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This one goes out to some of the most influential cooks anywhere: grandmothers.

February 18, 2021
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grandmother and granddaughter at the kitchen counter preparing food
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Among all the wisdom we can glean from our grandmothers, their recipes and cooking counsel stand out as some of the most valuable. Whether it's baking from scratch or a smart shortcut, frugal ingredients or pure comfort food, Grandma's kitchen wisdom seems timeless. Even before we become cooks ourselves, grandmothers are often among the first to sow a love for cooking in us. 

On this episode, we're honoring Grandma with stories from previous Homemade guests about their own beloved grandmothers: Rachael Ray, Patti LaBelle, Carla Hall, Jet Tila, Marcus Samuelsson, father-daughter duo Jacques and Claudine Pépin, and Allrecipes Allstars Jessie Shehan and Angela Sackett. Tune in for nostalgia, tried-and-tested tips, and thoughts from guests who have grandchildren of their own. Download it for free at Apple PodcastsSpotify, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts beginning February 24.

Episode Transcript

MARTIE DUNCAN Welcome to Homemade, I'm Martie Duncan. I've got such a special show for you today. No matter if you call her Gigi, Mimi, or MawMaw, many of you have fond memories of your grandmother's cooking. And some of you may have been lucky enough to have learned to cook alongside your grandmothers. That is also true for some of my guests on Homemade. Miss Patti Patti Labelle, Rachael Ray, Marcus Samuelsson, and others have shared wonderful memories, recipes, and some really funny stories on previous episodes that I'd thought you would enjoy hearing. Let's dive into how and why our grandmothers are so integral to our love and appreciation for home cooking.

First, we'll hear from Allrecipes Allstar Jessie Sheehan, the author of Icebox Cakes and The Vintage Bake. She dove deep with me into her grandmother's lemon velvet sheet cake and how she eventually learned that even grandmothers have secrets and sometimes the best things do come straight from a box.

MARTIE I know this lemon velvet sheet cake that you have on the Allrecipes site is one of your favorites. 

JESSIE SHEEHAN It is.

MARTIE And it's got a funny story. 

JESSIE So, the funny thing about me, just a little back story is that I did not grow up baking. I didn't have a mom whose apron strings I was holding on to from one year old or climbing on a stool to whisk something with her. I didn't really come from the baking family. But my father's mom, my paternal grandmother, did like to bake. However, I wasn't interested in kind of learning from her.

So when we went to visit her, I was extremely excited for her. She made these miniature Tollhouse cookies that I loved, and she made chocolate cakes that I loved, and she made challah bread, which was delicious. But what I really loved was her lemon velvet sheet cake.

And that was kind of a departure for me, because I'm not really a lemon person. I'm very much a chocolate person. But loved this cake. It had this delicious kind of glaze that shattered when you bit into it because it hardens like that. It was just to die. And many years later, after my grandmother passed and I began to be interested in baking, I thought, "Oh, I want to see her old recipes."

So I contacted my cousin, who was older than me and who had always love baking, so she had all my grandmother's recipes. And I said, "Rachel, you've got to send me the lemon velvet cheesecake recipe. I'm dying to make it. It's going to be so fun. I have this brand new blog. Can't wait to put it up there." You know, "Please help." She sent me the recipe. And the first ingredient is a box of lemon velvet cake mix, which is either Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines, I don't know which one. And it was such an amazing aha moment, I have to tell you, because I loved boxed cake mix.

MARTIE Right. 

JESSIE I always have. I always will. On my birthday, I have my sons make me like a Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines chocolate cake with frosting from a can.

MARTIE Well, I don't think there's any shame in that. So you have since perfected a different version of your grandma's lemon velvet sheet cake, and you shared that with us for one of your recipes on Allrecipes.

JESSIE A hundred percent. Because, even though I do love a boxed cake mix, I kind of also appreciated the challenge of taking this recipe of my grandmother's that called for one and trying to replicate it. And I joke, but really I'm being serious, my goal in every cake I develop is to try to make it taste like a box cake because that's the flavor I love.

MARTIE Former co-host of "The Chew" and "Top Chef" alum Carla Hall peeled back the flaky layers of her approach to biscuits for us and shared a story about her grandmother's cast-iron skillet. 

