My grandma and grandpa are both amazing cooks; as I mentioned in the Festival Italiano post, they were both born and raised in Italy and immigrated here as young adults. After they were married, they started a restaurant, Casanova, where they were the head chefs. My grandma was also the hostess, and my dad was a busboy. I wasn’t yet born when they had their restaurant, and so I never got to see them in action anywhere other than their home kitchen. But even at home, they were amazing. They planned the menus and grocery shopped and cooked, and they did it all together. When we would go to visit them there would always be a meal in the works, no matter the time of day.
Regardless of the meal they were making, my grandma always had a few treats in the house. Our favorite? Grandma’s Cookies (yes, that is the official title!). They are these little Italian cookies: mildly sweet, with almond-flavored homemade frosting. She would always make a big batch while we were there and my sister and I got to “help”. Okay, so our helping mostly included licking the frosting off the tray and spilling sprinkles all over her kitchen floor, but we still loved to work with her in the kitchen.
I still make Grandma’s cookies for holidays, typically for Christmas, and every time I make them it takes me back to my grandma’s kitchen: standing at the counter with my sister Jessa waiting for a fresh batch of cookies to come out of the oven so we could frost them. Out of that tradition has sprung new ones, and I’ve recruited others into making my grandma’s cookies with me: Jason is a great helper, and my “little” cousins Audrey and Grant come over every year right before Christmas to make an extra big batch for the whole family. No mater how long it’s been since I’ve seen my grandparents, making her cookies brings me right back to them: Grandma’s hands sunk in dough, Grandpa gently stirring the pasta (only stir it once so it doesn’t stick!), the familiar smell of their home, Grandpa bending down to pick up leaves out of the rocks in his yard, my grandma’s laugh, Grandpa always coming in at exactly the wrong moment in a movie, playing cards with them at the kitchen table…there are so many memories and images in my mind that remind me of all that they are and how much they love their family.
When I make my grandma’s cookies, I remember these things, and I hope that I can continue to call back these memories throughout my lifetime. I share this tradition with my cousins to spread the joy of baking, of creating something with your hands, and to share the love that I know from baking cookies with my grandma.
Jason and I made a batch of Grandma’s Cookies last night so that we could take them to my grandparents, who no longer bake. My grandpa turned 90 years old this month and we are having a big celebration for him, and what’s a family celebration without Grandma’s Cookies?
Do you have any memories of cooking or baking with your grandparents? Any special dishes that they taught you how to make? Share your comments below!