Sunday, May 2, 2010

Family Recipes as Family History

This video is long (about 9 minutes, 45 seconds) but I really enjoyed it. In case you don't have 9 minutes ad 45 seconds to devote to watching YouTube...I'll break it down for you. Miss Schenone had a deep rooted jealousy for people with old "family recipes", and she wished that she could unearth one. As it turns out, she could. Kind of. Miss Schenone had a grandmother, named Adelle Giza (I have no idea how to spell that, but it's pronoused Ah-dell Jee-zuh). Adelle used to make ravioli, using an enormous 3 foot rolling pin and a lot of elbow grease. By the time Miss Schenone developed an interest in things Family History related, Adelle Giza had already passed on, leaving behind only the memory of her ravioli...and an enormous rolling pin. Through three separate trips to the mountainous regions of Italy, Miss S. learned how to make ravioli using this enormous rolling pin, plus Grandma's ravioli cutter (unearthed by a kind cousin). She made ravioli every day for a month before she could say that she had mastered the recipe. And now? It's hers. She can make up that little bit of family history every day if she wants to. It got me thinking – how do we preserve our family heritage?

Preserving my husband’s heritage is almost easier – it’s so much more DEFINED. He was, after all, born in China. We are teaching our children to speak Cantonese, and celebrate the major festivals, and eat the foods common in China. (Currently, my daughter’s favorite is teeny, tiny dried fish, steamed and served with soy sauce. My son is grooving on tofu – he’s big on flavor, not on chewing, so it’s a perfect match for him.)

My family, on the other hand, hails from a handful of European countries, with all immigration ending about four generations back. We have long since lost the ability to converse in foreign tongues, and don’t even serve the foods anymore. The closest we can come is serving up Southern Food, hailing specifically from the poor regions of Choctaw County, Alabama. Hush puppies, collard greens and banana pudding all hold special places in my heart. Unfortunately for my kids, I never find myself cooking these things. Banana pudding calls for a list of store-bought, shelf-stable ingredients that I usually don’t have around the house. Collard greens are not sold where we live. Hush puppies would require me to heat up several of inches of oil hot enough to make things crispy…and I’m just not willing to clean up the mess afterwards, or “waste” that much oil. (But I’m willing to mix it into my food and eat it? Weird.) I know that I could make my own versions of all of these dishes..but that’s not the point. It wouldn’t be how Grandma Made It. If I remember correctly, she had an ancient, tiny, FryJunior in her cupboards. I used it once, about 10 years ago, to make hush puppies for a big family dinner. (They were quite a hit, as nobody had eaten them outside of Alabama in years.) Perhaps, for old times sake, I could ask my Grandfather if that little piece of history could live in my cupboards for a while and churn out a few more memories this summer.

What about you? What recipes do you remember your grandparents cooking? Is there anything you can learn to make, now, that would help pass on those great memories?


  1. I think the deep fryer was Uncle Keith's.

    And you know...I think we're discounting our current heritage. Family recipes don't have to be old- Ann makes a fabulous pea salad, and has for years. Grandpa's corned beef and cabbage, beef stew, bean stew, pot roast, and salmon are the stuff of legends.

  2. The recipes you're thinking of were favorite foods of Grandma, and remember: she couldn't cook. :)

  3. LOL My Grandma cooks a lot of Schwan's frozen dinners.