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Culinary Memories of Your Grandparents


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My condolences, eJulia.

I've really enjoyed reading this thread, and you're all so very lucky to have such positive memories of your families, such wonderful recollections of food and family and love. Sadly, I'm not so lucky in that department.

My maternal grandparents are second generation Hungarian immigrants, both uninspired in the cooking department. Grandma's standby food-for-guests when I was a kid was a hungarian cookie called keeflies (??) , which I suspect could have been good, but hers always tasted like they were made at least 6 months ago. They're both still alive and live an hour and a half away, but I haven't seen them in about a decade and probably won't again. Not the nicest people.

My paternal grandparents, both British stock, split up when Dad was 1. They're both deceased now, but Grandma lived in Toronto's Cabbagetown, and although I did hear glorious stories of wartime grocery-gathering for a single working mother in the 40's, she was the most horrendous cook that ever lived. Seriously. Mashed potatoes was unwashed potatoes boiled until they burned in the pan, then the whole thing was mashed up all together in its own charcoal water. Served cold, wth a dollop of shortening on top because "you wouldn't be able to taste margarine anyways." But she did always keep a bottle of Ribena in the fridge for me when I came to visit, (a concentrated black currant beverage) and I still do love that stuff!

Grandpa headed off back to New Brunswick after the war, and became a lobster fisherman. My Dad met him for the first time when he was about 33 and I was 5 or so, and he lived right on the ocean. Out the back porch and you step in the sand. Us kids had quite an enjoyable time playing with our new "pet" lobsters before eating them for the first time, and Grandpa enthusiastically showed us this trick for keeping them from running away on you if you've got nowhere to keep them. You sit the lobster face down with its claws tucked under it, so the tops of the claw legs and its forehead are the only parts resting on the ground, and they just go to sleep. The big ones can flick their tails and right themselves, but the canners can't. We had one sitting in that position all weekend, motionless, and when we finally righted it it just started crawling away as if nothing happened. Later, we drove back to Ontario from New Brunswick with a bagful of empty claws, which stunk the car up like you wouldn't believe. Us kids had the great idea of planting them in the garden when we got back to Mom's with the expectation of growing lobsters of our own. Regrettably, I must report that this doesn't work!

And that's about all I've got as far as nice food memories of grandparents. For those of you who have many that are happy, do recall them often and tell your kids too. And remember to help your children create wonderful memories of their own. It's so important. Threads like this, and other family memory threads I've read on eG, really do tug at the heart strings, especially when one is so wanting of the closeness of family. Enjoy 'em if you got 'em! :smile:

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Mashed potatoes was unwashed potatoes boiled until they burned in the pan, then the whole thing was mashed up all together in its own charcoal water. Served cold, wth a dollop of shortening on top because "you wouldn't be able to taste margarine anyways."

I feel for you, Sugarella. I tasted butter for the first time when I was twelve or something. Grandparents: not all sweetness and light.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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My condolences on the loss of your grandma, as well. 95 is too young to die!

Both of my grandfathers died when I was a baby, so I don't remember them at all.

My maternal grandmother spoke broken English and was a very plain cook. "Boiled chicken" is a good description of most of the dinners I remember eating at her house. With boiled carrots and boiled potatoes. She always went to the live chicken market to purchase her chickens; I hated going there because of the smell!

The two good things I remember from her house were the toast -- made on an A-frame electric toaster and better than any toast I've eaten since -- and a dish she sometimes used to make by stuffing the skin of the chicken neck with AFAIK farina; it was like a white sausage.

My paternal grandmother, on the other hand, was a fantastic cook, although she had a limited repertoire. At one point in her life, she'd run a boarding house in the Catskills, and later owned a farm. She used to prepare the annual Thanksgiving dinners at my house. She'd come over the night before and chop the ingredients for the stuffing -- onions, celery, roast chestnuts -- in a wodden chopping bowl she held in her ample lap. She made wonderful candied sweet potatoes (I still use her recipe), and lattice-crust apple pies with incredibly flaky crusts. Once, when I mentioned those pies admiringly to my father, he said dryly, "Well, when you bake half a dozen pies a day to feed the farm hands, you get pretty good at it pretty quick."

She must've had an adventurous palate for her time, because my father remembers eating Chinese food as a child, and at another point in her life, she hosted a Japanese houseguest (a friend of my uncle's) for several months. I also recall fondly that she always kept a mason jar filled with chocolate chips, which she'd dole out evenly to my sister and me whenever we'd visit. In her later years, she became a fan of Gaylord Hauser and followed some of his dietary recommendations.


