Sunday, November 01, 2009

Clara's Kitchen.

A year or two ago, a couple of Youtube videos were making the rounds on all the forums and e-mail lists--a 90-something-year-old woman named Clara Cannucciari, filmed in her kitchen by her grandson, cooking some of the meals that her family ate during the Depression years.

Here you can see her making Egg Drop she cooks a concoction called Poor Man's's the first "episode" where she makes Pasta with Peas. There are quite a few short Clara segments on Youtube now, and they're all charming and fascinating.

Armed with some birthday money, a coupon and some Borders Bucks, I went to Borders in search of something great the other night and found that Clara has a small book out called Clara's Kitchen, with recipes for some of the simple foods her family lived on in the Thirties, as well as some matter-of-fact memories of her life in those days.

I just couldn't resist this book. It makes me wish I had taken more time to talk to my grandmothers about their lives during those years. The stories and the pictures are so simple and yet so powerful. She writes about picking dandelion greens in the yard and mushrooms in vacant lots for dinner, eating eggplant burgers since meat was so scarce, and waiting for her dad to bring home half of his lunchtime ham sandwich for her and her brother to devour. She also writes about having to drop out of high school in her sophomore year because her family could not afford to support a child who could be out working and bringing in money.

Clara's cheerfulness and pragmatism come through on every page. This is a strong woman. You might not want to make every recipe in the book (I wrinkled up my nose at Panecotto--stale bread in milk) but you'll want to read every story. Loved it!