Grand Dishes: A book about grandmothers’ recipes and intergenerational relationships

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What started as a personal mission for Greek British travel writer Anastasia Miari, ended up with the award-winning Grand Dishes project which later on also turned into a coffee table book full of grandmothers’ stories and recipes.

“It all started with me wanting to write down all my Yiayia’s (the Greek for granny) recipes when I was living in London, to be able to take them back and recreate them at home and also as a way to preserve them when she’s no longer with us. 

“Ι used to sit down with Yiayia for lunch when I’d visit her in Corfu and I’d ask her how she made the food so delicious. She would respond ‘you know, a bit of garlic, some onion, a bit of olive oil’ but she would never use a scale or clarify how much ‘a bit’ meant,” Anastasia tells of her 84-year-old grandmother, whose name is also Anastasia Miari. 

“I started posting photos and recipes on Instagram and people then started recommending their own grandmothers’ recipes.”

The project began to take shape online and Anastasia Miari with project co-founder and creative director, Iska Lupton, embarked on a mission: from Corfu to Cuba, Moscow to New Orleans, and many more in between, they set out to cook with grandmothers around the world and capture cooking methods, regional recipes and timeless wisdom.

Anastasia Miari showing her book to Yiayia Anastasia

After four years of cooking, Grand Dishes became a book featuring a selection of 70 recipes -among them three from Australian grannies- elegant portraiture and recipes from the grandmothers of famous chefs, including Argentinian Francis Mallmann and Mexican Enrique Olvera as well as British food writer Anna Jones. 

“A big part of the book is about the life stories of the women and how they were distilled in the recipes,” explains Anastasia. 

“Our history tends to focus on the conquest of men and forgets women. Grand Dishes was about telling the stories of women who have not been heard.”

I ask Anastasia what she has learnt during this journey and she shares the story of Gloria, a grandmother from Colombia.

“Gloria -who is a psychotherapist- told me about her tough upbringing and how she saved money for six years and managed to escape her childhood home when she was 17. She went to live in Bogota with an older lady who taught her how to make Ajiaco (traditional Colombian chicken soup) which Gloria then shared with us,” Anastasia says.

“Back then I was in my late twenties, breaking up with a boyfriend and not quite sure what I wanted to do with my life. 

Anastasia and Iska with Abuela Mercedes in Madrid. Photo: Instagram/Grand Dishes

“She [Gloria] spoke so eloquently on grief and loss and moving on. The pain and grievances in our lives that we have to get over. And it was all shared with us over this incredible soul-soothing, warming soup. It was almost like therapy having dinner with her.”

Anastasia shares that the biggest lesson she’s learnt from the globe’s grandmothers she has been cooking with is “that life is long and small worries or mistakes should not matter.”

Grand Dishes made it to the Drew Barrymore Show

“The women I’ve met are so secure in who they are and they care so little about what other people think of them. They don’t sweat the small stuff as much as my generation -the millennials- and they don’t overanalyse things.”

“Their wisdom is refreshing in this mood of constantly questioning everything,” she says, highlighting the power of intergenerational relationships.

Anastasia’s second book which is due to come out soon will be about discovering regions of Greece through the stories and recipes of its matriarchs.

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