Everyone has a "Nonna"

I’m on a mission.  A mission to visit 25 countries but I don’t plan on getting one stamp in my passport.  Instead, I am visiting these countries by way of my stomach.  And each country will contain a stove, sink, refrigerator and maybe, a table, depending on the size.

This mission impossible will be achieved by cooking with some very special women.  These women will transport me to their countries of origin by allowing me into their kitchens to cook with them.  The foods that we cook together are dishes they brought with them from another place. 

I want to document these beautiful, family recipes here in my Heirloom Kitchen. Many of these women came here for a better life and decided to leave everything that they knew for a chance at the American dream.  They have now lived in this country the better part of their lives but still think of themselves as Italian, Greek, Indian or whatever great country they hailed from.  Along with their suitcase and dream, they also carried with them, their culture, pride and food.  Oh, yes, the food.  It was brought over here by plane or boat, in their heads and hearts.

When they reached the U.S.A. and began their new life, they never forgot where they came from and they preserved their homeland by way of how they created a new home for their American children.  The new home still had the sounds, smells and tastes of the motherland.  So, their first generation American children knew the traditions that their surname carried.

This mission began with a meatball.  Yes, a meatball.  My mother, an immigrant from Calabria Italy, makes hands down, no questions asked, the best Italian meatballs you could ever have.  They are the meatballs of the GODS and I have never fed them to anyone who didn’t agree.  The one issue with my mother’s meatballs is that the recipe for these sacred little balls of heaven was completely in her head.  She never measured an ingredient or wrote anything down.

So after a dinner of meatballs gone wrong, I decided something needed to be done.  My mother and I began cooking ALL of her amazing dishes together.  Well, she cooked, and I wrote.  As a recipe tester and trained chef, I knew we were an unbeatable team and now, I have all of my mothers sacred, amazing, Calabrian recipes saved (and backed up) on my computer.  Mission accomplished...or maybe not.

What about all the other cherished recipes from “Nonnas” out there?  What would happen to their recipes ten, twenty or thirty years from now???  I couldn’t bear the thought of these recipes, that have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles to get here to be lost forever, just because someone didn’t have a pen!  THESE RECIPES ARE FAMILY HEIRLOOMS, AND NEED TO BE PRESERVED AND CELEBRATED.

"These are recipes that fill the belly and warm the heart because the women that make them stir love into every, single bite."

That is why, when I needed to learn how to make authentic spanakopita.  But I don’t want to Google search it, I want to learn how to make it from a real deal, Greek Yia Yia.  And I want to make hummus that puts all other hummus to shame, so I need a Lebanese Armenian Grandma to show me how.  So that is exactly what I am doing.

So many of the recipes you will find here are from women that cook the food of their homeland, every night for their kids, grandkids, in-laws, stray dogs - anyone that is hungry.  They are recipes that fill the belly and warm the heart because the women that make them stir love into every, single bite.

So if you are looking for some amazing, delicious dishes “Just Like Nonna” used to make, well this is where you will find them.  And, yes, there is only one official Italian Nonna in my life, my mama but once I met these women, they all became Nonnas to me.