Preserving the skills of gran
Leading the ‘granny skills’ movement, Rebecca Sullivan helps us reconnect with the traditions of old in her first book, ‘Like Grandma used to make.’
Finding the Woman’s Own Cookery Medal her great-grandmother Lilly won for her Victoria sponge put Rebecca Sullivan on the path to gathering and recording grandmothers’ stories and recipes from around the world.
“It’s quite an emotional thing for me. I really did write the book based on pure nostalgia and pure sadness for what happened to me – losing my great-grandmother and not realising what an amazing cook she was,” explains Rebecca.
While she missed out on learning how to make a sponge directly from her award-winning great-granny, Rebecca has made it her mission to ensure the knowledge, advice and skills of grandmothers isn’t lost and encourages everyone to spend time with their elders, listen to their memories and, importantly, learn how they cook.
“Once they’re gone, it’s forever. So many people just take it for granted, not asking questions, not spending time, not wanting to carry on tradition at home by way of a career. I think it’s about going on this journey to find your inner granny, and everyone’s got one, I’m sure of it.”
Busy lifestyles are often blamed for breaking with the rituals of the past. Life moves quickly, people are time-poor and a day of baking and pickling may seem like a far off fantasy. On the contrary, ‘Like Grandma used to make’ advocates simplifying habits, eating with the seasons, buying less and making more.
“It’s nowhere near as time consuming as people think it is in their heads. All the recipes are very simple, any one can make them and hopefully it will teach people to love preserving and pickling the seasons and trying to think more about where their food comes from.”
As well as their tried and true recipes, Rebecca believes we can learn so much about the environment, economy and health from older generations.
“By living like our grandmothers, there are health benefits, there are economical benefits and there are environmental benefits by not wasting so much food. Our grandmothers use their intuition when they’re clearing out their fridge, not a use-by date. When you think about how much food we’re wasting as a nation, eating a little more intelligently, eating seasonally and locally isn’t going to do anything but save us money and help our waistlines, surely.”
The granny skills movement being driven by Rebecca is a natural extension of her lifelong interest in the wisdom and stories of grandmothers.
“I’ve always been very drawn to people’s grandmothers because I love listening to their stories, I always have. I find them quite humorous! They’re so frank and straight up and down.”
It’s also a concept that everyone can relate to and understand the importance of.
“There isn’t a single person that I’ve spoken to who doesn’t get it or doesn’t have a moment of regret or nostalgia when I start talking about it,” shares Rebecca.
Rebecca’s book includes 100 home recipes from meals to natural beauty treatments and she hopes readers will try some of the less familiar recipes like homemade yoghurt or cheese.
“I hope that people aren’t afraid to try and make a few things from scratch, rather than the normal things that we go and buy.”
At the heart of the book and at the core of the granny skills movement is the great lesson in moderation that is so vital to a sustainable future and was the foundation of life in our grandmother’s day.
As Rebecca says, “if everything was as balanced today as it was in my grandmother’s day, than we’d all be a hell of a lot healthier.”
A few of Rebecca’s favourite things
Jam - strawberry and rose
Cleaning product- bicarb in the pot (I seem to burn things quite often!)
Family meal - Beef Bourguignon
Afternoon tea - scones with jam and cream
Way to relax - making marmalade
Natural beauty treatment - coffee exfoliator
Roast - pork