4/5/11

Serious Food: In the Kitchen with Grandma




My Kitchen Visit with my grandma this winter lasted four days and produced hundreds of cookies. It also produced the belowsomething a bit different from (and longer than) my standard weekly post.  Hope you enjoy!
My mom has become a sort of in-house mediator between me and my grandma. While on vacation with my family at a beach house in North Carolina a few years ago, it was my mom who I approached as to why the entire house suddenly smelled of skunk. And in a tone that communicated nothing could be more normal, she explained: “It’s just the gizzards Grandma brought for Jinxy.” Allow me to translate. Gizzards was Grandma’s catch-all word for the not-as-commonly-eaten parts of the chicken, which she had brought from her home in Pittsburgh, so as to not pay top dollar for gizzards at the overpriced beach grocery store, and Jinxy was Grandma’s obese 115-pound dog to whom she fed home-cooked human food three times a day. I knew he liked spaghetti and meatballs, bagels and cream cheese, and chicken noodle soup, but hadn’t realized he had also developed a taste for gizzard.

We needed a mediator. Because if Grandma is the 92-year-old Great-Depression-era hoarder of the family to a fault, I am her 29-year-old control-freak, clean-as-you-go, clutter-phobe polar opposite to a major fault. While Grandma can say things like: “I think Jinx and I may have a rat in the basement,” without emotion or fear, I am the one who, after hearing about a cockroach found in the dishwasher at work, could no longer use a single glass, plate, or fork from that kitchen. Filtered water there was deemed untouchable as well. I take pride in hoarding nothing. I sold my wedding dress a month after my wedding.

And so, this past winter, high on holiday goodwill, it was over the phone to my mom that I pitched the idea of making Grandma’s famous pizzelle cookies with Grandma and in Grandma’s kitchen. A few days later, Mom came back to me with Grandma’s verdict. It was on.

Day One
It isn’t until I have made the flight from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh, and Mom and I are in the car on our way to Grandma’s house when Mom informs me that Grandma wants to tackle both pizzelles and lady locks, the latter of which I am certain I had politely declined any interest in attempting with her on this trip. Lady locks are mini croissants stuffed with cream, but unlike traditional croissants infused with layers of butter, Grandma uses butter-flavored Crisco. Not exactly the stuff dreams are made of. I feel a bit duped. But we are already parked in Grandma’s driveway. It’s too late to turn back now.

Or is it? I pull open the front door of Grandma’s four-bedroom, two-story house where she’s lived since 1959, and after Grandpa died in 2001, where she’s lived with only her pet dog for company, and I instantly feel like I’ve made a mistake. The house is a hoarder’s paradise and the kitchen, its Mecca. The countertops are packed well beyond capacity with 92-years worth of products, ingredients and open-air leftovers. A bulky, far-too-large-for-this-small-of-a-kitchen island takes over where might have existed any breathing room and partially blocks access to the sink, oven, and refrigerator all at the same time. (My aunt sent her the island as a gift years ago with the intention of giving Grandma more counter space, but Grandma has chosen to use it instead as an additional surface for stockpiling.)

There is an extremely large pot on the back left burner with a head of cold, cooked cauliflower in it, and on the right burner, sits a pair of blackened bananas oddly packaged on a Styrofoam tray and covered in plastic wrap. On the front two burners rests an opened, ragged photo album filled with recipes she has handwritten on index cards or clipped from Ladies’ Home Journal, and in the center of the stovetop, on no burners, lives an oil-filled cast iron pan. A stepladder resides to the left of the island and even its surface area is being used as a resting place for something. In this case, it’s my nemesis, the jumbo size can of Crisco. The walls are yellowed and cracked. A brown rotary phone hangs crookedly on the wall. Talk radio blares from a non-digital radio. Cobwebs dangle from the corners of the cabinets, and if you stare up at the ceiling for longer than a moment, it’s difficult not to wonder how it hasn’t caved in already. It’s difficult not to think about life in terms of the accrual and maintenance of things. But mostly it’s difficult not to think: This house is on its last legs. This house is dying.

Despite all of this, it’s clear that Grandma has worked out a system. She puts away a few items from the island and reveals a white cutting board—a workspace! She finds a mixing bowl and places it on the board. She pulls a chipped coffee mug from the cupboard and bends down to scoop flour from a 25-pound bag on the floor. I wonder how she got the bag inside and marvel at the fact that it’s almost empty. She adds two heaping mugs of flour to the bowl with ease. She doesn’t seem worried about being exact, but then neither does the recipe, which specifies a coffee mug as the measuring device.

