Cyber recipes come up short compared to grandmothers

Dough is my thing. The more I mess with it the more I am enthralled by it. I have painfully neglected my pursuit of chocolate art this last month at least in part because I keep circling back to dough.

But like chocolate, I have a lot of hits and a lot of misses when it comes to dough. That “something,” that fine line between a great dough and a blob, is what keeps me coming back (not to mention the eats afterward– even the blobs taste pretty OK).

In all my kneading I learned something vitally important: All those helpful hints and videos and pins and such don’t do justice to the art of truly creating beautiful food, especially things that require a veteran touch like dough.

I realized this when my dough pursuits wandered off the familiar territory of my Italian heritage and explored working with Hispanic dough’s — tamales and tortillas.

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The methods are similar. Dough is dough at “the root of the root” as the poet said. But the finished product proved to me I have a lot to learn. Second and third tries taught me it wasn’t a measurement or a better recipe, but the deft art of know how. I have it working with things my grandmother taught me. I don’t have it — yet — with things I’d have learned if Nonie was my Abuela.

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We never made tamales when I was a kid. I lack the expertise, the hands-on experience with a true expert who made them so often she didn’t even realize how exceptional they were. Grandmothers cooked in a different time, long before such things made them celebrities. They made food so we could eat and seeing us enjoy it was all the star-power they needed. Nonie made us sauce and ravioli and apple rings and fried bread, things I make with a confidence that comes from seeing her, watching her and eating her creations.

I didn’t have that training with tamales and tortillas and frankly the results prove it.

Don’t get me wrong. I had fun and the product of my labor still ended up getting consumed.

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But the artistry remains elusive, which when you come to think about it, is thrilling! If the art of truly cultural food could be captured in a five-minute YouTube, would it be special?

Remember our favorite sage Jimmy Dugan (“that’s good advice!”) who sums up Effin Artistry when he said: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everybody would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

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It is the hard that makes it great. I want to discover the great as if I had an Abuela to teach me.

Back to the masa grind stone.

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3 thoughts on “Cyber recipes come up short compared to grandmothers”

  1. I absolutely love this because its so true! Foods that I just “know” from watching them be made and tasting growing up almost never feel like work. Adventures in new cuisines don’t have that intrinsic taste memory that I think is the real secret of cooking. The just knowing part.

    1. Absolutely! This is my pet-peeve. All these cooking shows and web entries focus on “EASY.” The art of this food thing is not easy at all, which is why its worth exploring.

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