Saturday, March 02, 2013

Katherine Garbera: The Art of Cooking From Love

Food is rooted for me in my memories of my maternal grandmother.  She died just a month before I turned 30 and I still miss her everyday.  She's the one who made me feel beautiful and special even though I know I wasn't.  She kept her hair dyed a vibrant red color and when she walked into a room everyone knew she was there.  I felt so special that she loved me when everyone clearly loved her.

When I started writing my "food" books for Blaze I thought of my grandmom and my mom as I wrote.  The main character Staci in SIZZLE learned to cook from her grandmother.  In my head this woman was a melding of my mom who didn't think we should eat anything with artificial ingredients and my grandmother who was always entertaining and cooking for everyone.  After my grandmother passed away and we went to clean out her house my mom, sisters and I gravitated to the kitchen instead of to her jewelry box.  We cherished her pots, pans, and cookbooks--those were the keepers not only of her memory for us but of the dishes and the love she'd had for us.

Here's a snippet from Sizzle:

“Maybe. You seem very comfortable surrounded by luxury,” she said.
“Do I?”
“Yes. This is probably the nicest car I’ve been in unless you count the limo I took to prom. I don’t think that’s the case with you.”
He laughed. “Who did you go to prom with?”
“A boy who thought he loved me,” she said.
“Why did the boy think he loved you?” Remy asked.
She was not about to start talking about her rocky past and the loves that might have been. “Don’t avoid the question.”
“What was the question?”
She frowned at him. “You’re difficult and cagey. What exactly are you hiding, Remy Stephens?”
“I believe that some things shouldn’t be spoken of. But you are right, I did grow up in a comfortable home financially. However, that’s not as interesting as a boy who thought he loved you. Didn’t you love him?”
“I’m not talking about that,” she said. She hadn’t al­lowed herself to really care about anyone when she’d been younger because she’d had big dreams of leaving California and going to Paris. She was going to be the next Julia Child.

I wanted to be Julia Child as well.  I had a few things from my grandmother that increased this longing.  One was her copy of Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.  The other is a post card book that my great-grandmother brought with her from Marseille when she immigrated to the US in the early 1900s.  I don't know if these things influenced me or not but I've always loved French cuisine and felt an affinity for France.

Do you have a tradition like that in your family?  Tell me something that links you to your past--it can be something that links you to it like cooking is for me or something that motivated you away from it.  I'm giving away e-copies of Sizzle today to three lucky blog participants.


Kathleen O said...

Your memories of your Grandmother, make me think of my own Nana, as she was called by all her grandkids and great-grandkids. I think of her every time I make a pot of tea. See this is a tradition in our family, tea is never ever to be made in a cup The kettle has to be boiling, the teapot must be warmed before add the tea and hot water to steep. And to drink it, china cup and saucer make it taste better. We did get her using china mugs before she passed away.. I have one cousin who did not get the benefit of Nana's expertise in tea making, and when I am at her house the teabag is just make in a cup... But hopefully I can teach her daughters the art of a good Pot of Tea.

Mary Kirkland said...

Loved this post, it was so heartwarming.
My mom taught me to cook and I still make a lot of the same dishes she taught me to make.

Linda Henderson said...

Some years ago I started teaching my youngest daughter how to make some favorite family recipes. There are certain dishes that I make just like my mother and they are family favorites so I told her she needed to learn how to make them because my mom and I wouldn't be around forever. My mom is 91 now and her cooking isn't quite what it used to be, but she still can cook a mean dinner.

erin said...

Thanks for the lovely post! I'm always so envious of people with close families. My immediate family is close but a feud started before I was adopted and so the extended family doesn't get along. So no cooking/stories/memories really with the grandparents and we hardly ever see aunts/uncles/cousins. When/if I have kids, I hope to change that!

Pat Cochran said...

For us, it is our maternal grandmother's
quilts. Earliest memories have her work-
ing at the quilt frame. Then there was
her pedal sewing machine where I learned
to sew a straight seam. There was no such
thing as purchasing corn tortillas. She
started at the very beginning by grinding
the corn kernels. She was our own Renai-
ssance Woman!

Shannon Bereza said...

This isn't really something that pulls me to the past but it has shaped the way I live my life. I was nine years old when my grandmother said this to me " don't ever wish you were older because older will come faster than you want it to". At the time I'm guessing I was complaining about something my older siblings were getting to do and I couldn't because I was too young. That one thing has stuck with me my whole life and I try to life every day to its fullest potential. And I'm glad my grandma taught me this because now as I watch my children grow I want to be here for a long time watching them grow and have children of their own. Life passes us by every day and I try not to let it. Seize opportunities to do things you don't normally do and enjoy every moment you have with those you love.

Laurie G said...

Our chocolate angel food traditional birthday cake recipe with chocolate whipped cream frosting was originally a family secret. My great aunt Tressie finally gave the recipe to my mom in the 1970's.

Last year my S-I-L Barb put together a cook book of my deceased M-I-L's recipes. My M-I-L came over from Hungary in the early 1950's. She was of German descent. So I'm thrilled to try out some old family favorite recipes..

Katherine Garbera said...

Kathleen O--living in the UK I can understand how important brewing a proper cup of tea can be. I love that you are thinking of passing that tradition on to you cousin. :)

Katherine Garbera said...

Mary--thank you. I still miss my grandma so much.

Katherine Garbera said...

Linda--I need to do that. When I was with my college-aged daughter last time she said I need you to show me how to make grandma's strawberry pie. Mostly because she's 20 she was thinking I love that and I want to be able to eat the entire pie myself but someday she'll be glad she knows how and will tell her daughter that it was something her grandmother made.

Katherine Garbera said...

Thank you, Erin. I never realized how lucky I was to have my family until I got older and realized not everyone has that closeness we do.

Katherine Garbera said...

Pat--your grandmother sounds like she was a treasure and could do so many wonderful things. My paternal grandmother could crochet but I never got her to teach me how.

Katherine Garbera said...

Shannon--what a wise piece of advice. It sounds like it was a great gift to you. :)

Katherine Garbera said...

Laurie G--what a great idea and a nice gift for all of you. I think I might borrow and it and do something like that for my family.

Katherine Garbera said...

Okay, sorry for the delay in responding to your posts. I have had a hectic week. I just went to and got our three winners. They are: Mary Kirkland, Pat Cochran and Shannon Bereza. Drop me an email at kathy with your preferred e-book format and I'll send your copy of Sizzle out.

Thanks everyone for participating.