The recipe isn’t hers but that of an old friend who she used to make them with and who has since died. In fact, there used to be three of them. They got together every December to spend the day making cookies. “What about the other woman, Grandma?” I ask.

Grandma points to her head and swirls her hand around. “She’s senile,” Mom clarifies from the dining room. Grandma adds water to the flour and then sprinkles it with salt. She stirs the mixture until it comes together into one large dough ball, which she divides into three equal plastic-wrapped pieces and places in the refrigerator.

“That’s it?” I ask. “Just flour, water, and salt?” Grandma nods.

While the dough sets, we are going to press some chocolate pizzelles in Grandma’s ancient pizzelle press. Grandma made the dough earlier in the day and has already set up a pizzelle-making station in the dining room. I feel like I’m on the set of some strange, hoarders version of The Today Show. Everything we need, albeit ramshackle and stained, is ready and waiting, and we can shoot the segment in under a minute! But of course, it takes much longer. Grandma has quadrupled the recipe and by the time I have pressed all of the dough, I have five towers of stacked cookies; it’s late and I’m tired. But Grandma summons me into the kitchen. I look for my mom to translate that I’m ready to go home but she is in the living room watching some city’s C.S.I. I can hear the opening credits.


In the kitchen, Grandma instructs me to roll the dough out into a quarter-inch thick rectangle. Once I have it, she hands me a plastic spatula readied with butter-flavored Crisco and tells me to spread it across the entire surface of the dough. And even though, I’ve prepared myself for this moment, I can’t seem to stop myself from asking, “Why Crisco?”

She gives it a moment before answering. “I suspect it’s what she had.” She being her now dead friend whose recipe it is.

Once it’s completely covered, we fold it into an envelope, wrap it in plastic and place it back in the refrigerator. We do this with the two other dough segments, and this is what we will continue to do until the entire can of Crisco (minus the cup reserved for the filling) is incorporated into the dough. Though for tonight, we are done. We’ll finish this step tomorrow.

Day Two
Save for some breakfast dishes in the sink, everything in Grandma’s kitchen is as Mom and I left it last night. The measuring cup of Crisco reserved for the lady locks filling sits on the ledge of the counter in front of the microwave, the can of Crisco is lid-less on top of the stepladder, the pot of cauliflower is on the back left burner, the bananas still on the right, and so on. Grandma is busy with the dog. So, working from her handwritten recipe, Mom and I begin to make the pizzelle dough. (Yesterday we made chocolate, but per Grandma’s instructions, we must now make a batch of vanilla.)

Mom begins the process of cracking the twelve eggs while I busy myself with noticing every weird thing in Grandma’s kitchen. Items that particularly concern me are a crinkled, rolled-up Wendy’s bag with something still in it lying on the countertop and a bulging plastic bag hanging from a drawer knob. I had taken a peek into a similarly placed bag one of the last times I was in Grandma’s kitchen, about six years ago, and found a mess of black, sludgy rotten potatoes. Mom sees me eyeing it and boldly grabs the side of the bag and squeezes. “Stale bread,” she concludes. I nod with my lower lip turned down and inside out, as if I was expecting that, as if I have the same kind of system worked out back in Los Angeles.

Day Three
When Mom and I arrive at Grandma’s the following afternoon, we find her in full lady-locks swing. We’ve brought her a couple of leftover slices of pizza from lunch, but she’s so busy that she takes a slice and just keeps going. (The detail that she places the box with the remaining slice atop the oversized pot of boiled cauliflower, which I now feel well acquainted with—after all, it’s right next to my friends, the plastic-wrapped black bananas—is not lost on me.) She takes a bite, scoots past the kitchen island, pulls open the refrigerator door with the non-pizza hand and announces that she has been adding Crisco to the lady-locks dough with regularity since 7 a.m. and that it now only needs one final dousing. She pulls out the chilled dough and hands it to me. It seems to have almost doubled in size.

“Wow, that’s a lot of Crisco!” I say.
And if Grandma, like her granddaughter, approached life as a journey toward reaching the next opportunity to insert a joke, she would have replied: “Speaking of Crisco, it’s time to make the filling!”

