Stuffed cabbage: It’s one of my ultimate comfort foods, as well as a delicious reminder of my Polish heritage. Luckily for me, my mother-in-law is the “Queen of Cabbage.” She brought her family recipes with her when she emigrated from Poland in 1960. Forty-nine years later, she’s still at the top of her game in the kitchen. For me, her stuffed cabbage is the stuff of which dreams are made. Few of her recipes, however, are written down. And when it comes to measuring ingredients, she basically works on the “a little of this, a little of that” standard, which makes preserving her recipes and techniques a bit of a challenge.
Sound familiar? Is your mom, mother-in-law, grandmother or other relative a great cook who works from memory and not from written recipes? Do you want to be able to recreate those scrumptious dishes and pass along your family’s culinary traditions to your children and grandchildren? If so, how do you go about it?
Why not try video?
Heck, cooking shows and demonstrations continue to be all the rage on television. We even have entire cable channels filled with nothing but cooks and chefs frying, sautéing, poaching and baking up a storm. Why not take a cue from them and videotape your own family chef as he or she creates some of your clan’s signature dishes?
Let’s say your subject is stuffed cabbage and the cook in question is your mother-in-law. You might begin your video with a brief on-camera interview, during which she relates the history of the recipe: how she learned to cook it and any memories associated with it. Then we pick her up in the kitchen. She shows you the ingredients involved and then launches into the preparation. Along the way you check her food and spice measurements and she shows off her cooking techniques. Perhaps you throw a second camera into the mix in order to get some close-ups – just like they do on the Food Network. You also take advantage of your time together to chat her up and get her to tell some family stories. In the end, you not only document the creation of a wonderful dish, you also capture some fascinating and fun family lore. And what can be better than that?
After all, the tastes and aromas of our signature family recipes carry lots of associations linked to the special people and times in our lives, including the love that generations of family cooks have liberally sprinkled into the mix. That’s what I taste whenever I bite into one of my mother-in-law’s homemade stuffed cabbage. It’s also what you’ll pass along to your children, grandchildren and great-children when you celebrate your own family cooks on video.