Two and a half weeks ago—actually, on Sunday, August 7—I was in Hawaii with my family celebrating the wedding of my brothers-in-law. I had no idea that thousands of miles away in New York, my friend Jennifer Perillo’s world was falling apart. Her husband, Mikey, father to their two beautiful daughters, died suddenly of a massive heart attack. I only learned of the terrible news when I returned home to find an email from Jennie about Mike’s memorial service.
If you pay even the slightest bit of attention to the world of food blogging (and I hope you do—you’ll see why shortly) you probably know what happened next. In a poignant blog post shortly after Mikey’s death, Jennie asked people to make his favorite pie—a creamy peanut butter pie—for someone they love. She had been meaning to make it for him but hadn’t gotten around to it. Hundreds of people in the food community—friends of Jennie’s and those who know her only through Twitter, Facebook, or her wonderful blog, In Jennie’s Kitchen—reached out to offer condolences and support, and to make Jennie’s creamy peanut butter pie. My daughter, Adriana, and I made it together and served it to our family. Many others did the same thing and wrote moving blog posts about it. They uploaded their pictures on Twitter and Facebook. Food photographers Todd Porter and Diana Cu created this beautiful video.
[This is the pie that Adriana and I made]
Jennie holds a special place in many people’s heart, including mine. We became friends some months ago on Twitter—so many wonderful friendships seem to blossom there these days. I liked her thoughtful tweets, and I enjoyed reading her blog posts. They were mostly about cooking for her family, and unabashedly personal. I also liked her recipes; they, too, were personal, fresh and straightforward. In fact, I liked her so much just from our online interactions that I asked her to be one of my Pasta Party bloggers. She graciously consented without really knowing me at all. I learned soon enough that that’s just the way Jennie is. A generous soul. She wrote a beautiful post, not just about cooking from my pasta book, but about her own connection to her Italian heritage.
In May, Jennie and I met “in real life” when she came to D.C. to take part in Eat Write Retreat, a food bloggers’ conference. I stepped out of my usual social reticence and offered to pick her up at the bus stop in Dupont Circle. It took us a couple of minutes for us to spot each other (we had only our Twitter avatars to go by). We actually dialed each other’s cell phones before we realized we were standing about 20 feet apart. We gave each other a hug hello. She laughed, good-naturedly, as I, ever the suburbanite, tried to figure out where I had parked my car while we walked in circles. From that moment, I felt as though we had been friends forever.
I never met Mikey, but he made many cameo appearances in Jennie’s blog posts, and I admired her ability to write so openly about her profound love for him. Hearing about his death broke my heart, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Right now, in addition to heartbreak, Jennie is facing grim financial realities: her freelance income makes her ineligible for widow’s benefits from Social Security, and health insurance for her and her two young girls is scheduled to run out in December.
A wonderful group of her friends from the food blogging community has stepped up to help. Shauna has created A Fund For Jennie to raise money that will provide Jennie and her girls with a much-needed financial cushion during this difficult period of transition. The fund has been set up as a project of Bloggers Without Borders, a new nonprofit organization created by bloggers Maggy Keet, and Erika Pineda-Ghanny. BWOB is now incorporated, with a bank account and a PayPal account, and all funds for Jennie will be administered through the charity.
I hope you’ll consider making even a small donation. It’s as easy as clicking on this button:
You can also check out some of the fantastic auction items that friends are donating to the project, including these beautiful Back to School Cookies from One Tough Cookie’s Gail Dosik; a full day of photography with photographer Penny De Los Santos; and a cooking class/tasting menu for six with cookbook author Pam Anderson.
Many thanks for any help you can give. And remember to hug the ones you love.