This week I dedicate Friday Food Days to all our Bubbie and Zadies who were the first to introduce us to most of the recipes hiding in our kitchens. Please allow me to wax lyrical over my favorite dishes that have been past down from previous generations. A few months ago I had the opportunity of sharing a weekend at my grandparents house. Bubby served her famous “Bubby Bessie” chicken, which was past down from her mother. Quite simply, a pan is lined with onions and potatoes, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and paprika, and the chicken is layered on top with a little “Mrs. Dash and more paprika, then covered and baked. This does sound like a boring dish, but when it comes out of the oven it is steaming with flavor and the best taste reminiscent of great family gatherings.
The following week, I came home and feeling the urge to recreate my previous week’s experience I of course made the same chicken. I hadn’t told anyone that I had visited my grandparents the weekend previous. Instead I thought, let’s see if anyone notices when I serve Bubby’s famous Friday night dinner. All of my siblings were over for Shabbat and without a beat, the moment I served it; they all perked up and said “Bubby Bessie Chicken”. Then I served my bubby’s famous salad. Simple. Iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and the piece le resistance, radishes with Pfeiffer Italian salad dressing. Again they perked up and said- “Bubby Bettie salad”. And finally I finished it off with homemade chocolate chip cookies, to which they all replied- “Ok somebody must have just visited the grandparents, either that, or you’re missing them terribly.”
When I was a kid my Bubby Shirley used to come over and visit with her little red suitcase. She always stayed in my room. I used to love snuggling up next to her and watching her breathe at night. Mostly because I was afraid she might stop. Her visits were the greatest moments for me as a kid. And to this day, I have tried over and over to recreate her “Chulent Potatoes”. I’ve done the recipe many times, and each time they have never ever come out the way Bubby Shirley made them. She would take little round potatoes douse them in tons of oil, salt, pepper, and lots of paprika and bake them. The thing about these potatoes was they always managed to come out super soft and steamy on the inside and crispy on the outside. And of course, you could never call them Cholent potatoes- they were Chulent Potatoes- emphasis on the “U”. But when I make them they are leathery, too overdone, or too greasy. And yet, I will for the rest of my days, make this recipe over and over, because the smell of them roasting in my oven reminds me of her sweet hugs and that little red suitcase.
To everyone out there enjoying their grandparent’s recipes this Shabbat, may you all have a happy and healthy Shabbat meal, and for those who have not had the chance to cook their grandparent’s recipes, just try it, there’s truly nothing like it.
Please feel free to share your grandparents’ recipes in the comments below. I am always interested in hearing other people’s experiences when it comes to their savored dishes passed down from the chain of tradition.