The Grannies Sharing Secret Recipes Around the World

The Grannies Sharing Secret Recipes Around the World
Grandmothers are showcasing old, region-specific recipes known only to them, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

A silent movement around the globe is ensuring that we do not lose our grandmothers’ old-fashioned recipes

Uttara Gangopadhyay
June 18 , 2021
08 Min Read

Interestingly, it is to grandmother’s old recipes and local ingredients that most people turned to during the pandemic induced confinement to ensure healthy eating as well as for ideas to make daily cooking interesting. Here are some fascinating places you may look up for interesting grandmothers’ recipes.


This 80-plus year old grandmother is a YouTube sensation

It is easy to miss Pushparani Sarkar, an 80-something frail woman, wearing her cotton sari in the traditional Bengali style, outside her home. But not many know that this woman with a ubiquitous presence is a YouTube sensation. The heart and soul of Villfood channel, which has 1.58M subscribers (and the number keeps growing) hailing from US, UK, Japan, Germany, Canada, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and a host of other countries apart from India, has made Sarkar a YouTube millionaire.

It was around 2017 that her grandsons realised that grandmother Pushparani was a storehouse of culinary knowledge, of mostly forgotten dishes once popular in Bengal, especially rural households; some of the dishes dated back to over a century. They decided to film her and post the films on YouTube.

Not in any fancy kitchen but over the traditional clay oven in her open courtyard, and assisted by her daughter-in-law, Pushparani prepares the dishes from scratch. Using ingredients such as vegetables from her kitchen garden, locally produced fish or meat, hand pounded spices, etc. and assisted by her daughter-in-law, grandmother Pushparani teaches the world things such as how to prepare ‘shaak seddho khuder bhaat’ (a one-dish winter breakfast consisting of boiled broken rice and leafy vegetables),’Thankuni Patar Chochhori’ (a dry dish made of Indian pennywort), various ways of cooking ‘Ilish Bhapa’ (steamed hilsa), ‘Dim-Beguner Jhol’ (a gravy dish of eggs and eggplant), ‘lau patai bhape koi seddho’ (steamed Koi fish in gourd leaves), the list is endless.

Country Foods

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The star of this YouTube channel started in 2016 was Karre Mastanamma from Andhra Pradesh, who had already crossed her century (born in 1911) when her grandson Laxman and his friend began documenting her cooking typical recipes, cooked over wood-fire oven and using locally sourced ingredients. They began posting on YouTube, which became an instant hit. When she passed away in 2018, this feisty grandmother had over two million followers.  

Grand Dishes

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Anastasia Miari, a London-based journalist, used to wheedle recipes from her 80-year grandmother (also called Anastasia Miari) who lived in Corfu (Greece), when it struck her that it would be nice to put together the recipes into a book. Along with her friend Iska Lupton, whose grandmother was also a fine cook, they began to collect the recipes and posted excerpts from their interviews on a blog.

Meanwhile, they were also approached by other people whose grandmothers had a host of old recipes to share. Project Grand Dishes soon became an interesting collection of grandmothers’ recipes from around the world. “There’s no food quite like that of our grandmothers and this project is an ode to them,” they wrote on their blog. The efforts, which included travelling across countries 10 countries and three continents and overcoming language barriers, finally gave way to the book Grand Dishes, published by Unbound this year.

It would be wrong to call Grand Dishes a mere collection of recipes. As the authors wrote on their blog, ‘it’s a selection of stories and techniques that are completely unique to a region, a grandmother and her family’. The book contains diverse recipes from 70 grandmothers as well as from grandmothers of famous chefs such as Francis Mallmann, Anna Jones and Enrique Olvera.

Grandmas Project

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Conceptualised by Jonas Pariente, Grandmas Project, took off in 2013. In 2005, Pariente had started filming his grandmothers – “Meme”, who was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1916 and “Nano” who was born in 1933 in Cairo, Egypt; both migrated to France in the 1950s – but shelved the plan.

He restarted the project, Pariente writes in his website, as ‘a collaborative web-series sharing the recipes and stories of grandmas around the world, filmed by their grandchildren’. Grandmas Project is essentially a celebration of the legacy grandmothers represent, especially their understanding and presentation of food.

Here you can watch films made by grandchildren about their grandmothers and one special recipe from them.

Pasta Grannies

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Vicky Bennison has travelled around the world, wrote about her food experiences, and authored several books. It was while researching on a book about Italian food that she noticed ‘cooking skills were no longer being passed onto the younger generations’ -- “Everyone thinks their Nonna's cooking is the best. But what will Nonna be cooking in 20 years’ time?” Italian women (and men) were far too busy to spend time in their kitchen, was her observation. Making pasta by hand at home was being replaced by commercially made ones.

Thus began Bennison’s search for handmade pasta. Now, her channel showcases Italian grandmothers in their own homes making traditional pasta dishes, and even delicious food like gnocchi, breads, soups that are typical of their region.

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