Friday, November 6, 2009


Last night I remembered a conversation I'd had with Nabua a while back about old traditions and how people seem to have forgotten about how things used to be done. We as people are so anxious to find the quicker, easier (and nowadays, cheaper) method and we're forgetting more and more about doing things the old fashioned way. Tradition is so important, at least to me, and it makes me sad to think of all the things that will phase out of daily living as technology improves and people get lazier.

Nabua and I were talking about cooking at the time, but I guess the same can be said about everything from art and craft to business, farming, etc. After watching one of the Craft in America episodes on PBS, I realized that the single most important thing I absorbed was a comment made about forgotten trade. I can't recall for sure, but I'm pretty sure they were talking about blacksmithing. The episode focused on young men learning, from a very old and well known blacksmith, Philip Simmons, the traditional ways of bending iron. Today most factories do things by machine, taking the artist out of the picture completely. The young apprentices stressed the importance of learning traditional methods because if people stop using them, or, more importantly if people stop wanting to learn how to do things the old fashioned way, the old way will die out and the tradition will come to a dead halt. It's incredibly important that this never happens.

Nabua had talked quite a bit about the things she's learned from her mother and father, both of whom are no longer living. She encouraged me to learn as much as I can from the older generations, namely my grandmother, because once she's gone there will be no one to teach me the things that she knows. Even if they tried they could never teach me in the same way that only she can.

My grandmother taught me how to sew. She taught me a few dance moves. She taught me how to jump rope, the proper etiquette for sledding, how to flip your eyelids inside out, and the art of telling a dirty joke like a lady. She told me endless stories about my ancestors, always stressing the importance of family and history. And the one thing I've always wanted to learn from her but never have is her method for making pierogies. When Nabua stressed the importance of learning from my grandmother, pierogies were the first thing that popped into my head. That may seem incredibly corny to you, but no one makes pierogies like Gram can. When we lost Aunt Peg earlier this year and her son passed out a laminated copy of a photo tutorial of Aunt Peg making her famous apple pie, it dawned on me that Tommy was thinking the same thing I was...pass these traditions on so people will remember. I'll keep that recipe forever.

This post was originally supposed to be about Alton Brown. But as I was driving into work this morning and thinking about one particular Good Eats episode, I realized that this post wasn't just about Alton, it was about me, too. When I arrived at the shop, I called my grandmother up and made a date to come to her house and learn how to make pierogies. I plan to document the process like Tommy did with Aunt Peg's apple pie and pass it down the line when the time is right.

The Good Eats episode I planned to talk about today features Alton teaching us, the viewers, about biscuit making, both the old and new methods. Alton stood side by side in his kitchen with his grandmother, or Ma Mae, as he calls her, and demonstrates old tradition versus a new way of doing things. This episode really meant something to me, and I hope you'll enjoy it too! She seemed like a feisty woman, and Alton frequently mentions in interviews that the Ma Mae episodes were his favorite because it gave him the opportunity to learn from her before she passed away.

This is the second half of the episode featuring Ma Mae, but if you'd like to watch the first half too, go here.


Mare said...

You are so right...My Grandmother and my Mother taught me just about everything i need to know about the most important things in life. It is good to know this and learn as much as you can while they are still here...oh and don't forget...That old wise soul, your Mom, can teach you a thing or two also! ;) love, mom

Jennifer said...

Wow, what a wonderful post. Just last week I was making an apple pie and thought how I wished I had learned to make a pie crust like my grandmother used to make. My grandmother is still alive, but she has alzheimer's and is in no condition to teach pie crust making anymore. Her method is gone forever.

Good Girls Studio said...

So so true! Missing my grandma (Mamma Lou) something fierce now! She passed away 4 yrs ago...she taught me to sew,weave baskets, cuss like a sailor & love like you mean it! Hope you share your tutorial/recipe with us :)