So the NY Times had a good little piece this weekend by Michelle Slatalla about digging out her grandmothers’ old recipes — they’d each lived through the depression, and were good cooks, and managed to keep everyone alive on beef barley soup for decades. She even punts a little bit at the end as she discovers that short ribs have gotten expensive, so she experiments with shin, because her grandmother was nothing if not thrifty.
I had to laugh a little — not at the article per se — but at the mere thought of learning anything about cooking from my grandmother. She hated to cook. She thought it was a total waste of time and in combination with her lack of kitchen hygiene, well she gave me food poisoning more than once during my childhood. We all learned early to treat visits to her house like trips to a third-world country: if you didn’t peel it or unwrap it yourself, then don’t eat it.
Now I love my grandmother dearly. She’s 97, and has all of her marbles (although she’s kind of bored being very old), and she taught me many important things — chief among them that a girl should always have her own money and a viable career. But cooking? Not so much …
However, I do love that people are looking back a little, getting past some of the pretensions of the past few years when it comes to food, and remembering that feeding ourselves well doesn’t require a pantry full of specialty products. Beef barley soup. Chocolate cake with a little coffee in it. Easy stuff.