No Matter Where the Recipe Comes From

Gina Lorubbio

Copenhagen, Denmark

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Artist's Description

This advice was gleaned from a beautiful reflection paper a student of mine, Elizabeth, wrote at the end of a course I taught called “The Power of Food.” I was so struck by her story, and she has graciously given me permission to share this excerpt. I hope it touches you deeply, too.

Here’s Elizabeth talking about what she chose to bring to a potluck for which the prompt was to share a dish that has been passed on to you from a previous generation:

“For the potluck I decided to make Buddy Bars – a peanut butter and chocolate treat that my grandma used to make. In many of my memories of visiting my grandparents, food features heavily—especially gorging on a lot of junk food and sweets like cookies and cakes that my grandma made.

When I chose to make Buddy Bars she had just been diagnosed with liver cancer.

As I edit this now I am in Indiana having attended her funeral two days ago.

Last night my sister, cousin, and aunt made Buddy Bars for our whole family, and we are quickly devouring them and talking about how much we love them and the different times that we made them. I had photos of the recipe written by my grandma for my dad because I had recently made them, and I sent those photos to all my cousins. And here I had been thinking that my family doesn’t have a food culture that has been passed down.

We believed my grandma got this recipe from a magazine at some point, however, when my dad and sister couldn’t find the written recipe that she had given us, I googled it and found out it was a Nestle recipe and had most likely appeared on the back of a bag of chocolate chips. So it was quite ironic that I chose to make it for the potluck because a couple of weeks earlier I had said that I’d grown up learning to scoff at the recipes on the backs of the boxes or packages.

This whole experience made me take a hard look at what I believe constitutes meaningful food culture—I had thought that homemade recipes that had been passed down from generation to generation were essentials and that recipes generated solely by the corporations selling those products somehow cheapened the whole deal. But this has really highlighted for me how little the food itself can matter—the point is that it brings people together, makes memories, and is an expression of love and care no matter where the recipe come from."

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