This Is the Winter for Grandma Cookbooks (You Know Which Ones I Mean)

With the dreariest days of winter ahead and so many dirty dishes in our rearview, cooking has become, for me anyway, nothing more than a domestic necessity. I may do it well or poorly, but it must be done either way. The one thing that’s saved me from complete apathy? My grandma cookbooks.

Grandma cookbooks are not cookbooks that actual grandmas use. Actual grandmas do not use recipes, with the exception of the occasional handwritten notecard. When they can be convinced to write a recipe down, their instructions consist of “throw two handfuls of tomatoes and a pinch of salt in; stir until it smells right.” Grandma cookbooks instead exemplify the unfussy yet encyclopedic knowledge of a cuisine passed down by individual grandmas, in book form. In other words, Grandma cookbooks are intended for people who have to put dinner on the table, but cannot abide either the preciousness of celebrity chef cookbooks or the callow, unmoored wiz-bang of 365: No Repeats.

Many Grandma cookbooks are collaborations between adult children and the older generation; some are written by grandmas who happen to be talented writers. Often, they are written by immigrants seeking to preserve their cuisine for their American children, while sharing it with the world. All grandma cookbooks know good cooking for the domestic drudgery it is and are here to help you, oh soft American child, feed your people, well.

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