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Recording Family Recipes
Tue Sep 18, 2012 12:26 amForum Host
1. Don’t procrastinate! How many people have told you that their grandmother used to make this absolutely fabulous dish for them but they didn’t learn how to make it, their mom didn’t learn how to make it, and now that their grandma’s gone so’s the recipe? So don’t wait, do it today!
2. Get organized. Before you start cooking, lay out all the ingredients on the kitchen table or counter and run through them together. Note them all down, together with the amounts (weight, cups, bundles). If possible, go shopping with grandma so you know what to look for and where it’s available. You’ll also pick up tips on selecting vegetables and meat. (Just don’t poke those peaches too hard!).
3. Be prepared. When cooking with Gramma, bring your arsenal with you –measuring cups, measuring spoons, tape measure, timer, camera, notebook, and pen. Be ready to pounce and intercept with cups and teaspoons before she can pour salt or soy sauce into the pot. You don’t have to be as anal, especially if you’re good at estimating. Just ask grandma to slow down so you can absorb what’s going on, and also so she can show you how many peppercorns are in her hand before she throws them in the pot. Jot down rough estimates like “sugar–about 1 tablespoon,” or “soy sauce–1 Chinese rice bowl.” You can translate everything into standard measurements later. In the end, the finite amounts don’t really matter because no matter how hard you try, no two cooks make the same dish exactly alike. Plus, you and your family will have your own preferences for how salty or sweet you like a dish.
4. Video or audio record the cooking session. You won’t be distracted by trying to write everything down, and you can pay attention and enjoy the experience with grandma. Videos can also be useful for documenting steps or techniques, and they also serve as wonderful mementoes when loved ones are gone. And if you can get grandma to narrate the steps as she cooks, you can listen to the audio recording when recreating the dish on your own.
5. Tag team. Have someone else record the video (this is a great sibling project), and ask them to zoom in when grandma is demonstrating a technique like caramelizing sugar or chopping lemongrass. This way, you can also be in the video cooking with your grandma. Or, your partner can take photos and you can take notes. It always helps to have two sets of eyes and ears!
6. Taste as you go. Seasoned home cooks rely on their senses rather than standard measurements, having honed their taste buds, eyes, ears, and fingers to know what a dish is supposed to be like at different stages. Maybe when you cook(ed) with your mom, she would taste the dish at several different stages of cooking, and you’d taste right along with her. In addition to taste, try and learn other sensory cues. Don’t be afraid to ask how things are supposed to look, sound, smell, and feel at different stages of the recipe. Pay close attention and watch to see if grandma adjusted heat levels and cooking times based on these factors.
7. Find out the story. The story behind a family recipe is just as important as the ingredients and technique. Ask grandma when she learned how to make the dish, and who taught her. Is it a special dish served during a holiday or a particular season of the year? What other dishes or beverages would she serve it with? Depending on the situation and the complexity of the dish, you can always sit down and do a separate interview instead of talking while cooking.
8. Ask for feedback. Afterwards, make the dish on your own and ask for feedback. Does the texture feel right? Did you add so much cardamom that it overpowers the rest of the flavors in the dish? What suggestions does grandma have to improve it?
9. Compile a family cookbook once you have enough recipes. It can be as simple as typed sheets in a binder, or you could go all out and produce a cookbook on a photo site like Shutterfly and blurb.com. Click on http://www.food.com/bb/viewtopic.zsp?t=330731 for loads more ideas.
Courtesy of Patricia Tanumihardja, author of The Asian Grandmother's Cookbook
Thu Sep 27, 2012 12:29 amFood.com Groupie
Very, Very good tips.
I have asked my grandmother numrous times for these recipes:
Banana Bread, Deviled Eggs, and Chocolate balls.
I have had other Banan Breads but hers is the best by far from what I have tried and I have tried like 15 others. The only deviled eggs I will eat are hers. There is just something about them.
When I have been asking for the recipes she is like well I really don't have a recipe, I just add ingredients and eyball it...
I finally got her this year to commit on putting it on paper for me...About time since she is almost 80 now.
So do not wait or you will never get that agian!!!
Thu May 23, 2013 2:46 pmRegular "Line Cook" Poster
Actually right things and right idea.My grandmother when cook their dishes I saw that was very simple and easy.She didn't use anymore spices or cooking ingredients.But what a fabulous dishes she made within short period.Whole the house spreading a good and heart touch smell at the time her cooking.I already wrote some recipe and was trying as per her method.
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