But Grandma doesn’t say anything. Instead, she takes another bite of her drooping pizza slice and with her free hand, begins shedding the dough of its plastic wrap. Because, Grandma, and here is where I’m suddenly struck with the real lesson in all of this: Grandma doesn’t think that Crisco is funny. Not only that, but you know what? Grandma doesn’t think that food in general is funny. Because historically, it hasn’t been.

I’m reminded of M.F.K. Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf, which was written in 1942 with the intention of rallying and encouraging those facing the worst of wartime shortages. Specifically, I thought of the chapter titled, “How to Keep Alive,” where Fisher walks the reader through what to do if you have absolutely no money. “…borrow some. Fifty cents will be enough and can last you from three days to a week, depending.” She goes on to describe a dish that sounds like a large, flavorless pot of oatmeal with pureed vegetables mixed in and, if you are seriously lucky, some hamburger meat. “It is obvious to even the most optimistic that this sludge, which should be like stiff cold mush, and a rather unpleasant murky-brown gray in color, is strictly for hunger.”

Grandma and food stories run wild with infamy in my family, but the most infamous of all takes place during The Great Depression when Grandma was just a kid and came home to find that her pet bunny was now residing at the neighbors. I’ve heard the story at least a dozen times in the course of growing up, but after reading this passage for the first time, I get the urge to call Grandma and hear it again.

“Oh! I had a beautiful, big, white bunny!” she says, before telling the story in three short sentences. She came home and the bunny wasn’t there. Her mother told her that they couldn’t afford the feed and that he was now at the neighbors’ house. When Grandma later saw her neighbor, Mr. Sullivan, she asked him how her bunny was and he said that he ate him. After prying, she admits that she cried for a week.

Grandma’s identity is wrapped up in food. She’s worked in the kitchen of the Presbyterian Church less than a mile from her house for 51 years. At 92, she helms the Monday Noon luncheon three times a year, which is service for 70. She’s been making these cookies for over 40 years. She always has something on the stove, always.

While watching Grandma eat that pizza slice and multitask in the kitchen, I begin to take these cookies seriously. Because it’s not just making cookies, I realize. I am taking part in a tradition that defines part of who my grandma is and, by proxy, who I am.

We finish the dough and put it back in the refrigerator to chill. And while we wait for it to set one last time, I sit down at the dining room table with one of Grandma’s recipe-laden, falling-apart photo albums. Grandma asks my mom to open a jar of marinated mushrooms she can’t seem to budge the lid of. I momentarily wonder why, but understand when she presents them to me in a bowl as a snack. Something in me melts—at 92, Grandma is still the consummate hostess. I continue flipping through the pages of yellowed recipe after yellowed recipe, some of which—wild cherry liquor and spinach soufflé—look particularly similar to ones I’ve recently dog-eared in cookbooks. She even has something called a 10-day Herman cake, which, as its title implies, takes ten days to make and strikes me as eerily suited for a bon appetempt.

*

For the first time in my adult life, I suddenly see Grandma’s dilapidated dining room as one that would fit eight people for dinner nicely. Grandma’s armoire, stuffed with crystal glasses, serving pieces, and bone china plates, takes on new meaning. I picture what a dinner party at Grandma’s might have looked like in 1966. She has these beautiful blue glass goblets and tiny little crystal cups too small for cordial glasses. I ask her what they are for. “Individual salt holders,” she says.

For the first time in my adult life, I suddenly see past Grandma’s age to the person who used to invite friends over for dinner, carefully plan the menu for a week, and task Grandpa with setting the table. I suddenly see the person whose fingers and feet aren’t arthritic and swollen so that she can wear her emerald-cut diamond wedding ring and dress in heels, and who doesn’t feel like an “old bag of bones” so that she might paint her lips red like I’ve seen in old photos, and emerge from the kitchen with plates of appetizers in each hand asking, “Who’s hungry?”

Day Four
Mom and I arrive at Grandma’s in the afternoon to find the hollow, baked lady locks shells on the dining room table on the cooling racks just as we’d left them 24 hours ago. I check in on my cauliflower and black bananas. They’re still there too.

In my lifetime, food has been entertainment. It’s been funny. It’s been something to eat, and, most of the time, it’s been delicious. It has never been a life or death issue. I can’t even say that it’s been serious. But as we stuff the lady locks with a creamy mixture of sugar, Crisco, cornstarch, milk, and red dye, it feels serious. It feels important. It feels like a tradition is being handed to me, and like Grandpa used to say, I’ll be damned if I am going to drop it.