"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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BarbaraY's memories of grandfather and the carving knife bring to mind something I can't believe I forgot! My maternal grandfather was missing his entire right index finger - carpal and metacarpal, so that it wasn't generally obvious that the finger was missing. The only time I noted that (except when he teased me by asking me to count on his fingers when I was first becoming numerate,) was when we shelled pecans and picked out nutmeats on autumn and winter nights. When granddaddy put pressure on the nutcracker, I could see the scar on the side of his hand where that finger had been amputated. Those were wonderful nights, though: We'd sit by the woodstove, and the first panful of shelled nuts always went on the stove to toast in a bit of butter. No snack ever made a job less tedious!

"Enchant, stay beautiful and graceful, but do this, eat well. Bring the same consideration to the preparation of your food as you devote to your appearance. Let your dinner be a poem, like your dress."

Charles Pierre Monselet, Letters to Emily

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Memories of grandparents are surely among the sweetest and most poignant we have. They often pop up here on eGullet, in individual posts, in bios, and in threads like this, and in previous threads like this one: Days of our Grandmothers, a life in the kitchen.

I've written about my own grandmother, a legendary southern cook, restaurant owner, and former Harvey Girl. Those of us that are privileged to know our grandparents are lucky indeed.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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What a wonderful way to commemorate your grandmother -- and to give us all the chance to remember ours. Thank you.

I remember only my maternal grandmother, who died when I was about 11. (The others died before I was born.) I've mentioned this before, but my main food memory of her relates to beets, or, more specifically, borscht. She used to make huge pots of borscht each week, and I can remember when I was a little kid standing on a chair by the stove in her South Bronx kitchen and eating the warm borscht from the pot. It is still one of my fondest memories. My grandmother would fill empty jars with the borscht and give several to my family each week. We drank it in glasses, cold, and the beets that remained on the bottom we would then eat with a fork. We never had it in a bowl like soup, and I remember I thought it was strange the first time I saw someone eat borscht in that way (although now I love it like that.) I love beets because I love the way they taste, but they're also a tremendously emotional food for me -- I can't even see them without remembering my grandmother, and the memories are always good ones.

Also -- my grandmother owned a candy store on Southern Blvd., and I remember visiting that store (it was in the same building she lived in, and it was where my mother grew up.) She sold the store when I was about 5 or 6, but I remember it well. I remember that my very favorite candy bar was (and still is) Chunky! :raz: And I remember that my first ambition in life was to be a candy store lady, like Bubby. (Actually, I should have stuck to it.)


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My paternal grandparents died when I was very young, so I have no memories of them. To hear my father tell it, though, I probably wasn't missing much, culinarily speaking. They did live on a chicken farm on the outskirts of Monrovia, CA (near Pasadena), though, and that I would have liked to have seen.

My mother's parents are a source of many food memories. They lived in Glendale, CA (northern L.A. county, near Burbank), so we got to see them quite a lot. My most vibrant food memory of G&G was their pantry, which consisted of 2-x-4s that Gramps had hammered in between the wall studs of the basement stairs. The wall was perfectly deep enough to hold a single row of cans and jars... it was great fun to explore!

My grams, a first-generation Italian-american was a good home cook; I still use her chicken stuffing recipe, and a few others that fit into the day-to-day, down-home American genre. I don't have any of her Italian recipes, but I do have a few letters that her mother wrote to her when she was first married, nearly all of which end with a recipe for something she thought the newlyweds would enjoy. They're written in a lovely phonetic Italian-English hybrid that never fails to bring me a chuckle.

Gramps was always something of a gourmet at heart. He loved Julia Child -- I have his copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking -- and shopped at Trader Joe's back when it was a single store with a funky selection of cheeses and wines. I also remember the aunts (including my mom) chuckling with amusement as he showed off the unglazed paving stones he'd used to line his oven for bread baking -- this in the early 70s, when pizza stones weren't yet something you could buy. After Granma passed away, my mom sent me to stay with Gramps for a week, probably over spring break. He made me tomato soup for lunch, from scratch... I'm ashamed to admit that I turned up my nose at the stuff, since it was nothing like the Campbell's I was used to at home. (In my defense, I think I was about 6 or 7.)

Family holidays always started with hors d'oeuvres, known in our clan as "befores"... and Gramps usually brought them. The usual creamy dip with crudites (always including black olives for me), some cheeses, and 'funny' crackers.

Gramps was a bourbon drinker, and his kisses always tasted like Kentucky. It's taken me a long time since his death to be able to bear the taste of bourbon -- it's just too closely tied to my memory of him.

