See that redhead? That’s my grandmother. Yes, I know it looks like we aren’t related. Correct, she does look more like my husband. But we can talk about that more later.
Right now, let’s get back to her. She weighed about 95 pounds on my wedding day. Always a tiny little peanut, grandma was a soft-spoken, yet feisty at times Italian. Grams could make pasta from scratch, clean the house, crochet you a sweater and beat you at a game of Rummikub all at once. She was a force to be reckoned with…and could put the fear of God in anyone with her trusty wooden spoon. I swear, she had ninja-level skills with that thing.
My first teacher in terms of cooking was my grandmother. You see, I was raised by my grandparents for a large portion of my childhood and watched my grandmother begin cooking each day around 7 a.m. Spending time with one another around the breakfast/lunch/dinner table was important in our home. It didn’t matter what time of the day or night you came home, there was food waiting for you. My friends always enjoyed coming over as well because they knew grandma was going to spoil them with something.
She taught me how to make all of the classics from scratch – Manicotti, Sunday Sauce, Pizza Rustica and Rugelach. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until my teens that we realized dairy and gluten (staples of the Italian diet) were actually making me sick. In my twenties, I began to explore food in different ways and always leaned towards very clean recipes. I also discovered juicing – which if you haven’t heard my full story, was one of the key factors to helping me get out of the wheelchair.
I will always be thankful to Grams for sparking my initial love for cooking. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think of her in her favorite room in the house, the kitchen. I would even take a smack with the wooden spoon again if it meant she was still here with me. Her name was Rose, although she was often called Drill Sergeant, The General, and Chief.
The wedding shot above was the last picture we took with my grandmother. She passed away a few weeks after my husband and I were married. I was a disaster. I couldn’t eat. In fact, I barely ate for a month and slept most of that January away. Survival hung on a few gulps of water I would take from our bathroom sink every few hours.
It took a long time for me to get back into the kitchen. It was our special place where we laughed, bickered, pigged out and made memories. She would tell me stories about working as a seamstress in New York City’s Fashion district after she was married. Her job was to sew belts, underwear and bras. My grandfather worked at the Ronzoni Macaroni Factory. Together, they made around $30 a week.
I couldn’t get enough of those stories…
While the skills my grandmother taught me were unmatchable, I realized I still had (and have) a lot to learn. And I discovered that there is something beyond Italian cooking and food (please don’t repeat this to my family, like ever). Eventually, I wanted to take my love for food, cooking and health to the next level. To do this, I enrolled in the following courses:
- ROUXBE’s Plant-Based Chef Certification Program
- Elaina Love’s Raw Food Chef Certification Program
- Shaw Academy’s Nutrition Coaching Diploma Program
- David Wolfe’s Nutrition Coaching Certification Program
To me, these are terrific options for those who are interested in learning about clean food and nutrition. These courses have helped me create and share healthy, delicious recipes with others (though not all are plant-based and raw).
Today, I like to think my grandmother is glancing down from a card game in heaven to see what I am up to in the kitchen. In the last few years of her life, she saw my health go downhill quickly. So much has happened since then, I wish there was a way to send a message into heaven. Until we embrace again, my culinary efforts are created in her memory.
Do you love to cook? If so, I’d love to hear about it – and who taught you!