I’m on a crusade of sorts – to encourage everyone to preserve and use family recipes as a way of connecting generations. Although I don’t have many recipes from my own family, making them always brings me closer to my parents and grandparents. And I’m trying to pass down recipes and memories of family foods to my own kids.
Recently my friends Sandy and Laurie came over and the 3 of us made their family recipes for strudel and a Hungarian pastry known as kindly or kifli. (Laurie’s family calls it kindly, but all the references I found to it online use kifli.) The strudel adventure didn’t exactly work out as planned, but that seems to have been our fault and not the recipe. We’ll try it again.
The kindly or kifli, on the other hand, baked up beautifully.
I haven’t finished a recipe that you could follow; all we had to go on were Laurie’s transcriptions of her grandmother’s directions such as “soak some yellow raisins” and “grind bag nuts, add 1 cup sugar and cinnamon, and a teeny bit of lemon juice.” Soon I’ll figure out an ingredient list and more specific directions that you can use to bake this delicious pastry.
In the meantime, here are a few pictures showing how Laurie made the yeasty dough (with lots of butter and egg yolks and even some sour cream) and rolled it out, then we spread walnuts, cinnamon and sugar and a few raisins over the dough, rolled it into 4 long “horns” and baked them until they were golden. We each took a “horn” to put in the freezer for later, but not before we dusted 1 horn with confectioner’s sugar, cut ourselves slices, and gobbled up several pastries apiece.
As we worked, Sandy and Laurie recounted how they learned to make the pastries. We laughed over how Sandy’s Aunt Shirley and Laurie’s grandmother didn’t track amounts required, their techniques, or when something was ready in terms that any of us could follow. In order to replicate their pastries, Sandy and Laurie had to watch, interpret, cajole and occasionally translate.
I’ve spoken to many who tell me of incredible cooks and bakers in their families. When I ask if their recipes have been written down, or if someone in the family has kept track of how they made the dishes that so many love, the answer is often a sigh and a shrug. That’s a shame.
Do you know how to make the “family foods” that you enjoy, especially the ones that remind you of visiting parents, grandparents or other family members? Have you written those recipes down or do you have a version from another family member that you could use when you aren’t standing next to your mother or grandmother as she is rolling the dough or breading the chicken?
Even if you can’t imagine hosting a holiday dinner at your house or apartment anytime soon, wouldn’t you like to be able to pull out that recipe when you do begin to cook? Wouldn’t it be nice to invite over a friend or relative who is a confident cook, cook together, and fill your home with the delicious smells you remember?