Lady Locks as handwritten for me by Grandma. [I’ve edited as little as possible.]
for dough
Using a large coffee mug, measure 3 cups flour.
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups water
Mix above ingredients in bowl. Dough should be sticky. Refrigerate ½ hour. (I put in freezer compartment.)
1 – 3 lb. can Crisco less 1 cup reserved for the filling. I use butter-colored Crisco.

Place dough on floured board. Divide into 3 pieces. Flour board. Roll one piece at a time into ¼ inch thick rectangles. Using a spatula, spread Crisco thickly on rolled dough. With your hand, sprinkle flour on top of Crisco. Fold piece: bottom up, top down, sides in. Cover with plastic wrap. Place the envelope of dough into the refrigerator for an hour. Repeat with other two pieces of dough. Place them into refrigerator for an hour.

Repeat this procedure until Crisco is used. I leave the dough in the refrigerator overnight and start next step in the morning.

You have taken 48 clothespins and covered with aluminum foil.

Take first envelope of dough and divide into 3 sections. Mix a cup of flour with a cup of sugar and use this to roll out your dough. You want it shaped like a rectangle. You want to cut into pieces 4 inches long by 2 inches wide. Wrap this piece around clothespin and place on cookie sheet.

Heat oven to 400. You want a cookie sheet with sides. If you haven’t added enough flour, the Crisco will run out and you don’t want it in your oven. Since ovens vary, I check at 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. The dough will puff and when it is golden, it is done. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack while simultaneously removing clothespin. [This is tricky as they are hot!]

for filling
1 cup of Crisco
In saucepan: 1 cup of milk & 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Heat on stove, stirring to keep from burning. When thick, remove from stove and allow to cool.

In mixing bowl, add cup of Crisco, cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until sugar is dissolve, then add cooled cornstarch mixture. This mixture needs to be beaten a very long time, until it’s light and fluffy and you can’t feel a sugar grain. I put a drop of red or green coloring. I think they are more attractive than just white.

[After shells have cooled completely, pipe filling into the hollow centers. Do this until they are all filled. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Enjoy your lady lock!]

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91 comments:

  1. I love it. So glad you decided to post this!

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  2. Wow. The beginning of this post kind of hard me freaking out. I'm not good with clutter. But I powered through and kept reading. So glad I did. Beautiful. So glad you had this experience and were able to document it.

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  3. BEST. POST. EVER.

    rotary phone
    wendy's bag
    cauliflower
    CRISCO

    i'll be damned.

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  4. My grandmother had the same kitchen, packed to the brim with weird [yet comforting] food hidden in every corner. I would give anything to share a moment with her now, like this, even with Crisco. Thank you for writing this. Thank you thank you.

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  5. WOW! Thank you so much for writing this. Made me so nostalgic and wished I had cooked more with my Grandmother. Truly moving!
    -Jess

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  6. This might be my favorite post to date! Your writing pulled me in like a book that I couldn't put down. Not to mention that much Crisco truly fascinated me (and grossed me out haha.) I'm Hailey, by the way. I learned of you on the Splendid Table and have been a fan/follower since! You can see my blog and website here...

    haileykingphotography@blogspot.com
    www.haileyking.com

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  7. to all of the above: thank you soooo much for the kind words. means so much.

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  8. This post is a triumph in so many ways. It's incredibly well written, it's candid and touching without being overly sentimental, it's honest and beautiful and about the difficult realizations and connections we make with family as we age.

    I can't thank you enough for posting it. What a delight your blog is.

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  9. Amazing. What a fantastic post! There's just so much there. I'm so glad you wrote it.

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  10. such a beautiful and touching essay. i think we all can relate in some way. i love this

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  11. What a great read!! I just sort of stumbled on your post and am glad I did. I've been transcribing handwritten recipes collected by an elderly man (and neighbor) and his wife. They look very similar to your grandmother's. I found one recipe for snapping turtle soup. (I'm in central mail--farm country--on a river) and lots of oleo and shortening (by which they mean Crisco).

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  12. this is so beautiful & touching.

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  13. Love this Amelia. Seeing Grandma's recipe book really brings out the memories. Thanks for sharing. xS

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  14. Really lovely post Amelia. A great story with a great life lesson! You had me hanging on every word!

    Also, my grandmother keeps her bananas far too long as well. Ick!

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  15. Wonderful, Amelia. Thank you for this awesome essay. You're so good at this.
    Watch out, world.

