72 Comments

  1. That’s a great story. In France it’s normal to buy cakes in a patisserie, which you then take to a cafe to eat with your coffee. When I lived in Paris I always felt very uncomfortable doing that, unless with French friends, because like America it’s completely unacceptable to do that in the UK.

    I kept looking at your cake pictures thinking Torta de Santiago – I bet it tastes good with Pedro Ximénez 😉

    • You’re the best, MD. Thanks for reading the story. I’m pretty sure that no one will take the time to read it. It is asking a lot.

      Really? It’s totally cool in Paris to bring food from elsewhere to a cafe? That’s it, I”m moving to Paris. You’re such a connoisseur that you thought of the torta! They taste very similar. Thanks again. 🙂

      • It’s normal in the whole of France to buy a croissant or pastry and then take it to a cafe, even if they themselves sell pastries.
        I thought Torta de Santiago the moment I saw your cake – I knew about the Jewish passover cake connection – Claudia Roden was much celebrated in Galicia for recognising the origin and history. I’d like to go on the El Camino pilgrimage one day:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_de_Santiago

        • Oh i know all about el camino. Some people do the whole thing on their knees. Id like to try. I’m planning a possible trip to El pais vasco in march or may. I’ll let you know if this actually happens. Claudia roden is awesome. Spain was the first cookbook i feel in love with. Thus my url.

          I like the French custom then. Must go there now! I’m sort of excited that this story has traveled around the world into cafes everywhere.

  2. Wonderful seasonal cooking Amanda and the cake looks so appetizing. I loved the correlation to your “roots” and your excellent recollection.

    I can really relate. Our Grandfathers had a lot in common, although they were of different backgrounds. Mine came from Italy after being in the military, He learned tailoring and eventually opened his own clothing factory. He was opinonated, stubborn, resourceful, but oh so likeable. By the way, he never went to a restaurant either.

    Wonderful post.

    • What a wonderful comment, Jovina. Thank you. I love the way you describe your grandfather. They really did have a lot in common. I used to call him a loving tyrant. He was so likeable, exactly as you said, but very opinionated. He knew the right way to do everything, which was always his way. But he was a sucker for children and charming. So funny. Old world men. Thanks for sharing. As for the food, it really is so good, but I might be biased based on history 🙂

  3. What a moving memory, Amanda. Thank you so much for sharing! I love both recipes, they are so simple and yet so delicious, and it is lovely to remember things from the past when cooking – and eating. Your grandfather sounds like quite a character! I can imagine how you must have felt when he made such a demonstration in front of “everybody”! I bet the food he brought was delicious though… at least it sounds like it.
    (And I’m sorry but I have to disagree with Mad Dog’s comment up there, I would never dream of bringing a pastry to a place that serves food! The only case I can think of would be bringing a croissant to a café in the morning, but only if I know the café doesn’t serve its own croissants).

    • Thank you, Darya. Mad Dog did seem to think it was only appropriate in a cafe. The story is about my Grandpa on my mom’s side, and there were many moments eating out with him that were….”Special”. This is actually a work of fiction so the moment in the story is kind of a composite of various moments with him and the cooking is a composite of meals from grandparents in general. The personality though, was all him, 100% fact. 🙂 Thanks so much for taking the time to read it.

      As for the cafe, it seems like Mad Dog felt like the situation you describe, a cafe that didnt serve its own food, seems the only appropriate time to do that. Either way, it’s an excuse to check Paris out.

      • Oh yes of course! Any excuse is a good one for checking Paris out!
        Even if you did a patchwork of stories, your grandpa still sounds like a real character 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Debbie! You’re so sweet. I appreciate you taking the time to read. Yes, he was such a character. They just don’t make them like that anymore. I just remember all the times growing up when I used to duck in the back seat of his car so none of my classmates would see me in the car driving 5 miles an hour and hugging the shoulder. LOL!

  4. Anyone who skipped the story missed a good one…I can imagine that at times your grandfather may have caused you embarrassment but I know that there were many times that he gave you great pride. Thank you for sharing both the story and the recipes. 🙂

    • Thank you, Karen. I’m glad you liked the story. You’re totally right. He was smart and funny as well as totally embarrassing because nothing embarrassed him. He also really loved kids and would entertain random kids he passed on the street. He was in full command of himself leads to embarrassing behavior, but it’s also something to aspire to. Thanks again. BTW I’ve made your beans like 3 times in the past week.