So let's dive into the biscuit recipe. I know you got a granny that was an amazing cook. Freddie Mae, right? 

CARLA Yes. Freddie Mae Glover, mhm.

MARTIE OK. So is this Freddie Mae's recipe or somebody else's? Or yours or a combination?

CARLA It's a combination. It was taken from Freddie Mae, Granny, and then when I was in London, I grabbed a scone recipe and tweaked it — because it was heavier without buttermilk. And then I've just been tweaking it over the years. It's more my Granny's than anything else, and I've changed the method. The recipe itself is fine. I changed the method to make it more consistent.

MARTIE I had to change my mama's just a little bit, too. The thing I change about my mother's biscuit recipe is that my mother didn't laminate it or fold it over and over and over. She basically got it all pulled together, folded over once, and then roll that sucker out and cut it out and throw it in the pan. And, you know, she had four kids. She didn't have time to fool with it. But I figured out that, although most people say you don't touch a biscuit dough very much, I found out that if you kind of laminate it almost like puff pastry or croissants, you get the flaky layers.

CARLA You do.

MARTIE Yeah.

CARLA That's what I started doing.

MARTIE Me too.

CARLA I laminate my dough. And that's because when the butter is cold, it has water in it. So when you do those layers — so now you have, depending on how many turns, you may have nine layers. I do three turns and then that cold butter creates steam. And then that creates the layers and the tall biscuit. It is delicious. The other thing that I do for consistency is I grate my butter.

MARTIE I do, too.

CARLA Right? Oh, my God. Martie...

MARTIE We are soul mates!

CARLA Why aren't we making biscuits right now?

MARTIE I know. Oh, girl. Let's do a big biscuit party. Come on.

CARLA Oh, my God. Are you kidding me?

MARTIE Let's find a place and do one.

CARLA I mean, we even have — What time is it? It's biscuit time! What time is it? It's biscuit time!

MARTIE It's biscuit time. What time is it? It's biscuit time.

CARLA It's biscuit time. That's what's up!

MARTIE I'm ready. I'm so ready.

CARLA I had my grandmother's cast iron skillet.

MARTIE How wonderful.

CARLA I remember this like it was yesterday. I was in New York. I was making a dish that Michael Simon had done on "The Chew" and it was this warm mushroom vinaigrette. So, I had sauteed the mushrooms, and I was putting the olive oil and vinegar in the pan. And I was like, where's the liquid going? And the pan cracked.

MARTIE Cracked. Oh, I've heard of that recently. Only in, like, the last month have I even heard of that ever happening. I wonder why!

CARLA I think it's because the pan was so hot for the mushrooms and then I put in the vinegar and not the oil first, right? And I was starving. When I started doing this I was starving. And I sat there, and I looked at the pan. And when I realized what was happening, I was like, "Nooo!"

And the tears just flowed. Because it was almost like I was just losing this thing of my grandmother's, and I can't cook in it anymore. I still have it. But it was so emotional because so when you talk about your mother's meatloaf pan and the rolling pin it and the connection that we have and what is almost like this talisman of making that dish. Right?

MARTIE True.

CARLA And when you don't have it, you're like, oh, my God, can I...

MARTIE Can I still cook? It's like my magic.

CARLA Right, right. Exactly.

MARTIE Host of the PBS program "No Passport Required," Marcus Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, but he grew up in Sweden. He told me all about the sounds, smells, and sights he remembers from his Swedish grandmother's kitchen.

MARCUS SAMUELSSON You walk into my grandparents' house, to the left my grandfather was sitting by the radio listening to things. Not really watching TV, always to the radio, commenting back to the radio, screaming at the radio if he was upset. And then you walk into the grandmother's place, which was really the kitchen, which really, 70 percent of the house, where it was always a stock or broth cooking, smelling in the back. There was always a bread to be made. So there was dough somewhere. 

MARTIE Right.

MARCUS She was cleaning something, whether it was chicken or fish. Vegetables were everywhere. Fruits were everywhere. We either had to go out and pick it or we had to clean it. Or we have to go foraging for lingonberries or mushrooms, depending on what season it was. And then, of course, in the basement, it was the labeling of all the jars. And it could read something like, "Lingonberries, October 1981." "Pickled mushrooms, September 1982." And when you had the job to could bring those jobs back up, you better bring the right season. And in Sweden at that time, you know, it's different. This food, this basement, was kept in — if the Russians would come, which was really real.

