The cooking part is just how we roll, especially when I have my oldest daughter in the kitchen. We scratch cook often, turning to recipes only for inspiration and cooking times and temps. Otherwise, we improvise.
But last night was about love. We decided to make Grandma’s grape leaves. We are Irish, German, French and English. She is Lebanese, and has graced our family with love and fabulous food for over 27 years, after she married my husband’s father and took on another seven children! Eating her food is the ultimate expression of love. Making her premiere recipe without her fussing about the kitchen in an apron is probably a sin, but we weren’t going to let a little thing like guilt get in our way.
Good lamb is the essential ingredient; ours came not from Meijer or Kroger, (sorry chain grocery retailers) but from a local market where the butcher happily ground the meat just for us. Wine glasses and scissors in hand, we foraged my back fence for our “special homegrown” snipping just the large grape leaves that weren’t full of bug holes. Then, the mixology commenced, by adding pinches of cinnamon, allspice, toasted pine nuts and brown rice to the lamb, ever-testing with nibbles off the potato masher until we agreed it was “just like” Grandma’s.
Rolling the mixture into just the right size “Lincoln logs” for each leaf, and then rolling up our homegrowns until we had a platter of grape leaves left us worn out, mainly from laughing and sharing stories about dinners at Grandma’s, where a huge pot of grape leaves would be half empty by dinner time thanks to dozens of “quality control samples” the cousins would pilfer when Grandma was occupied elsewhere.
Of course we called Grandma while we feasted to share the love. And the grape leaves were good. But next time, we’re going to Grandma’s kitchen, where there’s always extra aprons and grape leaves always have and always will mean love.