  5. Your Grandpa was colorful, stubborn, resourceful and values driven . . . . the latter character trait especially that is rarer and rarer these days. And probably a lot more adjectives you could add. What a great, great story you shared with us . . . thank you so much! I love family stories and I’ve got them up the ying yang. Salad looks fantastic, too!

    • You nailed him exactly, Sue. It is a dying breed. Thank you so much for showing your appreciation. I already knew you had the story-telling trait though, just by reading what you write. Do tell! Though you’re kind of on a delectable photo kick too. I honestly saw that pie slice of yours last night and wanted to jump through the screen. Thanks again.

  6. Amanda, your short fiction is brilliant! I love the way you portrayed your grandpa and how horrifying would that scene in TGIF’s be! What I love is how you featured two recipes you mentioned in your story. Wonderful post and I would never skip down and bypass your stories! I hope you continue to feature them.

    • Aw. I’m so glad you liked it. I edited it to fit the recipes and trust me, I’ve had some pretty similar experiences with him at diners, especially with the choking. The humor comes later. Thank you for the encouragement. It may just spur me back to fiction, so scary and taxing, but cathartic and necessary.

  7. Amanda what a powerful and poignant story about your grandpa. Thanks for sharing. It was so wonderful and inspiring to read through. And yes food indeed brings back memories! Your semolina almond cake looks so good! Also the simple carrot salad sounds delicious! Your grandpa must have been a terrific cook!

    • Thank you for taking the time to read it and comment. The feedback is so nice to hear. We ate well growing up. There is something irreplaceable about “home” food, whatever that may be, if done well. Definitely try the carrot salad 🙂 Thanks again. It really does mean a lot to get input.

  8. I want to comment, but don’t have the words (outside of the food looks great and I had stubborn grandpa, too. Love your opening sentence–certainly is loaded. OK, guess I do have a few words.) as this is all so moving. Thank you for sharing something so personal.

    • Thank you for your great comment. I really can tell that you were moved by it, which is such a humbling and wonderful thing to hear. I feel like the days of stubborn grandpas like ours are waning, but they could still could exist. I know some pretty stubborn guys who might turn cantankerous as they age. I was happy and nervous to share it, but we all have built such a supportive community that I was happy to. Oddly, over the weekend, and I may write about this in another post, I got a bit of a pushy comment, not rude, per se, but not quite friendly either about a cooking method or my choice of words in a recipe. He wrote it in response to someone else’s comment by accident (a gardener that I follow, we kind of follow casually since I”m not a gardener and he focuses less on food than plants). Well on monday, my lovely gardener found me through my facebook page just to tell me how rude he thought it was and gave me all of these lovely compliments so I wouldnt get discouraged and then liked my last 5 or 6 posts.It’s because of this kind of community that I was comfortable writing this story and everything else I do here. Thanks again, Liz. I love reading your comments. We need to have a bourbon together one day…and bring those cookies.

    • So funny, Linda. I’m about to go to sleep! But I wish I were eating with you, as everything you bake is incredible. Thanks for taking the time to read it over breakfast. He certainly had a strong character! But a loving one too. I did learn from him. You might actually like these recipes as I’ve seen kind of similar ones from you! Enjoy your day!

    • OMG, I’m so honored that you would read it out loud. Thanksgiving at your house must be so warm and fun.I’d love to come over. Yes, in hindsight there is actually a ton of humor in this story and love. I’m glad you could see it. Are you going to do the carrot salad or the cake? I think the carrot salad works well for Thanksgiving. You definitely need to report back on all of the above! 🙂 I’m seriously touched.

      • Amanda I will make both, actually I will bring it to my friends house, celebrating Thanksgiving there. As I am not a friend of Pumpkin pies, I think your cake is a great alternative. I think your read Roger’s post on his inside about pumpkins…Oh I think it’s a real loving story, what great memory.

