In a fit of food nostalgia not long ago, I asked my Mom for a lefsa recipe. She gave me this:
It is my Grandmother’s recipe and in typical, minimalist Doris Berg fashion the details are sketchy. “Big kettle of potatoes” doesn’t exactly tell me how many pounds or what kind of spuds, or how many gallons of water the kettle should hold. There are a couple mentions of ricing, when, exactly is unclear, no instructions about how you roll the dough, cook it or how much the recipe makes.
And this isn’t a one off, absentminded, leave out the procedures recipe, this is how all of my Grandmother’s recipes look.
It isn’t surprising that her recipes are sparse. She didn’t use them and they are only written because someone asked her for them. Grandma knew how to cook from watching and cooking with her mom, by practicing a lot on her big family and by improvising with what was available. She didn’t have a choice not to cook.
Cooking then wasn’t optional like it is now. She didn’t have the choice to go out to eat, it cost too much for a big family and there weren’t that many options anyway. She didn’t, until much later, have the option of pre made meals in the freezer aisles or boxes of dried noodles with orange powder or pre assembled boxes of meals you can purchase on line. She wasn’t constantly bombarded with new health claims divised not by doctors but marketers. Big food wasn’t as big then.
Some would argue that she also had more time. Her kids didn’t do 8 billion outside of school activities. My grandparents were a one income household, that meant one person worked outside the home and the other worked inside. Life seems much more complicated now, though I am pretty sure she would have said that her life was super busy. The same sentiment that every woman I know says today.
So what has changed? Why don’t we cook anymore? Why can’t we find time? I think it has to do with a combination of not having the skills and not making it a priority.
So it made me start thinking about my own kids. How do I make sure that my kids learn how to cook like I did. How to I make sure that my kids learn the ins and outs of food and how it affects their bodies and health? How to I make sure they know how to shop for the best possible food they can get their hands on and prepare it for themselves or their family in simple ways that don’t take umpteen hours in the kitchen.
How do I instill in them the knowledge, love and respect I have for food and how do I make cooking not a burdensome task but rather a cheerful habit for them.
This is the beginning of a new project I will be writing about on Sunny Side. I have changed the settings to make it easier to comment directly into the blog. Please also share your own thoughts and follow me on Twitter at @eileenlotoole for frequent updates.