrated vegetable. His answer? “Most of the greens,” explaining that not many people know how to cook them properly.
He noted that while greens are incredibly nutritious, they’re not always so exciting to look at. And when it comes to eating, he said, “People eat with their eyes first.”
More than a memoir, They Call Me Produce Pete is an in-depth recollection of a time gone by. A local history that many who grew up during this era in the Garden State can relate to. Most importantly, it is Pete’s own legacy that can be held and enjoyed by the Napolitano family — and all of us — for generations to come.
Looking for More?
Produce Pete and Susan Bloom are planning a book tour of local booksellers, farms, and produce stands throughout New Jersey. Keep an eye on Produce Pete’s website and social media for dates and locations.
Autographed and personalized copies of the book can also be purchased on the Produce Pete website.
They Call Me Produce Pete includes some of Pete’s favorite family recipes. With spring on the horizon, Bette’s Baked Crusty-Crumb Asparagus sounded like a great option for me to try. I prepared this recipe as a side dish for oven-roasted salmon. My husband and I agree that it would be a great addition to a spring dinner
Bette’s Baked Crusty-Crumb Asparagus
A difficult vegetable to harvest, you can enjoy asparagus many ways. Try it steamed, eat it raw with a little dip, or prepare it using this family-favorite recipe from Pete.
- 18 to 24 spears asparagus
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
- Pinch of tarragon
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- In a skillet of boiling water, gently blanch the asparagus.
- Drain the asparagus. Place it in a shallow buttered baking pan.
- In a skillet, melt the butter and sauté the onion, garlic, parsley, and tarragon. Add the bread crumbs and mix well.
- Spoon the bread crumb mixture over the asparagus and cover the pan with foil.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake at 400° F for an additional 5 minutes.