I spent a lot of time in the kitchen as a child – mostly with my grandparents. My mom was (and still is) not a big fan of the kitchen. I joke with my mom that she only ever cooked for survival and never for enjoyment.
My mom was a working single parent so I spent a lot of time with her mom, my grandmother Dolly. My grandmother was always cooking. At the time, I was the only grandchild and her official sous chef. She’d pull a chair up to the kitchen sink or table and I’d chop, measure, and pour something for her. Prep for family gatherings would start a couple of days in advance – making bread, salads, and desserts. She liked to bake a lot and I think this is where I got my love of baking from. Her backyard was filled with fruit such as apricots, peaches, and apples. I’d help her make applesauce, peach cobblers, apple pies, apricot jam, apricot bars… and the list goes on. I remember spending weekends with her and a typical weekend breakfast would consist of pancakes, waffles, bacon, eggs, fresh-cut fruit, coffee, juice…all for her, grandpa, and I. Holidays were the best. She’d be baking for weeks. The smell of fresh-baked cookies, bars, and pies overwhelmed the house. We’d stay up together till late late at night making stuffing, jello, and on those special holidays we’d have homemade enchiladas and tamales.
Every so often I’d spend time with my father’s mom, my grandmother Adriana. Her parents and my grandfather’s parents owned bakeries in the city so there were always fresh-baked goods around. She too, when hosting me for a weekend, would make a feast. On the day of our visit, she’d pick me up and we’d make a trip to her local butcher. We’d get fresh sausages, prosciutto, and game hens. We’d go to a specialty market and pick up any extras such as olives, peppers, and pasta. She lived on a couple of acres and most of the land was covered with flowers, herbs, fruit trees, and vegetables. What we didn’t get from the store, we used from her garden. There were always fresh bread sticks on her table. I’d help her make breakfast with eggs, thick Italian sausages, and fresh bread and jam. Meals at her family gatherings were always huge – several courses with small bites in between.
For many, food is the center of great memories – holidays, family gatherings, and great achievements are all celebrated around food. When I make a recipe that came from my Nonna’s or Abuela’s, I’m overwhelmed with nostalgia; taken back to my childhood. I am grateful my grandparents spent time with me in the kitchen. I believe it’s given me a deeper appreciation for my heritage, for their history, and for food!
My husband and I love to cook. We’ve started our own memories in our kitchen together. Now that our son is here I want to build those memories with and for him. I hope by spending this time, he will learn healthy eating habits, learn how to cook for himself, and most of all enjoy the quality time we spend together.
My son has a very rich heritage and behind the heritage is a lot of really good food! Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Hawaiian, Chinese, German… he’s got so much history to learn and so much great food to eat as he grows. I’ve put a call out to our families requesting their help for…PROJECT COOKBOOK! I’m in the process of gathering our families recipes’ and putting them into a cookbook, along with stories and pictures.
When the time is right, I will pass the cookbook on to my son. I hope this will give him a peak into his history, family heritage, and something he can pass on to his own children.
RANDOM ITEM # 28 on THE LIST: Put together a family cookbook…