Memories: Culinary heritage

Posted by Anita on 02.06.06 1:50 PM

(originally published as part of eGullet’s Culinary Memories of your Grandparents thread)

Grams & Gramps and me (c)MREMy 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 Grams 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.

cookbooks, family, food boards, Italian, SoCal
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[...] my grandfather passed away, I inherited his mammoth recipe box. Buried amid a slew of tortured 1970s-era gourmet [...]

Posted on 11.24.09 at 9:37AM

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