People often ask me how to best document a grandmother and her cooking. In response, I wrote a little guide- How to Approach an Elder- on how to best engage in this process. This basic philosophy informs both how I developed this work and everything that gets featured on this site. (I call it How to Approach an Elder, but honestly it could just as easily be called How to Approach Another Human Being!) In future posts I'll detail the writing, photography, and recipe development need to create compelling food stories. For now let's just get to the heart of what this is all about.
How to Approach an Elder
*With respect. A deep reverence, in-awe kind of respect. This woman has been through more life, more joys and hardship, than most of us can begin to imagine. She’s probably wiser from it all and, if you create a trustworthy environment, she will begin to share her experiences with you. Your life might be changed by what you learn, so bring an open heart and mind.
*Learn to love wrinkles. The more wrinkles, the better.
*Ask her about her cooking, but also ask her about her life.
*Watch her eyes while you two are talking. Look for a sparkle in her eyes, or tears, and be curious about those things. Get excited with her about the things that make her eyes sparkle. And, in whatever ways feel natural to you, encourage her to talk more about what moves her emotionally.
*Bring a gift. Each time you visit her, bring something. Small simple things are great: flowers, some cookies, a new dish towel, a small kitchen tool that you think she might enjoy.
*Write her a thank you note after you interview or cook with her.