Tag Archives: family recipes

Stuffed Peppers

Main Piece: Stuffed Peppers

The following was a story told to me by a college of mine, RD, and I am DM. The story was about a family recipe that was passed down that she learned to do on her own.

RD: My grandma had uh, my grandma on my Italian side has a recipe book in her head that she verbally passed on to my dad and my dad’s sisters. And I used to be very bad at cooking but recently I got into cooking. I wanted to try some of her recipes, but they weren’t written down anywhere so I asked my dad’s sister to send me her recipe book like her mental recipe book. Could you please write down the recipes down for me? And really what all she could provide for me because she was like you just have to cook it and figure it out. Really all she could provide for me was the ingredients so now I’m trying to recreate an actual recipe book by experimenting with all of her ingredients to try to figure out like the perfect combination so that I can create the actual recipe book with instruction and the right amounts and all that stuff  and then hopefully pass it down to my kids and so on and so on.

DM: Did you figure out a recipe?

RD: I did! I made her gnocchi, which I was so proud of cause everything was from scratch. I tried to make her raviolis and they were so bad so I need to try those again. And I made her stuffed peppers which were also pretty amazing.

DM: You want to tell me about either the gnocchi or the stuffed peppers?

RD: Yeah the stuffed peppers cause they are easier. Um so the stuffed peppers, you get a pepper and you cut it in half um and then you make her gravy which is meat, breadcrumbs, a bunch of Italian seasonings, um onions all just like mushed together and then put into a pot of tomato sauce and you just cook it for like three hours on low and it just simmers so that it can just pick up all the flavors and stuff. And then you stuff those into the peppers and you top the tomatoes with Ricotta cheese and then you put the peppers again in the oven and you cook them again. Then when you take them out it’s a little bowl filled with meat and cheese and it’s amazing.


The participant is twenty-eight years old. She is a Mexican American assistant principal at a high school. One day she posted a picture on Instagram of her making her grandma’s recipe from scratch. I wondered how long that family recipe was passed down in her family, so I asked her about.   

DM:Where/who did they learn it from?

RD: I learned this from my grandma because it was her stuff. Her children wouldn’t have know had she not passed it down to them.

DM: Why is this recipe important to you?

RD: It is what I grew up eating. Everytime my dad cooked, he cooked this recipes.

Analysis/ My Thoughts:

I think this story was actually very similar to what we were debating in class about oral versus written folklore. Her grandmother’s recipe book in her head with becomes something authored by her. She won’t be giving it to another else but her family. Instead of being an oral book it will now become something physical that can be passed down to her family. It raises the question of who the recipe book belongs to. The recipe book is hers, but the recipe book is her grandmothers. As it gets passed down, will it raise the question of where these recipes came from.  


Brisket and Kugel – “although they’re not as good as Marcia’s”

The informant is a 95-year old man who grew up in Davenport, right near downtown with his parents and two brothers. His father came over from Russia and owned a grocery store in Davenport. He is a father, grandfather, worked in advertising for 60 years, and loves baseball.


Interviewer: “Do you remember anything your mom used to cook?”

Informant: “Yes, she made brisket. It was so good.”

Interviewer: “Did she make it from a recipe?”

Informant: “No, she made it herself. And it was something her mom had taught her. It was so good, nobody could match it. She gave the recipe to Nancy way back when. She also made the keegal or kugel, whichever you call it, she made that on her own recipe.

Interviewer: “Is that the one Aunt Nancy uses at Seder?”

Informant: “Nancy has it, yes. She makes that one. Although it’s not quite as good as Marcia’s was.”


As with my previous collection of food-related folklore, I see a strong emotional connection to the discussion of food. This could be because the food talked about is usually something cooked by an immediate family member at some special occasion or holiday when family is gathered. So it isn’t so much the food alone that makes the informant emotional, but the memories tied up with the food. When a recipe has been passed down from family member to family member it only strengthens and nuances the connection to a food.

Food: Barbeque Recipe

Note: The informant is from Connecticut but she has family in the Midwest.


Barb-Q Recipe

This recipe has been passed down from the informant’s grandmother to her mom to the informant.


4lbs of spare ribs

1 cup of sliced onions

1 cup ketchup

1 cup water (the informant’s mother doesn’t use water)

1 tsp of salt

2 tbsp worcheshire

¼ cup of vinegar (the informant uses apple vinegar instead)

¼ cup brown sugar

2 tsp dried mustard

1 tsp paprika


Cut spare ribs into serving pieces and brown. Combine ingredients and pour over ribs. Place the ribs in a pan and bake 350 F° 1 ¾ hours. Some of the sauce will drip onto the pan, spoon the sauce over the ribs three or four times to prevent the food from drying out.

The informant collects recipes that have been passed down generations. She has scans of the recipes in her computer. She says it helps maintain family traditions so maybe the hand written version feels more authentic version.

I find it interesting that the informant scanned recipes into her computer instead of just typing them out. She did state that she likes collecting the recipes because it makes her feel connected to her family traditions. Maybe looking at the handwritten version of the recipes make the recipes feel more authentic then looking at generic typeface.