MARTIE Yes. 

MARCUS Right, this was real. It was not something that, you know, you can almost laugh at today. But no, this was happening. This real Cold War fear. 

MARTIE Yes. 

MARCUS So, that's how I grew up, with fresh food. Our steak was cod or halibut. Our second day meal was very often a fish soup or fish with fish dumplings. The meat that we had was meatballs was grounded meat. And if we ever had steak, it was pork.

MARTIE I want to know about fish dumplings. 

MARCUS Mhm. 

MARTIE What was that like? Tell me about that.

MARCUS Oh, fabulous. So it was really scraps of cod or halibut or whatever fish that we had back. You had to have to clean the cod. You scrape it, you get all that — you get this bucket of beautiful fish meat that in a restaurant today would be used to for tartars or used for other treatments. And that, with a little bit of butter or some type of fat, get mixed up, very often filled with breadcrumbs. So eventually the way someone makes meatballs, it's the same type of structure — a little bit onion, a little bit of breadcrumbs, a little bit of that first meat. And you roll it, and you could either boil them...

MARTIE OK. 

MARCUS Or you fry them.

MARTIE Like, so, dumplings, essentially. 

MARCUS Dumplings, exactly. And then they were served with, we always had potatoes. They very often get sweetened with an apple or a pear, and then get mashed. 

MARTIE Right. 

MARCUS My grandmother maybe had carrots ready or horseradish that we grinded in. 

MARTIE And that would go in the mashed potatoes?

MARCUS That goes in the mash. Right? 

MARTIE Ooh, that sounds good.

MARCUS Oh, it was delicious. And then she made the gravy from where we seared the fish, the dumplings. Very often with pickle juice. From the cucumbers, she took the pickle juice. Milk or cream, whatever she had, thicken that up with a little bit of flour. In her later days, when she got hip, she even added soy into that. I can't believe it.

MARTIE Really?

MARCUS Yeah, yeah. She did what she'd seen on TV. 

MARTIE Yeah. She was doing fusion cooking before there was fusion cooking. 

MARCUS Way before. Way before.

MARTIE I think all of our ancestors, you know, they did what they had to do. And, you know, wanted to be creative, too, in the kitchen just like we are, where they wanted to try something a little bit different, a little bit unique.

MARCUS My grandmother was completely in favor of child labor. I have to say that, first off. So, like, if, you, you know, when you're seven or eight or 10 or whatever — if me and my sister went to my grandmother, it was full with awareness that we're working. I never remember playing with my grandmother. Or my grandfather. It was full-on work. I set the bike. I ran up the 15 stairs. And I was sweaty because I was probably bike racing with my sisters. But once you enter, you were actively working. So it wasn't a place where I brought my friends, necessarily. But I also was there because you always got great food. 

MARTIE I was so thrilled to speak with Grammy-winning music and culinary icon Miss Patti LaBelle, who as a grandmother herself, told me about her famous pies and what she loves to cook for her grandkids. 

Tell me a little bit about, like, secrets to that. Your piecrust, for example, was this something that you had just teach yourself? Your grandmother, your momma, daddy taught you? 

PATTI LABELLE My mother and grandmother, they made the ones with the, uh, crust crust. Sometimes, you don't have time to make a crust, you buy a crust. And you can add anything to your crust, more butter, or whatever. So I do it both ways. And every time you make a sweet potato pie, you add a little something, and sometimes you don't. It's like an experiment every time I do pie.

MARTIE If I was hanging out at your house with you and your kids and your grandkids, what are they asking for? What is the number one thing that they want every day?

PATTI My little babies, they love my macaroni and cheese. They eat macaroni for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And my son and his wife, they eat whatever I cook because my son has a great skill of cooking also. So he's been doing a lot of the cooking. Like, he'll take my recipes and say, "Oh no, Ma, this is the way you make it." Yeah, right. He steals my recipes, but he does it well and respectfully.

MARTIE And then didn't you use some your grandmother's recipes like the pie recipes? 

PATTI Oh, you got that right. 

MARTIE I mean, that's how you do it. You pass it down. 

PATTI Yes. 

