I recently lost my last pair of grandparents (Grampa Mac in February and Gramma Ruth in March - they loved each other so much that she wasn't more than 2 weeks behind him), so like Shelby this thread is making me tear up a little...
On my father's side, I had extremely Scottish grandparents. From my Gran Kat (after whom I am named), who would only let her granddaughters in the kitchen while she was cooking (lucky me - I was the only one she had!) I have Scones, Oatcakes, Honey Cakes, Black Fruitcakes, and my favourite method for macaroni and cheese casserole. Although I paid very close attention I will never be able to roast meats the way she did: she was an absolute master and even 20 years on I'm still trying to get my lamb to turn out the way hers did. Gran was kind of heck on veggies, though - she put everything except perhaps neeps a mashie - through the blander, because apparently it wasn't veg until it was an unidentifiable greenish moosh. I used to have bets with my (all male) cousins at holiday dinners about what that green goop was when it started - brussel sprouts? broccoli? beans? and since they never caught on that I was allowed in the kitchen, I always won the best prizes out of the Christmas crackers my uncle made. I also have, when I want to use it, Gran's broad Glaswegian accent.
From Gramp Rollie, I have a taste for finer Scotches and the conviction that a shot a day will keep the doctor away (it does, and it did for him - he was well on into his 80s when he passed, and peacefully). I've also got his methods for yeasted cakes, which was about the only thing he was permitted to do in the kitchen besides heavy lifting.
On my mother's side, I had third-generation Scottish grandparents. From Gramma Ruth (after whom I am thankfully not named), I have recipes for waffles, pancakes, and all manner of quick breads. Gramma Ruth was not a salt chef at all, and I remember in particular spam fritters that even the dog wouldn't eat. Grampa Mac was the better cook. From my great aunts and Gramma's cookbooks from her own mother and grandmother, I have everything I ever needed to know about yeast breads. The honey whole wheat loaves that I bake are from my recently departed Great Aunt Rosalind, Ruth's sister.
From my Grampa Mac, who apparently started feeding me butter tarts before I had teeth to chew the raisins, I have a raging sweet tooth, the conviction that even stale bread is edible if I have a full bowl of maple syrup to dip it into. I have and frequently exercise his recipes for butter tarts (what else!?!), taffy, fudge, caramels, and other assorted sweets. I also have the tried and true methods for grilling elk, moose, and bear, and my favourite methods for cast-iron cooking. Grampa also gave me a spirit of adventurousness in the kitchen - he'd often open up the icebox and pull out random stuff and then we'd have a day of turning it into dinner. He taught me that anything is possible as long as you have salt, pepper, and parsley in the pantry.
From all four of these, I got the Calvinist work ethic. In the kitchen, it means I'm stubbornly hardworking past the point of most folks' endurance because I'd prefer to fall into bed honestly exhausted than simply tired from a day's work.
On my stepdad's side, I had a Polish Gypsy oma, who was his great-aunt. From Oma Salome, I learned about pickling, preserves, black breads, overnight breads, and that no breakfast is complete without kielbasa (something I now sorely miss in Ecuador). She also taught me that kohlrabi is best raw with a little dish of salt, and that if you can find sweet red onions, they're just as good for eating out of hand as apples are. I'm convinced that Oma Salome only passed away because the doctors told her she had to stop doing this.
EDIT - And because my family's definition of "family" has always been very broad, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Grandma Wendy in Northern Alberta, who adopted me into her northern Cree band and taught me that bannock is best when fried in about 2 feet of pig drippings, and that wild strawberries or blueberries are always, always worth the effort, before booting me out of the kitchen to go play with the boys; here in Ecuador Grandma Fidelina, who has taught me so much about Ecuadorian cooking and customs and who still smacks my hand with a wooden spoon if I reach for the quimbolitos before they're fully cooked; Grandma Dorila, who taught me that anything I catch in the river can handily be cooked in heliconia leaves as long as I can find garlic or garlic vines; and Grandma Blanca, who showed me that fresh-milled corn is so much better, even if my arms feel like they're going to fall off when it comes time to make the humitas.
Edited by Panaderia Canadiense, 23 November 2013 - 05:47 AM.