        • That is so cool. I really like pumpkins, but i did read Roger’s post and can see how not everyone does. I hope you enjoy them both! I know you will. I haven’t had a pumpkin pie yet this season.

  9. What a beautiful story! Loved reading, and especially the part about the values such as “strength, the ability to support oneself, the distinction between right and wrong and, when necessary, how to reconcile the blurry line between the two, and the specifically – do you want to be a winner or loser?”. I can relate to it. Though i come from an Indian background, my grandfather who is all of 95 is stubborn, highly opinionated, doing his daily chores in his own way, highly resourceful, you know the Old world men. I am happy that i read your wonderful memories <3

    • Thanks a lot. I’m glad you can relate. I always say that a lot of patents and grandparents that come from a strong culture sometimes embody this stubbornness. A lot of my friends from India, Korea, Italians, Greeks and Jewish backgrounds have told me that I’m describing their parents or grandparents. Thanks for you comment.

  10. Amanda, how could you think that nobody would read this? I’m sitting in a café in Dublin and can see myself sitting with you and your grandfather. A wonderful, evocative tale. This is the reason I follow your blog. Beautiful writing. In this case, the recipe falls off into a distant second place. Not because it is below your usual high standard. But because the story is so beautifully written.

    BTW: My french experiences are identical to Mad Dog’s. It’s normal to bring your own pastries to the café.

    • Wow, Conor. I’m really touched by your comment. I love that my story made its way to Dublin and that you could appreciate it. I really like the fact that we are from such different backgrounds and generations and find common ground. I’m perfectly okay with my story trumping the recipes here. Also, I’m the most kafka-esque here. When I read people’s posts it’s from a room within a room within a room in a big building. No cafe for me. 🙂

      If what you and MD say is so, I’m all about getting to France!

  11. I doubt very much, Amanda, that anyone will skip your story. There are plenty of recipe sites but your readers come here for a bit more — and you certainly delivered today. Your Grandfather was quite the man and you life enriched by him. I’d gladly welcome any more stories that you care to share with us. I’m not at all familiar with today’s cake recipe but, I have to admit, if it has almond flavoring, I’m sure to love it. I’m pretty much hooked on almond-flavored baked goods. 🙂

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment. It means a lot. It’s funny because i think i test people’s patience with my writing. Like “get to the recipe already! ” I’m so glad for such a positive response here. Your site too is so rich with family history. I think it’s so much a part of how we approach food. You have me thinking about actually remaining creative! Thanks very much.

  12. An incredible story and beautifully written, it really moved me. I had to sit back and think about your grandpa and other amazing people like him before I could move on to the beautiful recipes.

    • What a thoughtful comment, Chica. Thank you so much. It’s so nice to know that people can actually relate to this story which feels so specifically mine. But i realize that men like my grandpa exist, embarrassing young girls everywhere, but also making them proud 🙂 Thanks again. I hope you’re doing well!

  13. Amanda, I thoroughly enjoyed your story and wish you would write a book. You are sharing about a generation of grandmas and grandpas that I am afraid is fading – so much to learn from them. Your recipes are gorgeous. Carrying on your family recipes is so special. I have a real weakness for syrup soaked cakes – I’ve made orange and almond cake many times for Passover (from Claudia Roden) – and love the look of your semolina cake. Keep writing and cooking for us!

    • Hanna, thank you so much for your thoughtful encouragement. It really keeps me going. Soaked syrup cakes are amazing. I love the way you cook too so we will have to inspire each other. Xo

  14. I love your grandfather tale, Amanda. What a personality and the sheer moxy of going to a restaurant / diner with a basket is glorious. From today’s knowledge and insight into fast-food, even visionary. As someone who also grew up at her grandparents while my parents worked and having an extra special bond with my grandfather, I can say, his heart was in the right place. About the cake: sigh. I adore the ground Claudia Roden walks on and her Jewish Food was my first one. Is the other cake you are talking about the boiled orange-almond cake? Equally adored is Ottolenghi, so what am I waiting for to try the recipes! Nicole.