MARTIE That's why I really wanted to have you on this show because, for me, the stories, the back stories, It's like music, isn't it?

PATTI Yeah.

MARTIE Because when you eat something it takes you to a place and time. It's an ingrained memory of something. And I feel like it's so important for us to pass these things down to our kids and our grandkids and make sure these family traditions continue. 

PATTI Stay in the family forever and always pass it on.

MARTIE Stay tuned for more from Rachael Ray, Jet Tila, Angela Sackett, and Claudine and Jacques Pépin. We'll be right back after the break.

Welcome back to Homemade. Like Patti LaBelle, who we heard before the break, chef Jacques Pépin is also a grandparent. We discussed how he's passing on what he knows to his granddaughter Shorey. Plus, Jacques' daughter Claudine shared some memories of spending summers in France with her grandmother.

Claudine, do you remember your grandmother? Do you remember cooking with your grandmother?

CLAUDINE Oh, my gosh. Absolutely. Starting at the age of, I don't know, three or four, I basically would summer in France with my grandmother. And we would do stuff together. We'd go to the market together. We would cook together. We would do the dishes together. We would do everything together. She had this really cool garden. So you'd walk out the back door and there was a ground level patio and you'd walk upstairs and there were two sides to the garden and then a really pretty lawn and stuff. And it was really fun.

And she would have a garden up here. And if it was the right time of year, we would go and dig potatoes and she would just like rub the skin off and put it in a skillet with butter, and I promise you, you have never had anything better in your whole life. Just right out of the garden, little potato that's this big. Sautéed just right in butter. And, ugh, it was so good. And a steak, like a super, super thin steak. And my grandmother liked her steak rare, but like rare like you might still need a fork to catch the steak, because it was still moving. 

MARTIE Right. 

CLAUDINE So we would have a super rare steak and these potatoes and a green salad. And it waas just — it's still like one of the best meals ever.

MARTIE And now, Chef, you do the same thing with Shorey, your granddaughter. You take her to your garden, you cook with her. You have her in your kitchen.

JACQUES Yes. I mean, certainly when she was small, but I did something with Claudine when she was a couple of years old. I hold her in my arm and she stirred the pot. After a while she stirred the pot, she could made it. So she was going to eat it. So you have to get the kid involved. So once Shorey was small, I had that little stool next to me at the counter in the kitchen. Not now, because now she is taller than me.

But at that time, she stood there and I said, "OK, give me a spoon. OK, give me that. Help me wash the salad. OK." Take her out to the garden. I say, "Get me some parsley. No, that's chive. Taste it. No, that's parsley. That's chive. That's tarragon." And then take her to the market. And in the market they get me some pear. "Make sure they are ripe. Did you smell them? You think they ripe? Those tomatoes, you think they are ripe?" Come back to the house, then she helped me in the kitchen.

So you know that create a background against which we start talking not only about the food, but then, of course, when we enjoy the food sitting down together and that create a conversation. Because very often, what do you talk to a teenager who has, you know, an iPhone in their hand and so forth. For us, cooking and the kitchen itself has been a canvas unto which we can develop conversation and talk about — so the structure of the family is a very, very important for us. and this is done very often in the context of cooking the kitchen and so forth.

MARTIE You know, I garden also and my father and my mom did. And I always feel like kids were more likely to eat the food if they had a hand in either growing it or cooking it.

JACQUES Yes. You know, I have given the classes in part of the country where the kids think that a chicken is rectangular with plastic on top. It doesn't have any feet, doesn't have any head or anything like that. So, you know, it's good to go back a bit to mother nature.

MARTIE Allrecipes Allstar Angela Sackett had distinctly different grandmothers growing up. And in this clip, she says that of the two, you might be surprised whose cooking she remembers most.

ANGELA SACKETT I was primarily raised by a single mom and then I had, I'll really say, three grandparents who had a ton of influence on me in the area of food. The southern grandma Kentucky, Tennessee, pot roast, fried pecan pies, you name it. And that was there was always 10 times more than the family could eat on the table. A little bit of stress associated with it, though, cause she did it all by herself and nobody was allowed to help. And another grandma that was more a gourmet, chef, cook, oh, she was glamorous. Had her own TV show...

MARTIE What?!

ANGELA And all those good things.

MARTIE You had a grandma with a cooking show?

