Hi, I’m Ingrid Croce and Thyme in a Bottle is my life story in a cookbook. It is filled with the recipes, friends, and opportunities I experienced for building a family and a home that magically found itself taking the form of a restaurant.
In Thyme in a Bottle, I go back and try to figure out how that all happened. I start at the ethnic epicenter of south Philadelphia where I grew up with people who were as passionate about Sinatra and linguine as they were about politics and religion. This “hotbed” of humanity is where my love for food, family, and hard work began, sixteen years before I met and married Jim Croce.
From the moment Jim and I fell in love, good food and music graced every facet and nearly every moment of our lives. Through the folk movement of the sixties, we promoted our Capitol album Jim and Ingrid Croce, often playing for our suppers in small clubs and eating our way across the country from college concerts and collard greens to Maine lobster at The Ship’s Fare.
When our music failed to get acclaim, we moved to the country, where Jim drove a ten-wheeler and I planted zucchini and thyme. In between writing “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” “Operator,” and “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song” there were blueberry blintzes, homemade gnocchi, and squash-blossom frittatas to be enjoyed. And then the greatest gift of all, our son Adrian James, came to us, just two short years before Jim Croce topped the music charts and his plane crashed in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
When Jim died in 1973, his music played on and his words “There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do” rang even truer than before.
While I was busy raising our son and protecting Jim’s and my music rights in court, I kept trying to clarify and redefine my personal vision for family and a home. With no road maps to guide me, I followed many circuitous routes. I sang my own songs, opened a school, and even sat on the board of the Woman’s Bank.
Then using my heart and my stomach, I surfed south to Costa Rica with Adrian James, to polenta con natilla and mango pie. From blinchiki and Stroganoff in Leningrad, to pizza and spaghetti alla Bolognese, street vendors and five-star chefs blessed our palates.
After A.J. took his rites of passage at the Wailing Wall, I did my darnedest to run off the hummus and falafel at the Stockholm Marathon. I was still blindly following my dream.
In 1985, unable to sing after a failed vocal chord operation, I was looking for a good job with good people and a worthwhile, fun place to work. The result was Croce’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar, which I opened as a tribute to Jim Croce and his music, and as a stage for our son to practice and play his songs.
Little did I know back then that my hard work in building our restaurant and bars would lead me to my wonderful husband, Jim Rock. Or that my work as a restaurateur would finally impart to me a powerful opportunity to do all the things I love to do best: serve, eat, and toast to good times and life’s blessings.
In the end, Croce’s is my prize. My business passionately stokes my entrepreneurial spirit and at the same time embodies my vision for my family and community in a wonderfully ordinary way. While it’s hard work, there’s a lot of love here at Croce’s and no limit to the good people, food, and entertainment we are able to bring to our everyday lives.
In my autobiographical cookbook my life stories, garnered over nearly five decades, are punctuated by meals that nourished and encouraged me along the way. My recipes are a collaboration of kind friends, generous chefs, and family traditions that have been enjoyed at Croce’s and served in our home.
Thyme in a Bottle tells how my dream came true. It brings us to the hearth of Croce’s where in addition to feeding the tummy, we enhance the spirit and offer times that are not “saved in a bottle” but enjoyed in the moment with family and friends. Click here to buy my cook book at the Croce’s Store!