Recipes Learned From Love and Memories
Cooking is not always about the way to one's stomach, but the heart.
I really like to cook.
I love experimenting with new recipes and new tastes. And I especially love when I get positive feedback from my family. Sometimes all that means is seeing an empty plate in front of them. A lot of my cooking “training” came from my Gramma.
I grew up in a Ranch house in a great neighborhood in Stoneham with my Mom and Gramma. I absolutely loved it and I was also very lucky to have a relationship with my Gramma that most kids don’t have. She was more of a second Mother to me. My Mom had to work full time, and my Gramma worked “Mother’s hours” at Bradlees for most of my life until she retired, so she was always around when I got home from school. Like most kids, almost every day after school, the first thing I would ask my Gramma is, “What’s for dinner?” Her answer almost every time was, “Food”.
I got to watch my Gramma cook, a lot. To this day, I can still picture her in the kitchen getting to work on a home cooked meal or some homemade goodies. And of course, how could you ever forget the smells? Simply amazing. I always wanted to help my Gramma in the kitchen, when I wasn’t doing homework, playing, working or just having a lazy day. I loved watching her. What spices she used, how she cut up different fruits and vegetables in various ways and my favorite, when she made her pie crust. Today, I still measure out my ingredients the exact same way that my Gramma did.
There was only one thing that we would butt heads on. When we would bake together, I would want to lick the bowl but she would want to get every last bit of the mix into the pan to bake. I of course would still get my sugar fix but not as much as I would have hoped.
I moved into a condo in North Chelmsford in 2002 with my then boyfriend. I was 20 years old. This would be my first real test of cooking on my own. Let’s just say my Gramma got daily phone calls from me around dinner time. She would get a boatload of cooking questions from me and she was my savior. There were definitely more dishes that looked scary than masterpieces at this point in my life but practice makes perfect, right?
In May of 2005, we moved into our first house as a married couple in Tewksbury. By this time, my cooking has definitely taken steps up the ladder. I still talked to my Gramma every day and would frequently ask her for cooking advice.
On October 15, 2005, which is also my Mother’s birthday, my Gramma passed away. I was 4 months pregnant and was an emotional mess. A part of me definitely went with her that day.
When my family started going through things in my Gramma’s house, I asked if I could have her recipe box and some recipe books. I was very excited when I brought them home with me. I immediately started glancing through the box and books to see what I could try to make first. Each recipe holds many memories for me.
Over the past six years, I will pull out recipes, write down what I need for ingredients, go buy everything at the store and come home to start cooking. I will then get everything prepped and turn over the recipe card to find the back, blank! I have all of the ingredients, now what do I do with them?!
Oh, how I wish I could pick up the phone and call her to get my answers. Now my Mom and two Aunts get phone calls from me to see if they remember how a meal or dessert is put together. Déjà vu?
I wish I could have just one more day with her to get the cooking instructions on certain recipes and ask her about ones that aren’t even written down. I keep a picture of my Gramma and me on my kitchen windowsill, and think and talk to her often while I’m cooking. I know that she is right beside me helping me make delicious meals and goodies for my family now.
I also have my little helper, my 5 year old daughter. She loves to help me in the kitchen and I hope to pass on the same traditions and memories to her that my Gramma did to me. Now I know from experience, write every recipe down, even if you know it by heart!
Recently, my Mom, aunts, cousin and I got together and made a couple of my Gramma’s recipes. It was so great cooking and baking some food that we maybe haven’t tasted in a while. There were lots of conversations and laughter going on in the kitchen that day. The best part, eating everything and having it bring me back to that Ranch house I grew up in. And we did it all with a picture of my Gramma on the kitchen table.