DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: Every time the holidays come around I start to get resentful at my great-aunt, who refuses to let any of the rest of the family have the recipes collected by her and her sisters, including my grandmother, who passed away when I was in high school. I was really close to my grandmother, and I have great memories of baking holiday cookies and cakes with her when we went to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas at her house.
My mother has never been much of a baker, so it doesn’t bother her, but I feel those recipes belong to everyone in the family, not just the last surviving member of my grandmother’s generation. Whenever I’ve asked my great-aunt for some of the recipes, she just says I’ll have to wait until she’s gone, which to me is a kind of morbid hoarding. And what if something happens that the recipes get lost after she’s gone? These are recipes that go back to Poland and Germany, where our great-grandparents were born, so they’re irreplaceable to me. What can I do to get my great-aunt to share? --- FAMILY BAKER
DEAR FAMILY BAKER: Recipes are a very special kind of family heirloom, and you’re right to want to keep them going. Maybe, even though she’s personally not interested in them, recruiting your mom and a few other members of the family to join you in the request to share the culinary legacy might help persuade your great-aunt to share them. You could argue that you all want to make sure they’re done right, and as she’s the last one able to provide that feedback, you’d appreciate her insight and guidance.
Who knows? A little flattery could go a long way.