Figuring out a family recipe is very difficult for me. Mostly because my family doesn’t use recipes, especially not ones that have been passed down. When my mom cooks, she uses her creative arts background to try anything, play with spices. Now she has become the epitome of a Californian, every super food or diet trend (i.e. fear of gluten one week or no night-shade foods the next, or whatever comes this way). Typically a family meal will be some form of quinoa, avocado, kale, sweet potato, and baked Brussel Sprouts. The ingredients are usually all improvised between spices or sauces. Even if we are continuing a tradition, such as latkes, my mom will find something new to do each year, this year it was in a waffle maker rather than frying them. Coming from a culture of Tradition, my mom likes to keep it fresh (yes, that is a Fiddler On The Roof reference). My dad on the other hand will eat any sort of “Old Country” Jewish food, pastrami on rye, gefilte fish on rye, challah toast, havalah, matzoh brei… if it belongs in a deli, he’ll eat it. He does do much of the cooking, but his is much less inventive as my mom. Gender roles are not encouraged in this house.
But since my family has so many different eating habits and due to crazy work schedules growing up, we often did not eat together. The American way, I suppose. My mom also grew up with a family like this. My grandma would cook a bit, but as with my mom, she was a working woman who also did not want to be accustomed to her gender.
One thing that has transcended generations within my family is the trips to Gelson’s Market. One opened down the block from my grandma, she is absolutely in love with it. Most of her meals now come from the deli or pre-made section of Gelson’s. As luck would have it, there is another one down the block from my parents and where I grew up. With our crazy schedules, picking up something from Gelson’s was a common occurrence, whether it was to pick up from the deli, or pick up avocados or challah or any thing that was needed for dinner. Now, when we go to my grandma’s we pick up some dinner at Gelson’s and bring it over for the major holidays. She hates us cooking in her kitchen, because she does not know how to work any of the new appliances a contractor recently put in (and is convinced we don’t know how to work it either). So it has now become a tradition to go to Gelson’s.
For me, one recipe that represents my family will not work. We are the epitome of “Cafeteria Jews,” we pick and choose what parts of the culture we want to hold on to, including what kinds of food we keep. When I asked my parents if there is a family recipe they use, they both said not really. My mom said her grandma would make sponge cake while my dad said his mom would make borscht or gefilte fish. But my grandma one year served latkes and a honey baked ham for Chanukah one year, going against any sort of tradition.
We like to keep things fresh and exciting, I suppose. But to have one recipe that comes to mind, I learned how to cook the best Brussel sprouts from my mom.
- Cut Brussel sprouts in half
- Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar (enough to coat, but not too much to drown, use best judgement)
- Salt to taste
- Bake on 375 for one hour
- Drizzle more balsamic if you wish
My own twist on it, bake it half with just olive oil, then add the balsamic vinegar. Add dried cranberries or parmesan cheese
- Grandma’s local Gelson’sParents’ local Gelson’s