Good Quote: Cooking Without Recipes from a Hmong Grandmother

During the segment on Hmong cooking in last week's episode of Splendid Table, we were struck by one quote in particular. Sami Scripter describes her experience of talking to the Hmong elders about recipes that should be included in their seminal cookbook on Hmong cuisine:

I would ask the old people what was important...and I had more than one grandmother tell me, "You know, we don't need to write it down. We know how to do our cooking. And if we choose to cook another way, well then, that's what we'll be doing then. We don't need to have it written down!"

Isn't that amazing? Or maybe the amazing part is that it's amazing at all. Until relatively recently in our history, most home cooks in the United States also worked without a lot of recipes or cookbooks or favorite food blogs to help them along. They learned from their elders and adapted recipes to what was available - and probably didn't think it was a big deal at all!

Sometimes it's hard to remember that the oral tradition of learning to cook is part of our tradition as well. What dishes or basic techniques did you learn from someone else instead of in a cookbook? Who in your life has had the biggest influence on your cooking?

Related: Weekend Project: Close the Cookbook!

(Image: Flickr member Claudio Matsuoka licensed under Creative Commons)