Grandmothers are typically the keepers of the culinary flame. That’s why I envied friends whose grandmothers doted on them. I hardly knew mine. Popo died when I was very young, and I only saw Oma once or twice a year, as she lived in a different country.
So I adopted friends’ and strangers’ grandmothers to teach me their culinary traditions for my book The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook. I visited churches and chatted up restaurant owners. Friends called me saying, “My mother is coming to visit. Would you like to cook with her?” Others volunteered their grandmas, aunts and sisters. Cooking and documenting their recipes was always an adventure. The ultimate goal: to record these recipes before they disappeared into the past forever. In the end, not only did I gain a book full of recipes, I gained countless grandmothers, too.
By Pat Tanumihardja, a food writer and cookbook author in Pacific Grove, Calif.