The Art of Our Grandmothers’ Cooking

When we delve into the wisdom of our grandparents, which is still abundant in the collected works of food expert and poet C. Louis Leipoldt, we not only discover more sustainable ways of cooking but also unlock a forgotten world of flavours.

Stepping into the kitchen

Thinking back to our older generation, we remember how our grandparents used to eat freshly baked bread every day, preserve leftover vegetables or fruit to ensure none goes to waste, and prepare every meal with seasonal produce.

In April 2024, Jan Hendrik attended a Datu Wellness Retreat in the heart of Tuscany upon the invitation of his friend Constantin Bjerke, who initiated this project to introduce Europe to India’s skilled and experienced healers and wellness practitioners. 

During his stay at the retreat, he met a chef named Asia Kostka. She studied Psychology at the University of Boston and, over the years, worked alongside top chefs and grandmothers in various countries to discover the essence of cooking. 

So, what can we learn from the older generations, the oumas and the nonnas, about cooking and consuming food? According to Asia, the answer is simple. 

With attention and intention

For Asia, the reverence for food cooked by an older generation lies in how it was prepared. “Their sole concentration was on feeding people. They did it with pure love and joy. With attention and intention, a meditation, if you will, was integral to their process.”

Her deep connection with food is thanks to her grandmother. “If food is medicine, my grandmother was my first medicine woman teacher.”

As she entered the kitchens of other nonnas, she learned a lot from them. Every nonna she cooked with shared things with her that they had learned from their mothers and ancestors. “These women held wisdom and lived their lives with folklore connected to nature and the seasons. They shared not only food-related knowledge but also remedies of herbal medicine from the land around them.”

According to Asia, this generation cooked according to each season, using produce that was only available then. “The wisdom they shared was based on pure ingredients directly from the earth around them.  They often grew their own food, herbs, and medicinal plants.”

It’s a different way of looking at food and cooking, she reckons.

It’s an art.