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Learning to Cook From Grandmas Around the World

At Great Big Story, we've eaten a lot of weird, wild (wonderful) foods. But nothing beats the taste of home. In August 2019, we put a call out to our YouTube community asking them to share their favorite meals they cook with their grandmothers. We received over 600 responses. Here are a few of their stories.


Kaunas, Lithuania

Romas is always happy to peel potatoes when he visits his grandma, Biruta. She uses them to make cepelinai, his favorite dish. The potato and meat dumplings are topped with a dollop of sour cream, making them the ultimate comfort food.

Biruta boils cepelinai, considered to be the national dish of Lithuania.
Romas helps his grandmother peel the potatoes.
Cepelinai are shaped like Zeppelin airships, hence the name.
Biruta relies on instinct and years of experience, rather than a recipe, when making her cepelinai.
Romas and Biruta get prepped to begin cooking.


For the meat stuffing:
0.8 kg (1.8 lb) minced pork
2 chopped onions
1.5 teaspoons basil
3/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt

For the coating:
4 kg (8.8 lb) potatoes
0.5 kg (1.1 lb) boiled minced potatoes
Potato starch from grated potatoes
1.5 teaspoon salt

For the sauce:
0.25 kg (0.55 lb) bacon pieces
1 chopped onion
1.5 teaspoon salt

Step 1
Wash, peel, and grate the potatoes. Place them in a cheesecloth bag and squeeze out the water. Collect the potato water in a bowl. After the starch sets, pour the water out.

Step 2
Mix all meat ingredients thoroughly. Mix all coating ingredients thoroughly.

Step 3
Flatten a section of coating in the palm of your hand. Add some meat, then close it and roll it between your hands to form a zeppelin. Granny’s Tip! Wet your hands with water, so the zeppelins won't stick to your hands.

Step 4
Add salt and starch to the boiling water. (Starch is optional, but it evens out the surface of the zeppelins.) Boil the zeppelins for 25-30 minutes, or until they are done.

Step 5
To make the sauce, fry bacon for 10 minutes. Add chopped onions and fry for an additional 2 minutes. Serve your zeppelins topped with sauce and a dollop of sour cream.


Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.A.

One of the first things Bonnie ever learned to bake was apple crisp. Now, she's passing down the recipe to her grandson, Jack. Ever since Jack was a young child, standing on a stool to reach his grandma's kitchen counter, the two have been cooking together.

For Bonnie and Jack, cooking is a way to spend time together.
Adding the sugar syrup onto Bonnie's apple crisp.
For Jack, the best part of making apple crisp is peeling the apples.


For the crust
cup flour
3/4 cup oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the filling
4 cups sliced, peeled apples
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Step 1
Mix until crumbly: flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon.

Step 2
Press half of crumbs into greased 9x9-inch pan. Cover with apples.

Step 3
Combine and cook until thick and clear: sugar, cornstarch, water and vanilla. Pour over apples and top with remaining crumbs.

Step 4
Bake in 350ºF oven for 1 hour or until done.


Lima, Peru

Stefano helps his grandmother, Ana María, grate carrots to make her signature spaghetti red sauce. There's a lot that goes into her recipe, including a splash of wine to make it all the tastier.

Romas looks over his grandmother's shoulder as she preps the ingredients.
Ana María shows Romas how to grate carrots.
The final product, served with pasta.


Dry mushrooms
Bouillon beef cube
Ground meat
Canned tomato sauce
Tomato paste
Red wine
Black pepper
Bay leaves

Step 1
Chop and blend onions, tomatoes and carrots.

Step 2
In a pot, at medium heat, add oil, chopped garlic, black pepper, oregano and the bouillon beef cube. Let it cook for a few minutes. Add the blended vegetables.

Step 3
Add the mushrooms, bay leaves, tomato sauce and paste, ground meat, boiled water and a splash of red wine. Let it cook at low heat.

Step 4
Serve over spaghetti, topped with parmesan cheese.


Shimoashigawa, Yamanashi, Japan

Shizuko cooks onishime and stewed beef and lotus root for her three grandchildren about once a month. Every time she does, they ask for more.

Shizuko serves her family, including grandkids, Shinnosuke, Kono and Hinako.
Hinako, 5 years old, tries her grandma's stewed beef.
Shinnosuke and Kono help out in the kitchen.
For Shizuko, the happiest moments are when she is cooking for her family.


1,200 g (2.6 lbs) beef shoulder loin
Ground pepper
Olive oil
60 ml Shaoxing liquor

8 garlic cloves
Red chili pepper
4 cups water
2 cups vinegar

800 g (1.7 lbs) lotus roots
8 boiled eggs

6 tablespoons of soy sauce
3 tablespoons of oyster sauce
4 tablespoons of Mirin (sweet sake)
2 tablespoons crab noodle soy sauce

Brown rice

Step 1
Cut the beef in 3 cm cubes and add black pepper. Add the beef to the frying pan with oil and Shaoxing liquor.

Step 2
Move the meat to a deep pot and add garlic, chili pepper, water and vinegar. Close the lid and stir for 15-20 minutes with low heat until the meat get tender.

Step 3
Peel the lotus, slice in 2-3 cm half moons and leave them to soak in water.

Step 4
Boil the eggs.

Step 5
Add the lotus, boiled eggs, basil, and remaining condiments to the pot. Stew with the lid on till some of the liquid boils down. Serve with brown rice.


Lisbon, Portugal

Aida and her granddaughter (and Great Big Story producer!) Sofia cook codfish and cornbread. While Sofia now lives in London, cooking is a way to celebrate moments of togetherness with her grandma.

Aida first learned how to prepare codfish from her mother.
Now, she is teaching her granddaughter, Sofia, the same recipe.
Bacalhau com broa is a traditional Portuguese dish, made with cornbread and codfish.


1 kg thick codfish fillet, salted and dried (not fresh)
1 kg potatoes
4 brown onions
3 garlic cloves
4 thick slices of cornbread
4 flat leaf parsley stalks, leaves picked and chopped
2 bay leaves
3 eggs
1 cup black olives
Olive oil, for drizzling

Step 1
Cover the codfish with water and soak, in the fridge, for 48 hours, changing the water once every 24 hours.

Step 2
Drain the fish, place it in a saucepan with water and a bay leaf. Simmer gently for roughly 20 minutes. Once the water starts boiling, the codfish should be done in roughly 5 minutes. As soon as the codfish starts to unravel, take it off the heat.

Step 3
Meanwhile, peel the potatoes. Then place them in the saucepan with the codfish cooking water. This will add flavor to the potatoes. Add the eggs, as well.

Step 4
Heat olive oil in a saucepan and fry the sliced onion over high heat until browned. Add a bay leave while cooking for extra flavor. Reduce the heat and cook gently until soft and nearly caramelized.

Step 5
Finely crumble the cornbread into a bowl and mix with the chopped garlic and parsley. Add olive oil and stir everything together.

Step 6
Remove the fish from the pan. Remove the skin and bones and break the fish into chunks.

Step 7
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lay the boiled potatoes into a baking dish followed by a layer of codfish and a layer of egg and onions. Repeat this process until you get to the top. Make sure the last layer is codfish with onions on top. Cover the layers with the breadcrumb mixture. Drizzle with olive oil and stud with olives. Bake for 15 minutes.

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