Edited by ScorchedPalate (log)

Anita Crotty travel writer & mexican-food addictwww.marriedwithdinner.com

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My maternal grandmother was a driving force in my culinary interest. She was an amazing cook. A Jewish immigrant from Aleppo Syria she brought with her many recipes. She live a good part of the early part of her life in the south so intertwined in the Arab/Jewish food culture came a good dose of southern cuisine. She cooked for her large family for years making all the dishes for all our holidays and events. We would go to her house on the weekends where she would always have a few pots on the stove going and mezze on the table. She always had food in case someone stopped by. Her fried kibbe and baklawa were the best I've ever had any where. Perfect and consistent in size and shape. She was quite good at that. She would make a bowl of dough for kaak, biscuits, apricot candies or what ever and say this will make xx number of what ever and sure enough that was how many she got out of the dough and they were all perfect. She measure most things by the amount that filled her hand. She was meticulous and didn't take too many short cuts to save time. She remained active in the kitchen even in her 90s just needed help to get things together and clean up. She passed away at 94, a few years ago, and we put together a family cookbook that included many of her recipes that we could put together from those that spent time with her when she cooked as well as other family member recipes. Cooking was only one thing she will be remembered for. Her commitment to her family and the wisdom she provided us all will transend even my life time.

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My grandparents are still living (they are in their late 70's) and I spend at least 2 weeks a year with them on their farm. Everytime I leave I am loaded down with fresh squash, zuchinni, tomatoes, corn, onions, cucumbers etc.

I used to spend summers there when I was younger and was raised by my grandparents for the most part, before they moved away.

I will always remember picking and preparing vegetables fresh from the garden. I would eat the vegetables raw most of the time, they were just so good. The tomatoes that my grandfather grows are beyond compare.

I remember always picking the blackberries and raspberries that grew wild along the fenceline and the strawberries my grandfather grew in his garden. I used to love picking the sunflower seeds and roasting them over an open fire.

I really learned an appreciation for fresh fruits and vegetables as well as how to grow and prepare them.

I will always remember catching crawdads and fish in the river and hauling my catch home, where my grandmother would fry or boil it up and it would be included in dinner. No matter how small that sunfish or trout was or how few crawdads I had, she always made sure I got to eat my catch. She was always so proud of my prize. My grandfather would alway show me the best place to get worms before I went fishing and provided the old coffee can to keep them in.

I learned the best cuts of venison and how to make sure a deer was properly dressed. I also learned how to help cover up a venison that was a little too gamey and how to make a great venison sausage.

I started cooking with my grandmother when I was very young. I loved it (as my daughter does now) and always wanted to help. Even though I am sure I was more of a hinderance than a help sometimes. She is a down home cook, fried chicken, greens, chicken soup, breads, biscuits, gravy, squash casserole that type of thing. But she is always trying new recipes and on the look out for any new ideas. We e-mail each other with recipes & "food talk" several times a week.

My grandfather would always eat my creations and tell me they were delicious. Although looking back at some of my handwritten recipes now (I love my grandmother for the fact that she kept all my handwritten recipes and made a "cookbook" with them which she just gave me not too long ago), I can imagine they were pretty bad. But he ate them all with a smile and praise.

She taught me how to make jams, jellies, relishes and pickles. I learned how to "put up" or can, my vegetables, jams, jellies and pickles from her.

My grandfather is a lover of all things sweet, he always has to have dessert after dinner. I will always remember the different desserts that my grandmother made. She has a HUGE repetoire of desserts, cakes, pies & candies that she makes. She can easily go 2 months before repeating a dessert, unless my grandfather requests something specific.

My grandparents both let me get hands on with everything they did. I helped my grandfather put new tin on the roof and I helped install an additional bathroom. I helped mow and put up the hay. I fed the cows and the goats. My grandmother always had some new art project for me to do.

My grandfather goes to yard sales and is always on the look out for new cookbooks for me. He has a list of ones that I want that he is on the lookout for. He also buys me cast iron cookware, lugs it home, cleans it up and my grandmother will season it up before they give it to me. She has a large collection herself so she doesn't really need anymore pieces.

Beyond all the food memories, I will always remember the love. The love, affection and tenderness between them and the love that they have always shown me.

WHEW, that was long !! :laugh:

Today is going to be one of those days.....

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WHEW, that was long !!  :laugh:

But absolutely wonderful (sniff)!

Thanks for your contribution!

"Anybody can make you enjoy the first bite of a dish, but only a real chef can make you enjoy the last.”

Francois Minot

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I was stupid or naive or never thought my grandmother wouldn't keep making her pumpkin pies, and that's why I don't have the recipe. Her pie crust was crumbly, flaky with an actual sugar crunch between your teeth, but not overly sweet. The pumpkin pie filing was only about 3/4" of an inch deep, but it was intensely pumpkiny flavored, it tasted like a fresh cut pumpkin smells, and had little pumpkin clumps. The color was sort of a pale orange with brown little bits on top. She would make 3 or 4 pies for for the family, and hold one whole one just for me. My only consolation is that I can conjur up the taste and smell at will, but I'm still a dunce for not thinking to get the recipe.

