At Grandmother's Table: Women Write about Food, Life and the Enduring Bond between Grandmothers and Granddaughters

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9781577491071: At Grandmother's Table: Women Write about Food, Life and the Enduring Bond between Grandmothers and Granddaughters
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In this deluxe gift book, more than 50 women share their grandmothers' deeply moving life stories and favorite family recipes.

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Catching the rich scent of sugar cookies baking, the savory aroma of a roasting chicken, or the spicy steam from a pot of borscht transports many of us back to childhood and our seats at our grandmothers' kitchen tables. A unique relationship, bound by family and freed by generations, the bond between grandmother and granddaughter is often forged over creaming butter or shelling peas. At Grandmother's Table celebrates this special friendship with essays and recipes by women remembering the food prepared by and conversations they had with their grandmothers.

Adriana Millenaar Brown recalls her grossmutter's soft body and calm eyes during the bombing of Berlin in 1944 and the potato cakes she would make using whatever ingredients she could forage. Nana's Kern (Currant) Teacakes were a staple growing up for Dianne S. Lodge-Peters. She and Nana would drink oolong tea and eat the warm teacakes as Nana told her stories and songs reflecting their ethnic heritages; not until the author was getting her doctorate did she realize Nana's stories were classic medieval folktales. When her mother was angry with her, Lilla M. Waltch's grandmother would comfort her by making Mon (Poppy Seed) Cookies and Waltch could feel "[my] spirits lifting as we beat the eggs and stirred the fragrant mixture."

"This is a book about connections," says editor Ellen Perry Berkeley. "And in connecting across the dividing lines of our own time, we can see our deepest selves reflected in women of very different backgrounds, beliefs, advantages, and pursuits." Often poignant, At Grandmother's Table is filled with the stories of hard-working, loving, difficult, loyal women and the meals they created for their beloved grandchildren. --Dana Van Nest

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Grandmother Komninos 1895(?)1945

The Stranger I Loved

by Katherine Komninos Wilder

She will always be a mystery to me, my Grandmother Komninos.

I do not know her first name. In fact, I know her only through one of my fathers precious few photographs from the old country, as he called his native Greece. Was she stern like her pose, or lighthearted and fun-loving like my father? This woman with the huge, black eyes, this clear-featured woman whose face speaks of experiences Ill never know about, has had a profound effect on me. As a child I used to stare at her image, seeing so much of my father in it, longing to hear the tone of her voice, to know if she ever sang when she worked in her whitewashed home in Piraeus, the port of Athens, the way my father sang in the kitchen of his New England restaurant halfway across the world. She saw pictures of me, too, in my fathers letters to her. What did she think of her strawberry-blonde American granddaughter, named after her own precious raven-haired girl, Katina? There was never a chance to find out, because sometime during World War II, when I was still a toddler, her letters stopped coming.

Im glad she didnt live long enough to know that her son, a teenage merchant seaman who jumped ship in America to look for gold in the streets, would die at forty-three. But I wish she had known that he lived to realize many of his youthful dreams. My father always wore a white carnation in her memory, but spoke little of her except to tell me how she sold her silver to send him to school. Later, I understood why he was unable to talk about her. When I was of an age to comprehend, my mother told me how Grandmother died: She starved to death during the Nazi embargo of Greece, along with her husband and hundreds of thousands of their countrymen. At least Grandmother didnt have to witness her daughters grief for the twelve-year-old son who would years later step on a long-forgotten land mine.

Although I never met her, I know a few things about Grandmother Komninos. She was of tough stock. She survived the Turkish takeover of Smyrna and, with husband and children, made her way to the other side of the Aegean to safety. She raised three children: John, who was so tall and handsome he became a Kings guard; Charles, my dad, who dared to adventure the seas and the New World; and Katina, dark-eyed and elegant, after whom I am named.

I am probably older now than my grandmother was when she died, and, as I age, I look often at her photograph. I have come to recognize a quiet joy in her eyes and am willing to bet that, in spite of the hardships she knew, this stranger who was my grandmother was fully able to dance in the moment and laugh generously with the spirit of life.

Grandmother Komninoss Green Beans Halki Style (Fresca Fasolia me Lathe)

Grandmother Komninos must have been a good cook. After all, her son was known throughout New England for his culinary arts, and he must surely have come by some of his talent through her. In daydreams I picture her patiently pressing out her own phyllo paper-thin and delicate and, like my father, seasoning each dish according to aroma, never needing to taste.

2 pounds whole string beans, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup water
2 medium onions, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, about 4 cups
3 tablespoons fresh parsley,
finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of cinnamon

Steam the beans in the water until they are tender but still crisp. Saut the onions in olive oil until they are translucent. Add the tomatoes, parsley, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. When this is hot, add the beans. Cover and remove from heat. Serve the beans hot. This makes an excellent side dish for 8 people.

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