Just Like Grandma Used to Make

February 2011

The inspiration for Food It Forward came to me from my grandmas. Whenever I am faced with feeding a crowd, my first thought is, “CATERING!” A few thoughts later, guilt usually settles as I think of all the events my grandmothers cooked for. What happened to my food-family-love connection? I have lost it somewhere between Costco and Starbucks.

My Grandfather (Frank) loved teasing my Grandma (Elsie) about her cooking. To be honest so has the rest of the family! We love to say that Grandma specializes in Cajun food. Cajun being code for… just a little burnt. Grandmas always have their own special dishes or way of cooking, don’t they? My Grandma still brings her go-to potato or macaroni salad to most parties (and stops by the Honey Baked Ham store to pick up her other specialty.)

There was a time though, that along with her mother, my grandma made tamales and tortillas by hand. I still wish I would have had my great grandma,  “Nana” (rhymes with sauna) teach me to make tortillas. Now my grandma just buys hers at Safeway and heats them on the stove. One trick I did learn, is how to heat a tortilla as real Mexcian women do. You throw that sucker on a stove burner and use your fingers to flip it right before black burner rings are about to appear. Hot cha-cha!

Grandfather had his own stove-top specialty, fried bologna in a tortilla.  That, or perhaps, cow tongue or maybe menudo. I still love my grandfather, but his food holds NO special place in this girl’s heart!

Then, there is the other side of my family, my dad’s side. This grandma (Bobbie) was my Nana (as in banana) and boy did she love to cook in butter! I don’t remember actually seeing Nana cook, but I am always reminded of her when I smell butter on the stove. The more butter, the more it smells like Nana cooking. I guess she was like the Jewish Paula Deen. 

I do, however, have many of my Great Grandma Ann’s recipes (thank you Auntie Debi!) If Nana was Paula Deen, Grandma Ann was like Julia Child. Not that Grandma Ann was a master chef, she was just nutty! (In a good way, of course!)

Between the two of them, we ate many buffets of yummy, Hannukah-esque food. Coffee cakes, challah, blintzes, kugel. Ahh, carbs and butter. Love.

I think keeping food tradition in families is just, so important. It creates a thread of family connection and memory that can’t be lost. With one grandma whipping up enchiladas and the other basting blintzes in butter, food planted a special place in my childhood heart. As an adult, it has planted itself everywhere else too. A homemade tortilla like Nana (rhymes with sauna) used to make is a trip back into her tiny kitchen, a place I’d give anything to visit again.

I hope to someday be a grandma with her own special dishes to feed the souls of my family. I wish I could write more, but next month is my 34th birthday and I just pictured myself as a grandma. Oy vey! Or, Dios mio! It depends on which grandma you ask.