I called my Grandmother ‘Baba’ on account of our Eastern European heritage. However, she little resembled the image that name conjures up. There were no babushka’s in her wardrobe, save one to protect her perm from the rain and she didn’t often slave over a hot stove. The only exception to this was a morning pancake ritual that still stands out in my childhood memories.
My Baba was an inspiration to me. She had worked as a journalist in her native Chicago and had such stories that always put me in mind of the film His Girl Friday. During my teen years I was her traveling companion. On one memorable family trip to Venice she took me into Harry’s Bar and insisted I drink a Bellini despite the fact that I was 16 years old. If my memory is correct her excuse was, simply, “You’re in Italy.”
When I left for University at 18 she kept in touch through letters and cards, very few of which arrived without a newspaper clipping inside. Having worked in the industry, Baba was an avid supporter of newspapers and at times it seemed as if she were trying to keep the print industry alive herself.
Of the clippings she collected recipes were perhaps the most prolific. These she collected for herself and others, often I received them in the mail, probably as an encouragement to a young student to get cooking. Before she died she made a passing comment that she would probably never make all of the clipped recipes she had saved. After her death I vowed to cook my way through them for her.
Dear Baba, this is for you.