CNN photojournalist John Bodnar is a second-generation Slavic-American whose grandparents emigrated from Eastern Slovakia, and his mother’s Carpatho-Rusyn ethnicity is the prominent influence for his cultural and family traditions. Previously, he wrote about haluski.
Spring in Western Pennsylvania was all about the sounds of the birds, the smells of renewed life, and sights of the buds and green surrounding us. All of this seemed to happen suddenly, and with these changes we knew that Easter was soon upon us. The traditions of my mother’s Byzantine Catholic and my father’s Roman Catholic church were prevalent in our lives, and the sound and smells of these traditions were as stunning as spring.
"Wait - there's an actual recipe for this?"
My husband Douglas paused his furious stirring and spun around from his post at the stove. I pointed to the book his mother, now resting in the front room, had left spread open and bookmarked on her kitchen table.
"Well yeah," I said. "Isn't this what you're using? Onion, cornbread, celery, the egg? It's the same dressing you make for Thanksgiving, and this recipe is pretty much it, right?"
Recently, I shared a family story on Eatocracy about our attempt to get back our family tradition: the befana cookie. My Grandmother passed away before we learned how to make them. We took these special cookies for granted.
My brother tried many different combinations of ingredients. He researched with other members of the family, the internet, even conversations with cousins in Italy to try to make them Nonna's way. But, finally, he achieved cookie perfection.
I couldn't disclose the secret recipe for fear of Bernardini excommunication. It has now become a family legacy. When the story was re-posted this year, I quickly from the learned from the comment section that that legacy turned into a fatal flaw. So many people were very disgusted with me.
As a form of penance, I want to post another recipe that we do share throughout the year: sugar cookies.
There’s something addictive about that moment when you hand someone a homemade treat and their face lights up like you’ve just given them a hug. It turns baking into therapy, food into an olive branch, and those you share it with into a family.
I’ve experienced that joy for many years, by virtue of being the delivery girl every winter. I may have switched from wearing hair bows and Christmas dresses to newsboy caps and tall boots, but that feeling stays the same, and I always come bearing gifts.
The Heirloom Recipe Index exists to make your Grandma (or great uncle, or second cousin on your mother's side) a superstar and preserve their kitchen legacy.
While Amber DeGrace grew up eating Pennsylvania delicacies like hog maw and scrapple, her husband of French-Canadian descent, Mike DeGrace, grew up eating Grandma Mary's crepes.
"He tells me stories of how she would make him and his friends batch after batch of fresh crepes on weekend or summer mornings. They would slather butter and table sugar on them before rolling them up and eating [them]."
While Amber never had the opportunity to meet Grandma Mary, she did inherit Mary's crepe pan and antique recipe book - with the handwritten crepe recipe taped on the inside of the front cover.
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