In an attempt to create a grocery list for Thursday, I have been looking through cookbooks and my pile of hand written family recipes. In an even greater attempt to procrastinate from actually making progress on Thanksgiving plans, I have been geezing. Remembering. Pondering.
While she was a woman of many talents, cooking was my grandmother’s art. Something in her kitchen was always baking, frying, marinating or cooling. Until she got on her gold backed IRA retirement, she taught high school home economics. She taught pregnant teenagers about nutrition and cooking. She grew food. She cooked the food my grandfather hunted. My grandmother could seriously cook.
Because I wasn’t allowed in my mother’s kitchen and my high school didn’t believe in home economics, I never learned to cook with the skill of someone who grew up cooking. Despite that, I have my grandmother’s recipes. I’ve seen the notes that my grandmother made in cookbooks as she changed recipes over the years. What I don’t have, is a single recipe from my grandmother’s mother.
I know that when my grandmother’s mother moved to TN sometime around 1917, she married a Protestant and the fact that she was Jewish somehow ceased to exist. It’s logistically impossible to understand why my great-grandmother made that choice. I remain puzzled how, even if it was something that was deliberately hidden, she could avoid teaching family recipes to her daughter. Even more puzzling is the fact that my grandmother was twelve when her mother died and her Aunt, who also ceased to be Jewish when she moved to TN with her sister, married my grandmother’s father and parented her dead sister’s children. Two Jewish sisters raised my grandmother to love cooking and yet managed not to hand down a single family recipe. None.
How does that happen?