ANGELA Oh, girl. It was like a variety show from what I understand. Musicians, she was friends at Bob Hope. You name it. What a life, right?

MARTIE Well how exciting and glamorous is that? So you were influenced by your southern granny who probably did the full Southern — I see where she would cook you a full Southern breakfast.

ANGELA Oh, you know it.

MARTIE So what was it? Like eggs and pancakes and bacon and sausage?

ANGELA Plus the grits, or the cream of wheat and the gravy. And we always had on the table...

MARTIE Love cream of wheat!

ANGELA Oh yeah. Oh yeah. And then either — well, usually both — sliced tomatoes and whole green onions that you would just eat, hold 'em in your hand and eat them with your breakfast. Did you do that?

MARTIE Yeah, I was just talking about that yesterday to my nephew, I made lunch for my nephew yesterday. And I was just saying, you know, when my mother would set the table, if there were tomatoes, there were also green onions.

ANGELA OK!

MARTIE She'd call them spring onions.

ANGELA Oh yeah.

MARTIE So I was dicing up a couple yesterday to put on some chili, and I was telling my nephew that story, and I need to research that and find out where that comes from. Because if there were sliced tomatoes, which often was a vegetable for us, then there was absolutely spring onions on the table with it.

ANGELA Huh! That's a thing. We gotta find out the roots of that. 

MARTIE Yeah, we sure do. So you had this glamorous granny who had a variety show, and then you had a Southern Granny who was making you grits and biscuits. Well, how wonderful!

Of that, tell me your favorite memory of one dish that you remember from your grandmother. What did she cook for you that was your favorite thing that you look forward to more than anything?

ANGELA You're going to laugh. But actually, it's the glamorous grandma that comes to mind first. And that is she used to make this dish called rumaki — have you ever made rumaki?

MARTIE Yeah.

ANGELA It was chestnuts, I think...

MARTIE Yes.

ANGELA Wrapped in bacon...

MARTIE Bacon.

ANGELA And that was Christmas Eve, every year. The whole family would come on Christmas Eve to that grandma's house. And she had all the little fancy things. That's the first time I ever had hearts of palm. Those would come straight out the can and onto the plate. That was the big life, we thought.

MARTIE So this was in that late '60s, early '70s, I'm guessing? 'Cause those kinds of things...

ANGELA More like late '70s. But that was, that had held over. Yep. 

Martie Yeah. Those kind of dishes were big in the...

ANGELA Oh yeah.

MARTIE I would say late '60s through the '70s, those little pickup, you know, cocktail-y things where you substitute for cooking sometimes. Well, that's funny rumaki would be the thing that came to mind. 

ANGELA Isn't that hilarious? I will say this to that same grandma also made — she called it a seven-cheese macaroni, but it really just depended on how many different cheeses struck her fancy when she went to the grocery store and she would cut them all up in cubes and shake 'em in corn starch. Layer it and poured milk in. And to this day, that is the dish that my kids will ask for when they really want to splurge on a holiday, is Grandma Rose's seven cheese macaroni, which might have 12, it might have five…

MARTIE Or two.

ANGELA Yeah, or two!

MARTIE In this clip, Los Angeles-based chef, cookbook author, and Food Network personality Jet Tila grew up in a restaurant family. He explains how his grandmother was his primary caregiver and practically raised him in the kitchen.

MARTIE Tell me about cooking in the kitchen with your grandmother. 

JET Yeah. And I'm going to give you the real answer, you know, and not the romanticized answer. Although, she absolutely was the most formidable influence in my cooking life, for sure. So at about the age of three, I had a lot of attention issues as a child. I was a very difficult child. And she, I think, understood that I'm not going to learn much from books and math and reading. So she stuck me in the kitchen with her, right next to her hip at three years old, and just focused all that crazy energy I had into tasks.

So, peel this. Cut this. Taste this. And then that becomes peeling becomes cutting. Cut this. And that becomes cooking this. And we had field trips every day. She was my primary caregiver for a long time. And we'd get on the bus to Chinatown, and we'd eat dim sum. We'd go to grocery shopping. And she played mahjong for a few hours. And then we'd come home and we'd cook dinner together.

MARTIE Wonderful. 

