Have you ever had a song that brings you back to a particular memory in time? Or a movie you watched that reminded you of an event in your life? I have. Whenever I hear “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles, I’m reminded by the kindness of a neighbor who bought me my first 45 rpm record. Remember those? Funny, we didn’t even own a phonograph player to listen to it, yet I loved that single. Or, watching Ben Hur, the only movie I remember my father taking me to see in a theatre. Well, what does this have to do with cooking you may ask? Our lives are made of many such stories as it relates to cooking and food as well.
There is no doubt my father expressed his love in his cooking for us. After tasting a stuffed fish in a restaurant, he deconstructed how it was made and proceeded to prepare it at home. Stuffing that whole fish with a filling of ground pork, shrimp, mushrooms, and water chestnuts; and then deep-frying it was a work of art and love. It was the only time he ever made it. When my Dad passed away many years ago, I remember getting very emotional many times as I was chopping some vegetables. I surmised it was because that’s what I heard him doing when I came home from school or work as he was preparing dinner. In contrast, my mother caused havoc when she hit the kitchen. All the ingredients and preparations were strewn all over the kitchen. Every place was occupied, even the floor. I can still hear her yelling at us for not helping her while she prepared the specialty dumplings for the holidays. It is hilarious now but it wasn’t then. I am smiling as I say it is a good thing my Mom taught us wonderful life skills in other areas.
The inspirational book, Storied Dishes: What Our Family Recipes tell Us About Who We Are and Where We’ve Been, covers great personal stories of recipes transmitted from one generation to another. What stories can you share with friends and family as you gather together for the upcoming holiday season? More importantly, what wonderful memories are you creating for others in the present?
Storied Dishes edited by Linda Murray Berzok
Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters by Marilynn Brass and Sheila Brass
Mother and Daughter Jewish Cooking by Evelyn and Judy Rose
Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken by Laura Schenone
Mom’s Secret Recipe File edited by Chris Styler
Asian Grandmothers Cookbook by Patricia Tanumihardja
Cooking with Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux
The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young