A crowdfunded documentary project wants to show off your nana’s cooking skills
Jonas Pariente is a grandma’s boy—although his love for our treasured matriarchs extends well beyond the confines of his own family. The French filmmaker’s new “Grandmas Project” seeks to capture the essence of the world’s mimis, mawmaws, nanas, mameys and grams by calling on the world’s grandchildren to submit video footage based on a seemingly universal theme: A grandmother’s insatiable love of filling a table for their families, often times with delicious passed down recipes.
Naturally, Pariente’s inspiration was his own grandmothers—one from Poland, the other from Egypt. Mémé, his Polish grandmother, passed away around Pariente’s 30th birthday, triggering an intense desire in the filmmaker to capture his remaining grandma, Nano, while she was still with him. But he soon realized there was no reason to limit the project to Nano’s kitchen.
Pariente launched the collaborative web-documentary on Kickstarter last year, successfully meeting his funding goal in May. Now, he is inviting young filmmakers (amateur or pro!) to create a short clip featuring their gran, “using the transmission of a beloved recipe to explore their collective heritage,” as he and his grandmother explain in a video introduction to the project. So far he’s managed to compile more than two dozen entries, including a Lebanese grandma preparing stuffed vine leaves; a French woman making lait de poulet (aka eggnog); and Nano’s own molokheya recipe, which is a type of thick, veggie-based stew.
Irvin Anneix films his grandmother, Mamie Yoda, as she makes egg nog.
Those films and others now live on the project’s website, and Pariente plans to eventually make them searchable by region, language, recipe or historical event. In January this year, UNESCO caught a whiff of the tasty project and offered patronage. While it’s a bit unclear what that means exactly (they’re calling it “the moral endorsement of an exceptional activity”), Pariente believes that official stamp of approval will open up opportunities for reaching even more families.
And Pariente is not the only one out there seeking to honor the culinary legacies of our elders. New York-based journalist Caroline Shin has launched a YouTube channel called Cooking with Granny as an homage to “the best chefs we know—our grandmothers.” As with Pariente’s project, Shin sources grandmotherly recipes, but she creates the short films herself and interviews the women about their cooking, which ranges from how to make traditional Indian matar paneer at home to the how to a Puerto Rican recipe for perfectly fried plantain with garlic dip.
These two projects are sure to spark viewer nostalgia—or perhaps a desire among viewers to see how their own grandma’s kitchen skills stand up to others’ around the world. Actually, isn’t it about time you gave her a call? She’s waiting to hear from you and needs to know if you’ve eaten today.