    • Thank you for such a thoughtful comment, Nicole. And for taking the time to read. That’s very cool that you had a bond like that with your grandpa too. It’s a special thing. As for the cake, it’s two ottelenghi cakes from Jerusalem but very much like roden’s torta de santiago. Very good stuff. I love roden too though i only have her Spain. Thanks again. Xo

  15. What a memory. I’m astounded, saddened and humoured in equal measure. I feel for the little you being placed in such a situation – even as an adult that would be difficult to deal with, but as a child you must have felt mortified. But what a wonderful grandfather in so many respects, and what a rich food history your grandparents have passed on.

    The carrot salad does sound wonderful! I’m living off salad much the same as yours only with raw grated beetroot too (which I could eat ALL day). Adding cinnamon is a wonderful idea though. And your cake? Scrumptious! I am definitely bookmarking the page because these two recipes are too good not to make 🙂

    xx

    • Thanks, Trixpin. I feel like everyone has some mortifying memories of childhood. I just love the ones revolving around food. Looking back you see the humor. Thanks so much for reading and for your thoughts. I hadn’t thought of doing it with raw beets. I”m going to try that next! Last night I made the carrot salad again using cinnamon and cumin. Combined with the raisins it made it taste so Middle Eastern. Certain spices complement each other perfectly. Enjoy the week!

  16. I envy you Amanda, for growing up knowing your Grandparents, and also receiving recipes that are handed down to you. This story of your Grandpa sounds like a story out of a TV program. Both the salad and the cake sounds delicious. I especially like how the cake is made in a shallow dish and covered with syrup. 😛

    • Thanks, Fae. I realize how lucky i was. I had all four of them until about 5 years ago. It really is such a great thing. Hands for reading the story. I think you’d really enjoy the cake. It’s so good. Xo

  17. Fig & Quince

    Oh Amanda! Where to start? Yours posts are always so many sensory layers …

    The food: I can’t take my eyes off the cake, so I’m afraid the salad, good looking and nutritious as it is, will have to accept that my affections are given elsewhere.

    The story: I loved reading it. I relate to being different and I think it’s meaningful and brave and beautiful to share it. And I love the way you write.

    • Thank you so much, Azita. It’s been so nice connecting with you through our spaces here. I really appreciate your thoughtful comment. The cake was spectacular. I think you would actually like it a lot. I agree with you, we must meet up sometime soon for coffee or tea 🙂

  18. Poignant and beautifully written story Amanda – though frankly – I’m glad it’s fiction because that would have been a lot for a young girl to endure. The picnic in the restaurant was actually fiction – right?
    One of the many things we have in common is a powerful grandfather figure in our early lives. I love your comment that you were a makeshift son and found it so interesting that he taught you to avoid situations where you might have to apologize. I’m assuming that’s real? I can imagine with his background that was sadly necessary. And yet – the ability to apologize must be one of the greatest human attributes. So such a contradiction. I love my grandfather so much that sometimes I think I’ve made him a fictional hero. Surely no one could have been that wonderful? But in mind – he was. The patron saint of my childhood.
    By the way – I want to walk the Camino next year. Just trying to figure out my schedule so that I can plan.
    I’ll have to make the cake now. Because of the story. Because of the connections. Because it looks beautiful. Like you.
    xo

    • Lindy, what a thoughtful and moving comment. I’m touched. I know how much you loved your grandpa. I loved both of mine so much too. I think about them and it’s hard to imagine a world without them in it, except that they are here, through us, through spirit, through stories through having been here and through everyone who loved them. The picnic part wasn’t true, although the Mcdonald’s part was certainly true. We’ve definitely had picnics in McDonalds or been in diners where he choked on everything he ate and become demanding enough for it to be very uncomfortable. I do think that this grandfather probably would have loved to have a son, but he loved his daughters and us. Very good point about apologies and their power. I don’t think it’s really possible to avoid situations in which you’d have to apologize. It’s part of being human.

      Wow that would be so cool. Maybe we’ll be in Santiago at the same time! I have to plan it too.

      As for the cake..it’s delicious. The side salad is a winner too. If you mix it with cumin and cinnamon it tastes really Moroccan too. I hope you’re well. So nice to hear from you. xo Big hug. Feel good.

  19. Sabi

    I enjoyed reading the story. It’s written in a way that makes you travel in space and time, like all these full of meaning meals do.

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