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  16. AWESOME. Seriously. End of day 3 KILLS me. Beautiful.

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  17. wow wow wow!!!!!
    amelia!!!!! you are amazing. this post is just amazing!
    *HUGS*

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  18. A beautiful essay about a wonderful woman by a wonderful woman. Loved every word of it. Tradition, Tradition!!

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  19. So lovely. 48 clothespins. That detail almost got me choked up! Thanks for such a wonderful essay.

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  20. Also, your grandma was so beautiful when she was young!

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  21. Really amazing. Ps. I LOVE THE STITCH WORK IN THE BACKGROUND OF THOSE PICTURES!

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  22. Wood countertops are growing in popularity, and there are variety of reasons why. Read on to learn about the possibilities of wood countertops for your kitchen refacing project.

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  23. I have a couple of keepsake recipes just like those in the front of my own cookbook, in that same handwriting, with the same insane admonitions ("red food coloring--very important!") and they came from the same kind of kitchen, stacked to the rafters with KFC styrofoam containers, carefully washed and hoarded, in case of another Depression. Damn, I miss my grandma.

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  24. Oh my!! Great read. I am very curious as to what the 10-day Herman cake recipe looks like. What could possibly take 10 days??

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  25. just lovely, amelia. thank you for writing this.

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  26. I'm so glad this post ended as it did. I'm a big fan of grandmas and while I have many fabulous memories of mine ( bc I am the eldest and therefore remember them best) I never got to cook with them. Crisco or no-and I don't like the stuff either- you are very lucky.

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  27. hi! ive been reading your blog for awhile but have never commented. this is such a beautiful post and i loved reading about your grandmother and the colorful personality that she is AND her colorful kitchen! i felt like i was right beside you.

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  28. @anonymous: the washing-out of KFC containers sounds very familiar!! Do I know you? So sorry about your grandma. I feel really lucky to have had this whole experience with her.

    @Mary Anne -- and they are those old-school clothespins too. the wooden ones!

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  29. So lovely. I nearly cried at the end. Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience and life lesson.

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  30. I'm not even embarassed to admit that i laughed and cried through this entry. I remember cooking with my grandmother- and how she would make italian salad dressing, dress the salad and the remains, droppy from salad fatigue tasted so delicious 2 days later that I would eat it all- now here else would I do that. My grandmother kept lots of food in her pantry also, though her house was neat as a pin- and cooking meant love and sharing. I could go on, but I think you get the point. Treasure grandmas, we are who they become. I miss my grandma every day.

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  31. WOW...great post! Your grandmother is looking good for 92....must be the black bananas and room temperature, days old cauliflower. At the beginning of the post, I was somewhat horrified by the hoarding (being Type A myself) but by the end of the post I wanted to go to grandma's house for dinner! Also, loved the note by the set of keys!!

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  32. I really, really enjoyed this.

    (My Nanny makes Herman cake too...it's actually kind of good.)

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  33. @lisa really!?! what does it taste like.

    also: thank you again to everyone for your kind words! I printed out the post for Grandma...hopefully she will feel the same. ???

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  34. Amels, such a great post. Most of your commenters have pointed out the many amazing things about this piece, but "on the set of a hoarders version of the Today Show," is just so damn brilliant.

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  35. Lovely post. My grandma just turned 90 and I would love to spend some time in the kitchen with her, though like you I might not be able to hold my tongue once she got the margarine out of the fridge!

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  36. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post with us. But could we have a photo of Jinxy too please?

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  37. Your grandma has been so good to you will all the writing fodder. Wonderful post!

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  38. @catherine: if ONLY she kept the margarine in the fridge!! ;)

    @debjani: i almost did! next time?

    @anonymous: so true.

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  39. A truly wonderful story. Thanks so much. BTW you are hilarious... really glad I found your blog.

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  40. amazing post.
    weird when you find out your grandparents were people before they were just zany people who raised your parents.


    http://ladulcivida.blogspot.com/

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  41. This is so great. Makes me want to spend 4 days with my granny cooking and baking. Angel rolls, chocolate turtles, berry pies, raisin filled cookies... mmm...

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  42. I've been really enjoying your blog for a while, but this post was just beautiful. The revelations and self journey, combined with your sense of humor, make for some great reading. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  43. How I just learned about your blog, I don't know! I only wish I could write about food and life this seamlessly.

