Weekly Photo Challenge – Nostalgic

nanis recipe books

The Weekly Photo Challenge theme over at The Daily Post is “Nostalgic” – these books, and their story below, are my take.

One of the few perks of being a child of divorce is the acquisition of additional grandparents. I was extremely lucky in this regard; my step-grandparents lovingly embraced me as one of their own from the very beginning. Following the death of my step-grandfather, my step-grandmother (whom we all called Nani – her spelling) moved to our sleepy coastal California town from her home in Rhode Island. I was thirteen. My brother and I would spend long afternoons at her house watching Rogers and Hammerstein musicals, playing chopsticks on the piano, learning to needlepoint (that was just me) and snatching up warm cookies right out of the oven, or snooping around the kitchen when we could smell her chili bubbling on the stove. Nani’s meals – served on sick days taken off from school, Saturday evenings when our parents were out being adults (every once in a while) and most every holiday – tasted like home. She clipped recipes of interest every month from her Bon Appetit and Gourmet subscriptions and sorted them into the collection of small, well-worn three-ring binders above. Once she tried them, she would rate her success with gold star stickers (one for ‘good’; two stars for ‘great’), and include notes of what to do or not to do, the next time around. Interspersed with those clipped magazine pages are her own recipes – tried and true family classics like her mother’s Danish Twist pastries that we all looked forward to on Christmas Morning, or the melty, gooey marshmallow rolls from her mother-in-law that Thanksgiving was never without. When Nani passed away in 2002, I had already transplanted myself to Boston for graduate school. One of the few things I asked be set aside for me were her ‘cookbooks’. Despite the 11 years it has taken me to return to California, my step-father continued to hold onto these precious collections for when I was ready and, once I settled into my home here, happily passed them along. His only request? Twists on Christmas.


9 responses to “Weekly Photo Challenge – Nostalgic

  1. Wow, reading your posts makes me teary eyed, that is one inspiring story. It’s simply heartwarming how you all came to have such a unique relationship in spite of all the ‘step’s…and your right, those are definitely one set of precious collections.

    • Thank you! I’m sure that it was crucial to be so young when they came into my life (around 4 years), but still – our relationship was unique and not at all shadowed by whether we were ‘real’ relatives or not… That gift of love and acceptance is what every child deserves to feel, and I am very lucky I received it from many corners!

  2. Love it Lissa — we’ll swap some sometime!

  3. Wow! I really like how you found a “positive” in what is usually considered to be a negative situation! What a great outlook to have on life!
    Such a great legacy and what great memories! I’m so happy that you have these precious “books” in your hands. Just think of all the wonderful memories you will recall as you go back through those books and make meals for your friends and family.
    Have fun cooking!

    • Thank you for the compliment and the well wishes! I am excited to get started, although I think I’m going to take my time and try to collect stories and photos to go along with the recipes first. It is a magical view into the head of someone so beloved. Funny, as an adult, I wish I had known her better – or, rather, differently – and had had the sense to ask her about the stories myself…

      • Oh, that sounds like a great idea! I would imagine you are going to find out a great deal more about her than you would have thought, once you start going through those recipes and reading her comments and notes. That should be fun!
        I know what you mean about asking about the stories. I have a few people in my life I wish I would have listened a little closer to – I guess we all kind of just let life get a little too busy sometimes – it’s just one of those things.

      • I am very excited about the project – especially as I have the collected recipes of my maternal grandmother as well – and both my mother and aunts are founts of information/stories about that side of the family! My step-grandmother was a voracious collector and story teller, so it may take a bit more time digging through photos and journals, but it is all there. I love learning more in general, about those we care makes it even more special!

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