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My two Grandfathers passed away before I was born, but I did get to know my Grandmothers.

They were very much a study in contrasts. My maternal Gramma was very much a country cook - jell-o salad, cold sliced ham and bread with butter were sunday lunch staples. The food was never fancy (spaghetti was strange and exotic) but it was always good and fresh and filling. She was an excellent baker and I have yet to get my butter tarts turn out with the filling at exactly the right stage between runny and chewy that she managed every time. She also did a lot of canning and preserving evey summer and it was lots of fun to run down into the basement and pick out a jar of home canned green beans for supper. She died when I was sixteen. It's been fun hanging out with CaliPoutine because she lives in the next town over and I get to see lots of the places we went together.

My paternal Granmother hated to cook. I think she actually hated to eat. We found several years old salad dressing in her fridge when she moved. She once served my oven baked fish and chips with Catalina dressing, because she was out of ketchup and since they were both red I could "pretend" Actually those fish and chips are the only thing I ever remember her cooking. Every other time we were with her we went out or my Mom cooked. My father is a very good cook, a skill he says he honed in a effort to have himself and his sister not starve.

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I've posted before about how my paternal grandmother, a farmer's wife, was the shame of the county because she couldn't cook and didn't know how to drive. Well, my mom put me straight on that. The part about her not knowing how to drive was true...my grandfather would have to stop farming and drive her where she needed to go, which you just didn't ask a farmer to do.

My mom told me Grandma Bea knew how to cook but because she was a farmer's wife and was always helping out in the fields, when it came time for dinner she would have to rush back to the farmhouse and start dinner in a hurry. Everything was thrown onto the stove turned on high to get it done in a hurry and so it's no wonder my father grew up not liking her cooking. I still remember the smell of over-percolated coffee on the stove when we would come to visit.

What's that saying about Ginger Rogers? She could do everything Fred Astaire could do but she did it backwards and in high heels. Poor Grandma Bea!

They had a lot of chickens on the farm and so my father grew up hating chicken for dinner because of the way Grandma Bea burned everything and wasn't a big fan of it when my mom would cook it for dinner when we were growing up.

My mother, however, was raised by her older sister, Aunt Mary, and Aunt Mary was a goddess in the kitchen. To this day, my mom adores chicken in any manner, shape or form thanks to Aunt Mary's wonderful cooking.

And because she learned how to cook from Aunt Mary, we all grew up liking chicken in any manner, shape or form, too.

My father's side of the family was of English/Dutch heritage but it wasn't really reflected in the food Grandma Bea cooked. She did teach my mom how to make homemade egg noodles, though.

My mom's side of the family came from Bohemia. Aunt Mary would always make kolaches when she came to visit. And all of us now-grown-up kids love my mom's pork roast with sauerkraut, big, fat, fluffy dumplings and potato pancakes that a Polish neighbor taught my mom how to make when she was a newlywed.


“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”


Tim Oliver

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Paternal grandfather always had a glass of good whiskey and a cigar in his hand. He loved whiskey sours, which I'd beg a sip of (I liked them, too!). His favorite restaurant in town was a clubby, men's only place, and he loved their lemon meringue pie. I ate at that restaurant when I was an adult (they began allowing women in when I was 19) and I had the pie - grandpa was right. My paternal grandmother died when I was four, but she was renowned for her fudge, and had something of a rivalry with her sister as to who made the better fudge.

Maternal grandmother was a wonderful cook. with a kitchen garden filled with herbs, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. I've had a lifelong devotion to fresh salad because of her. Her Sunday roasts were to die for. I loved the end pieces, not so much because they were well-down, but because I loved the garlicky, peppery, crunchy bits. Maternal grandfather wasn't a cook himself, but he did like her cooking.

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I continually cite my Grandmother as my primary culinary influence. My earliest memories include standing on my tip toes and watching her sautee mushrroms with thyme and shallots . . . a preparation which to this day makes an appearance with my homemade pizzas, omelettes, and a host of other applications. She was just a cup or two of white wine and cream away from duxelles, something I didn't realize until much later in life.

She was also the master of cheesecake, and without a water bath, can still to this day make a perfect one with no cracks, and with untouchable density. Don't get me started on her lemon meringe pie, something she's perfected to blue-ribbon quality.

For some reason, even with all her wisdom and built-in technique, she gets shy around me and continues to look to me for approval for the simplest of preparations. Little does she know she's my own personal Kung-Fu master.

R. Jason Coulston


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