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But why skip a generation? According to Barbara Haber, former curator of books at Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library at Harvard University, which houses a notably cookbook collection, the reason is simple: “Cooking and food, at the height of feminism, was considered to be trivial and a badge of dishonor. There was a generation of women who skipped the cooking because they were much more interested in competing for jobs — and therefore the millennials didn’t really have home cooking.”
For the grandmothers, food and cooking played an integral role in many of their lives and identities. “Some of these women come from generations where they weren’t always asked for their opinion,” Lessard explained. “This is their area of expertise and they feel confident talking about it.” In the comfort of their kitchens, women who may feel intimidated sharing their life stories in a formal interview setting are suddenly able to open up, using food as a way into discussing their life stories.
Another contributing factor to the timing of these projects is that in many cases, grandparents of the millennial generation are the last to have immigrated from “the old country.” And “preserving these stories is urgent because this is a generation that is dying,” Reimer explained.
A line in the story that accompanies Joan Nathan’s recipe says it all: “She used her mother’s recipe, handed down orally, from Zamosc, Poland.” If these recipes aren’t written down, or taught to the next generation, they will be lost forever.
But for Reimer, a cup of this or a cup of that is not the issue. “The recipes are the things that I’m least worried about preserving. Stories about what life was like in Eastern Europe are much more likely to be lost.”
Sax agrees: “[The stories] tell something far greater about the Jewish experience than just measurements.”
Anne Cohen is a news intern at the Forward. She has also contributed to Wewomen.ca, and The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Follow her @anneesthercohen
Gilberte Cohen- Scali’s “Salade Cuite Express”
Courtesy of Roots and Recipes
2 cans of diced tomatoes
3 green peppers, diced
1/2 cup of olive oil
garlic (to taste)
salt (to taste)
1) Heat the oil in a pan.
2) Fry the garlic till golden, and add the peppers.
3) Add the tomato cans with the juice.
4) Salt with moderation.
5) Let it simmer at low heat for 30 minutes, or until all the liquid is reduced.