    This is the only blog post I can recall that has made me tear up. I find your writing honest and insightful but at the same time, tethered to day to day life.

    As the daughter of immigrant parents, I have always felt a void in my life because of the inability to know my grandparents. Half of them are gone, and the rest are separated by distance and language barrier. Usually it doesn't affect me, but then I read posts like this and realize what I'm missing out on

    Thank you for all the time you put into this! Can't wait to read more.

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  44. What a beautiful, funny and touching post. Thank you for writing and sharing it .

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  45. Recently lost my 92 year old mother - this piece brought back such memories. Indeed mom had a long life and this sounds so familiar; but now so far away. Wish I could have talked my mom into letting me document her at work in her kitchen, she was an artist! But she'll make it into my writings some time.You've inspired me.

    Thanks,
    J.

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  46. i just read this post again. love it so much - so many emotions!! xo

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  47. I loved every bit of this -- your description of your grandmother and her agility in a space many couldn't deal with -- and your own admission of being polar opposites is classic, as is your realization of her in earlier years. Absolutely fabulous writing.

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  48. I like how you say that these cookies are an extension of your grandma, and by proxy, you. I feel that way when I cook my now deceased grandma's recipes. It makes me feel like she's still with me.

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  49. Beautiful. I wish my grandmother was still here so I could cook and bake with her. She would have been 97 this year. I named my 2 year old daughter, Josephine, after her and I hope she will enjoy being in the kitchen with me soon.

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  50. Thank you for helping me see the other side. My MIL had little eccentricities in the kitchen that worried me and made me wonder if I would be able to leave the house after a visit without harboring some kind of food borne-illness. She rinsed out the plastic wrap that covered ground beef trays from the grocery store, as well as the styro trays themselves. She then left them to dry on the counter, all ready for reuse. She stored food at room temp. that definitely should have been refrigerated. She also kept brewed coffee on the counter for days, reheating it in the microwave by the cupful as needed. But she also made the best raisin-filled cookies that brought tears to the eyes of my husband every time we visited her. Her bread and butter pickles were to die for. But she made wonderful meals for my husband and I when we visited using one or two battered pots and pans that made me embarrassed to own the "batterie de cuisine" that I have collected over the years. She grew up dirt poor and had a lot of hardship and, I guess, never forgot those days although she and my FIL managed to save enough money to keep them well-cared for in their old age, never a burden to their children. An awesome lady. Thanks for writing this.

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  51. Congrats on your Saveur win for this fantastic post!

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  52. Sorry, but I couldn't get past the description of your grandma's kitchen. I hope it worked out well on your Christmas visit. I think someone should take charge and relieve grandma of the hazardous mess she's hoarding. Seriously.

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  53. Thanks for a great story! I have lived and cooked with my grandma...GREAT memories. We still toast to her when we get together and bake! and she's been gone for not quite 30 years! thankGod she wasn't hoarding in the kitchen, just the attic!!

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  54. Such a warm feeling reading all the posts about your brave blog about cooking with your grandma. Our life lessons continue. Thanks for helping us appreciate our quirky families---you are a gifted writer.

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  55. Wow, love this post. Makes me think of my grandma. She was great and she cooked great too. Ahh the good old days.

    Ana

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  56. beautiful. like many other commenters, i can totally relate. my great aunt meme (who took on the role of grandmother for me when mine died in my infancy) had a serious hoarding problem (also grew up in Depression era) which made it so hard to even be in her kitchen, let alone cook or eat in it. she taught me how to cook, bake, and make the world's most amazing biscuits which she insisted needed crisco.

    ....now following you!

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  57. Just found your blog thru Saveur. This post is cute, funny, sentimental, and all around wonderful :) Love it...and your blog!

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  58. Just found your blog thru Saveur. This post is cute, funny, sentimental, and all around wonderful :) Love it...and your blog!

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  59. A very very touching account.
    Thank you.

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  60. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  61. Wow!! The beginning of this post kind of had me freaking out! I'm not good with clutter! I lived vicariously through this post!

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  62. I just read this, and it made me tear up thinking of my own recently passed grandma and her kitchen and cooking ways. You've written such a beautiful piece, and taken amazing photos to show us the things that just can't be described.

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  63. So many reasons why this is so very amazing. What a gift you have given your family and all of us by doing this AND SHARING IT. Love, love, love it.

