Tomorrow, I am going to be posting my first original recipe. Before I do, however, I want to share a little bit about my personal philosophy on cooking and recipes. To do this, I am going to tell a story about my late grandmother, Joella (Grandma Jo).
My grandma was a small but fierce Italian woman and a truly legendary cook. Because I lived at my grandparents house with my dad and my sister for the first few years of my life, some of my first memories are watching my grandma cook in the kitchen. I would jump onto the step stool and help her in the kitchen. After we moved into our own place (a whole mile away) we still spent a lot of time at my grandma’s house, so I continued to watch her cook.
Sadly, our family lost my grandma when I was eight after her battle with cancer. How I wish I could have had more time with her (and my Grandpa Fred who died shortly after my parents got married when I was three and a half). I would have loved to cook some awesome Italian meals with my grandma, but I believe her spirit of cooking lives on in me, (just like it has in her children, especially my Aunt Tracy who I believe truly embodies my grandma’s spirit of cooking and hospitality). I feel blessed for all the times I get to cook with my aunt, because it does feel in a way like I gained some more time with my grandma.
Despite this all, I feel like I have learned so much more about my grandma and her cooking through the stories I have heard about her. Almost every time I meet someone who knew my grandma, they will tell some story about her cooking (all glowing reviews). My dad’s friends from growing up all go on and on about how they loved coming over to my dad’s house because they knew it meant eating Joella’s cooking.
I will say that there is one story in particular that has always stood out for me that has helped me better understand my grandma’s cooking and better understand my own. This was a story my Aunt Cris (one of my mother’s sisters) told me years ago. She was talking about how she was at my grandparents house and my grandma had made her famous homemade pizza. There wasn’t a person who tried this pizza who didn’t have a minor life-changing moment.
My aunt had asked my grandma for her pizza recipe. My grandma told her, “You take some flour, you take some oil; you’ll know when it’s enough.” My aunt thought my grandma didn’t want to tell her the recipe, but then she realized the issue was that she didn’t actually have a recipe. She just made it. She knew what ingredients to use but couldn’t explain measurements because she didn’t measure anything. She didn’t have to because she had that chef’s intuition to know when the look and feel of her dough was right. That’s how she was with most of her cooking, because she was that good. She didn’t need recipes; she just threw things together and they always tasted amazing.
As I have gotten older, I am finding that my style of cooking is very similar to hers. I go off my instincts and most of the time I can tell when something is right. Sure, I can follow a recipe very well, and I often cook from recipes. However, I find more often that I am using the recipe as a guide and doing what seems right to me.
The whole point of this story is that like my grandmother, I have difficulties explaining to people how to make certain dishes. I am going to do my best to come up with measurements and directions when sharing my own food creations. I cannot promise they will be perfect, but I will work hard to include helpful notes if you want to try any of my recipes.