Cooking with Grandma

12 Jan

I remember as a small child one of the highlights of the Christmas holiday season was my father’s parents coming to town. When my grandfather was still alive he would go down to his local Italian grocery store in the morning before getting on the airplane and buy up all the fresh baked bread. He would fill an entire suitcase with Italian bread and check it with the rest of his baggage. One of my most treasured memories as a small child was watching him or my father open that suitcase in the middle of the dining room and you could almost hear the “awww” sound of cherubs singing when the suitcase was opened. I remember my father’s favorite was the round rolls with the sesame seeds covering the entire crust.

My favorite Italian Deli in New Jersey

My grandparents would come for two weeks during Christmas and during that time we would cook at least one big from scratch Italian meal. It ranged from eggplant parmesan, hand made gnocchi, bracciole (pronounced bra-zhole), meatballs or chicken cutlet. Most of my memories are of grandma directing myself and my parents as she was a bit older when I was little and enlisted my help as she couldn’t see as well as she used to be able to. She taught me how to make the gnocci from scratch and how to roll them out with my two little fingers to get them just the right shape. She showed me how to pound the garlic and the meat then roll them up for bracciole and how to cook them in the marinara sauce so they would soak up the flavors in the sauce.

It’s amazing to me that there is so much more to cooking than just the mechanics. Throughout my adult life I have tried to replicate the recipes that she taught me but no matter how I try it never tastes exactly the way grandma makes it.

My grandparents are in the middle

She passed away at 99 1/2 on January 10, 2010 and in thinking about this first anniversary of her death, I was thinking of all the memories of cooking with her. Those were my most favorite memories of my times with her, that and playing cards with her. She and my grandfather taught me how to play cards as a small child and I remember pestering them mercilessly when they were in town to teach me a new card game.

I digress, I still haven’t figured out the recipe thing. My sister and I were discussing this, as she was telling me she has had the same experience. She had theorized it may have something to do with the pots that grandma used, or a specific brand of tomatoes. It amazes me all the permutations that can cause the taste to vary slightly, thus making it nearly impossible to replicate completely.

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