    Rachel Stone
    http://eatwithjoy.wordpress.com
    food, family, faith; joyful justice, bread of life

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  64. This is a beautiful post. I have quite similar experiences with my great grandmother who at 95 years old is still the life and soul of the family. Thank you for this.

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  65. With my own grandmother suddenly seeming to be short of breath, I'm hitting that moment where I not only fear losing her, but that I fear losing my family traditions--whatever they may be. My mother recently hosted Thanksgiving and I commented on how much I loved the blue and gold china that she recently received from my grandmother. She hugged me and said that someday this set of china would be passed on to me. And that calmed me. Grandma is still here, and even when she's not--we've still got the essence of her. Thank you for writing this all out. I loved every word.

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  66. Omg. My favorite bit is the "Make four times recipe anything else waste time" LOVE this POST! Thank you for sharing!!!!!

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  67. Great post! I have very similar memories of my own grandmother who thought lard was the king of the kitchen...

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  68. What a beautiful post. It brings back some wonderful memories. Thanks!

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  69. I liked all those telling details about Grandma's kitchen, but that the story isn't really about food, but about relationships. I just discovered this blog and put it on my Google homepage. Great storytelling in the context of food.

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  70. I loved this story. It was so touching in its honesty and detail. I also had a grandmother, in Cleveland, with a dog named Jinxy, whom she cooked gizzards for. 30 years later I can still recall that smell vividly.

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  71. What a great post! My grandma's house is also a house of surprises. I helped her clean out her kitchen recently and was horrified and amused to see the treasures that were hidden away in her cabinets (mostly 1980's era packaged food). She was able to laugh with me about it when I teased her, but she would not allow me to throw away anything that was unopened - even if it was canned parmesan cheese from 1989.

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  72. I really REALLY wanna know what the cauliflower was for!!!!!

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  73. Love this post. Made me cry! Thanks for writing it.

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  74. Priceless! I have a recipe for pierogi from my GG that starts, "Get some potatoes." Not how many or what size!

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  75. Yes, what is the cauliflower for?

    Beautiful post.

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  76. I have not laughed so hard since I accidentally shot my husband with the power hose.

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  77. I enjoy your writing style. I was able to pick up on the irony, the incredulity, and the love.
    Thanks so much for sharing this experience!

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  78. seriously I just ran across your blog / videos ten minutes ago and have been standing at my computer laughing out loud! Thank you!!!

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  79. and this piece on your grandmother is absolutely priceless. Beautifully written.

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  80. The essay evoked so many memories of my Grandmother's kitchen.

    No spare money in those days so nothing was wasted and many meals would be the result of foraging; trout, rabbits, pheasant, duck (and not always legally) ok never, but they were hard times and my Grandfather always ensured that food was available.

    Meals were simple but wholesome and almost always accompanied by home made bread. I later discovered that we were give the bread before the meal so we wouldn't feel so hungry.

    Happy days??

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  81. This post is amazing! Stumbled across it from elsewhere.

    Reminds me so much of my grandma - she dies at Christmas and I miss her all the time.

    She was German, grew up in Berlin, moved to the UK in the '50s when it was not a very nice place for Germans to be, married a man who she didn't share a language with because 'he was a kind man' and raised 4 kids in a 2 bedroom house. She could cook ANYTHING. She could feed a family with a seemingly empty fridge and, when us grandkids were grown and treating her to things, she would always order the most expensive thing on the menu when we went out to eat because she'd claim she didn't know if we'd ever invite her out to eat again!

    Lovely post, so evocative.

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  82. I just discovered your blog and posted a link to this essay from my FB page to share with my Mom. I grew up in Pittsburgh til I was 10 and I have so many memories of pizzelles and lady locks. Beyond the Pittsburgh nostalgia you really captured the memories and traditions that pass on through food. I just love this. Thank you for sharing.

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  83. Found you via Tim's blog (Lottie & Doof), and somehow made my way to this post. Having laughed and cried my way through it, I just had to thank you for sharing your memories. All of my grandparents are gone, and I would give just about anything to spend a day in the kitchen with any one of them.

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  84. haven't visited your blog in so long but so glad i found it again via Lottie & Doof - such a vivid description of your grandma! My grandma is currently 92 (lives in a seniors home) but I so remember her hustling and bustling about in her lime green 70s kitchen, teaching me to make cherry flips and sending me back home to college on weekends with vats of vegetable soup and coffee glazed vanilla cake in aluminum foil pans ... so excited to see you have a book coming out! congratulations!

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