JET And over the course of thousands of meals and thousands of lessons — she was also a natural teacher. She was mean as heck, by the way, which all the things I really needed. I needed focus. I needed to learn a trade because I wasn't a book learner. And I also needed discipline. And she gave me all these three things, but man, she was one of the meanest women I've ever known. And that's what I needed at the time. So I have a very fond place in my heart for her.

MARTIE Absolutely. I can see absolutely why. And I think all of us need that. 

JET Did you ever watch the Disney short, Bao? You should really watch it. It's about this kid who goes with his mom. But it wasn't that touchy feely, soft version. It was the tough, what I needed version. 

MARTIE Tough love is the most important love sometimes. 

JET I agree. 

MARTIE So what would you make with her? Like is there something you make now that is something inspired by those days in the kitchen with your grandma?

JET My grandmother was Cantonese. And what people don't know, that Cantonese Chinese people eat soup with every meal. It's a tradition, where you would make a soup, And you'd probably make like a stock, like either pork stock or chicken stock, primarily. And she was a master of making soups. So she would roast the bones and roast, you know, the — well, I didn't know what aromatics were, of course, until I went to culinary school. So she would take daikon radish and ginger and all these things. And so I made a very simple pork and winter melon soup just a few weeks ago. Because, you know, COVID, this lockdown, gives us a lot of anxiety. And I think I just needed a little piece of Gramma's soup. 

MARTIE I can get you and everybody else that bought up all the yeast during the pandemic. Everybody was looking for that. Everybody was looking for that, Jet. Everybody wanted that touch of home and that sense that, hey, it's gonna be OK.

JET Yeah. 

MARTIE So tell me what it was again. It was...

JET Basically a lot of Chinese stocks are pork stock-based. 

MARTIE OK. 

JET So rib bones or neck bones, you roast those off to make a dark stock, a brown stock. Add some daikon radish, which is an aromatic. Some ginger and garlic, which is an aromatic. You cook that down for a few hours and then you finish soup with that final flavoring, and it's usually a vegetable. And I used winter melon. You ever used a winter melon? It's a gourd.

MARTIE Never heard of it. 

JET Imagine the sweetness of zucchini multiplied by 10. 

MARTIE OK.

JET It's got that earthy sweetness. So you basically the final product is just a bowl of soup with riblets and winter melon. And it's a very simple soup. You eat it with rice. Like, yesterday's rice put into soup makes a rice porridge of some sort. So...

MARTIE I love that. I always put rice in my soup. I always do. And you know, I always wondered why in every single Chinese restaurant you ever saw, there was always two or three soups. And so now I know. 

JET That's it. Cantonese Chinese. We eat soup with every meal.

MARTIE Finally, to wrap up today's show, Rachael Ray told us her grandfather was actually a gigantic influence on her love of food. She also described the life lessons she learned from him about appreciating everyday blessings.

All right. So, Rachael, you've talked a lot about growing up in food and one of your first memories, watching your mom in a restaurant kitchen. Our listeners would love to hear more about growing up in a family with so many good cooks in the kitchen.

RACHAEL Well, my mom's 85, and she worked in restaurants for 60 years. 

MARTIE Wow. 

RACHAEL And when I was a little girl, my first memory was being on her hip and she had turned on the flat top, the griddle. And she was fighting with one of the purveyors and phones had cords then. So the part you're talking to was attached to that was on the wall. 

MARTIE Right.

RACHAEL She had gotten so whipped up, she was spinning around and around in a circle. And so she had to unwind and put me down because I was on her hip. 

MARTIE Right. 

RACHAEL She went to hang up the phone. I reached up to grab at a spatula, to mimic her because she's always in the kitchen, and I grilled my thumb to the griddle.

MARTIE Oooh. 

RACHAEL And that's my first memory in life, is that. People, of course, can't see it, 'cause this is audio, but the scar on my thumb is kind of like my Harry Potter stamp for what would come.

And when I was even younger than that, when I was at home, my first caretaker was my grandfather. And my grandpa had 10 children. My mom was the firstborn, the eldest child. And her responsibility was to help Grandpa. And his primary responsibility was growing the food. And he was the cook of the family. My grandmother was the seamstress and the baker. And Grandpa also worked 80 to 100 hours a week as a stonemason. 

MARTIE Really? 

