Recently, I visited my best friend who gave me a lovely gift – a book called Cooking with Italian Grandmothers signed by the author, Jessica Theroux. Jessica spent a year traveling through Italy cooking with and talking to Italian grandmothers and created this collection of recipes, valuable information, and photographs documenting her amazing journey. As soon as I saw this book, I decided it was a sign to put into action something I have been thinking about for quite some time.
Immediately, I thought of my Hungarian grandmothers – I am fortunate they are both still alive. One, my paternal grandmother, Nagymama, just turned 88 and is everything you would dream of in the warm, sweet caring grandmother. She had 14 children and now has dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren. She still makes homemade Hungarian sausage for the two family parties she hosts each year, volunteers at the Hungarian club, sews, swims in the morning, and walks to the grocery store since she doesn’t drive.
My maternal grandmother is in her late seventies and a bit on the opposite spectrum. She still runs the doctors office near her home. Apparently, she is so good, that every time she wants to quit, they give her a raise! She has three children – two in Europe and one, being my mother, who passed away. She drives to work but not on the highway as the trauma from WWII still affects her. She is smart, energetic with her hand motions as she talks, and a good listener. As I describe these women, I chuckle because I have turned out to be a bit of both and now I know why!
After my mom died, I began to notice that there were still so many questions unanswered and questions I would never get to ask. Everything from learning about how to raise a child to understanding how to enter a new family after marriage to knowing what happened to that doll I used to own. While it is sad that I don’t have my mom to go to, I do have two great influences who are here today, and from whom I can still learn so much!
Christmas Eve, I made the plans. I sat with Nagymama and told her about my dream to learn how to bake Hungarian desserts. I played in her kitchen nearly everyday in the summers as a child. I watched her knead dough, make soups, sew her daughter’s wedding dress, and address envelopes to her siblings in Hungary and Australia. Some of these things I learned on my own, but not the Hungarian baking! Now was as good a time as any.
The flight has been booked. Sleeping arrangements have been made. Now we just have to pray it does not snow! February 11, I am getting on a plane to Florida to bake with Nagymama and all the other volunteers at the Hungarian Club. I am looking forward to spending this quality time with her.
I have been thinking of this idea for years, by the way, but I always thought – someday, I will do it. However, life is short. Already, my grandmother’s sister had a stroke. My mother has passed away. It is hard to watch people get older and sad to lose loved ones. Those of us who are still around, though, can probably be more at peace knowing we did everything we could when we had the chance rather than saying, “I will do it later.”
Think about the things you have been putting off and do them now. Visit your grandmother. Call your parents. Email your best friend. Do that activity with your kids and/or husband.
I look forward to sharing my own “baking with grandma” experience next month.