A Mother's Day Biscotti Story: From Niagara Falls to Wichita Falls
“Miss Dvorken, circa 1936 in a dress she designed and sewed herself for her violin recital at Texas Women’s University in Denton, Texas”
In the near-century of our existence we have served, literally, generations of families, but Margaret Dvorken holds a place of honor at the Di Camillo family table.
In the early 1980s, Margaret Dvorken, a Texan, was introduced to Di Camillo Bakery’s biscotti by her friend Carol, a Niagara Falls native who had relocated to Mrs. Dvorken’s town of Wichita Falls, Texas.
“Everyone in our office knows Margaret Dvorken—she’s ordered so much so often we thought she had a retail store in Texas!” recalls my uncle Michael Di Camillo.
Thus began a life-long love of biscotti for Mrs. Dvorken, who is now nearly ninety-nine years old, and still enjoys Biscotti di Prato with her morning coffee.
“Mr. and Mrs. Henry J. Dvorken in Paris in 2001. The couple met while Mr. Dvorken, a native of Roselle, New Jersey who was stationed at Shepherd Air Force Base, was introduced at Bridge game.”
Mrs. Dvorken’s daughter Suzann says that her mom still buys “biscotti by the
case. When we get down to about four packages, we always re-order. A case of biscotti barely lasts a few days around here.”
Such is Mrs. Dvorken devotion to Di Prato that, “for years mom would actually
pack and travel with it, so that she could have her biscotti with her morning coffee at
their hotel or bed and breakfast.”
And speaking of bed-and- breakfasts: in a humorous aside, Suzann Dvorken
related that my great aunt-Theresa Di Camillo, who would take the regular phone-order from Mrs. Dvorken, “just assumed that we were running a bed-and- breakfast down here in Texas since we were ordering so much biscotti all the time.” And while they did buy Biscotti di Vino (Italian Wine Biscuits) for the occasional dinner party, the Biscotti di Prato was pretty much solely for Mrs. Dvorken and her late husband, Henry.
In fact, Mr. Henry Dvorken and his wife travelled to Niagara Falls to visit our family bakery in the mid-1980s: “My dad was a graduate of Haverford College [in Philadelphia],” says Suzann Dvorken. “And since they were on the East Coast for a college reunion, mom decided that they had to go see where these great biscotti were coming from, so they made the trip from Philadelphia to Niagara Falls where they received a tour of the bakery.”
Mrs. Dvorken considers Biscotti di Prato “her health food.” “Mom often says the reason she’s lived so long is eating ‘health-food’ everyday, including her beloved biscotti,” says Suzann. After being introduced to our Biscotti, and ordering from half-way across the country for the better part of the 1980s, Mrs. Dvorken was thrilled to find that “Neiman-Marcus [a Dallas-based upscale retailer] began carrying Di Camillo
products, so mom could get her biscotti right here in Texas if her supply began to run low.”
And in a particularly touching moment, “My dad—a Roselle, New Jersey native--brought my mom biscotti in bed for breakfast for one of their last wedding anniversaries together.” Mr. Dvorken died just before the couple’s 60 th anniversary.
Born in Texas nearly a century ago, Mrs. Dvorken, who was a debating-
champion, graduated college from Texas Women’s College in Denton (no small feat for a woman in 1938!) and went on to have a successful career working as the Advertising Manager for Perkins –Timberlake Department Stores. “Mom was doing ‘MadMen’ before they even had a name for it,” notes her daughter Suzann.
Margaret Dvorken was always a bit ahead of her time too: since she was raised Episcopalian and her fiancée was Jewish, they could not be married in a synagogue or an Anglican Church, “So mom and dad got married in a civil ceremony,” says her daughter Suzann. This was long before the days of “ecumenism” and “interreligious dialogue”.
In a sense, she also presaged both Martha Stewart and hermeneutics (the study of biblical interpretation). “My mom would cook meals taken right out of the Old Testament and then have a lecture around town to ladies clubs about the various dishes.”
Mrs. Dvorken also served on the local ballet and symphony boards and, with her acumen for design, created the programs for both. Mrs. Dvorken and her friend MariBeth Tyler were founding members of The Red River Chapter of the Emroiderers Guide of America [circa 1982], and she also wrote articles for The Work Basket magazine. Margaret was also a member of the Wichita Falls Writers’ Guild.
Now on the verge of turning 99, Mrs. Dvorken’s devotion to Di Camillo’s Biscotti di Prato shows no sign of letting up. “Mom’s slowing down a little bit,” says Suzann, “but she still loves her Di Camillo Biscotti!”
- Michael DiCamillo