RACHAEL So he would tend his gardens literally by moonlight. And he would process and make all the food and then put it into his big wood-burning oven when he'd go to work and pull it out when he'd come home to check on the kids. And then he'd go back to work. I mean, he was an amazing man and he was my best friend when I was little. He was my nanny, really. He was the child caregiver, you know?

MARTIE Isn't that amazing? I never got to meet any grandparents. It's so amazing that you have that legacy and that memory. What is one of your favorite dishes that your grandfather would make that you still make?

RACHAEL Everything with fish that I make. I's very funny because my mother, she doesn't mind anchovies melted into oil, but she really doesn't like fish the way I like seafood. Grandpa would play cards with the Runzo boys, and I would sit on his lap and they played Tressette, three sevens, or Scopa, which mean "to sweep". It's a card game too.

I'd sit on his lap and he'd play cards with the Runzo boys, and we'd have sardine sandwiches with onions. And I loved sardine sandwiches with onions, and I love spaghetti aglio e olio with tons of anchovies melted into spaghetti. I love sardine spaghetti. I love puttanesca sauce, of course. All of those dishes remind me of him, because that's part of the time that we shared together. And I write about that in my last book. I wrote a book when I turned 50 and there's a...

MARTIE Yeah, I have it. It's a great book. 

RACHAEL Thank you. There's a chapter called "Sardine Sandwiches Don't Make You Friends." So my first day at school, I took a book. The teacher took it away because the other children didn't know how to read yet. And they took away my sardine sandwich.

MARTIE What?

RACHAEL It was in a bag at lunch and I took it out of the bag and everybody made fun of me because it smelled. I went home hysterical crying. And my grandfather basically made fun of me and said, "You have 10 fingers, 10 toes, and a brain." He made me count my fingers, count my toes. He knocked on my head and said, "What's in there?" I said, "My brain." He said, "Well, you have 10 fingers, 10 toes, and a brain. What are you crying about?" And that's an important lesson to learn in life. To, you know, save your tears for when times truly deserve it. 

MARTIE When you really need them. That's right. Like now, so many people are upset about having to be at home. And I mean, I can see why if, especially, if they've lost their jobs. That makes a lot of sense to me. But I hear a lot of people kind of whining about having to be at home. And to me, I think it's almost a little bit of a blessing because I'm doing so many things that I never get to do.

RACHAEL You have to try and make it into a blessing. I think blessings don't just happen. I'm sure some do by fortune or divinity or good juju in the universe or karma or whatever. 

But I think a lot of blessings — you can also kind of make a fertile environment for them. Wake up with a positive attitude, challenge yourself to do something that you've never done before. Look at things in a slightly different way, and try and find something to be grateful for as early as you can in your day, every day.

MARTIE Thanks so much for tuning in to our special grandmother's episode of Homemade. I hope it helped you recall some of your memories in grandma's kitchen, and I hope it will encourage you to write down those cherished family recipes and stories. You'll be so glad you did. 

Coming up on the next episode of Homemade, actor and five-time Emmy Award nominee Jesse Tyler Ferguson from "Modern Family" joins me to talk about his new cookbook, growing up in New Mexico, and how he discovered his love of cooking.

JESSE TYLER FERGUSON I remember wanting to tackle my first Thanksgiving dinner after I moved to L.A. and getting in way over my head and really wanting to do everything. I did not want anyone bringing anything.

MARTIE We've all done it. We've all done it.

JESSE We've done it. You do it once and then you realize that doesn't ever need to be done again. I do love entertaining and it's been a joy to feed my family, feed my friends. It's how I show my love to people. 

MARTIE I had such a good time talking to Jesse. Didn't you just love his character on "Modern Family"? Subscribe to the podcast now so you don't miss it. And if you could, rate Homemade and leave us a review. I'd really appreciate it.

And don't forget, you can find thousands of recipes, meal ideas, and cooking how-tos from the world's largest community of cooks at Allrecipes.com. 

This podcast was recorded in Birmingham, edited in Atlanta, and can be found wherever you get your podcasts. 

Homemade is produced by Allrecipes with Digital Content Director Jason Burnett. Thanks to our Pod People production team Rachael King, Matt Sav, Danielle Roth, Jim Hanke, Maya Kroth, and Erica Huang.

I'm Martie Duncan, and this is Homemade.