Preparing Slovak specialties with her maternal grandmother led Victoria (Tori) Greco Hiranaka ’19 to a unique summer internship—and might just lead her down a career path, too. Thanks to the Praxis program, which gives Smith students stipends to work at unpaid summer internships, Hiranaka spent May through August at Cooking With Grandmothers, a website that shares the stories—and recipes—of grandmothers like hers. Here, the studio art major and environmental science and policy minor from Hawaii talks cooking, grandmothers and Northampton restaurants.
Food and cooking are passions of mine, and I’m particularly inspired by the beautiful memories I have of preparing food with my mother and grandmother. Every Easter my mom and I made paska [Easter bread], some- thing my mom would enjoy with my grand- mother when she was younger. I remember being more excited to make the bread than to go on the Easter-egg hunt.
My grandmother is always busy preparing everything for her six children, 10 grandchil- dren and six great-grandchildren. But when there are moments of calm, she brings out her halupki [stuffed cabbage], and we eat it together like it’s our little secret. Halupki was a staple in her Slovak household growing up, and she still makes it from scratch. During these times I see a side of her she doesn’t dis- play, a sort of loving vulnerability.
Cooking with grandmothers is supported by people who love their grandmothers and the food they make. The website gathers and shares the stories and wisdom of these women through the food they’re known and loved for. Cooking With Grandmothers’ mission is close to my heart because my grandmother is a woman I admire greatly, and I wanted to find a way to share this with the world.
I’m working closely with the founder, Jessica Theroux [author of the 2010 cookbook Cooking With Italian Grandmothers]. I’m assisting with a social media initiative, 100 Days of Grandmothers. On our Facebook and Instagram pages we are featuring a grandmother a day in the 100 days leading up to Grandparents’ Day on September 10.
It’s fun because each recipe comes with an awesome story. Recently, we had a submission from a grandson who gave us his grandmother’s chili recipe. But this is no ordinary chili. No, this chili placed first in the 1990 California Rodeo Chili Cook-Off. I have yet to make it, but I know it will be legendary.
After taking a social-enterprise class at Hampshire [College], I decided I want to create a place where people can learn and enjoy recipes with the knowledge that they came from incredible women. The concept is a bakery by day, restaurant by night, with educational programs based on grandmothers’ recipes. I hope to pursue this enterprise, which will be called Home, after graduation.
My favorite restaurant in Northampton is Amanouz Café. The food and ambiance make me feel like I’m coming over to a friend’s house for a home-cooked meal. I usually order the falafel or the tabbouleh. The falafel is a large, satiating dish while the tabbouleh is a light, delicious salad.
On Mountain Day of last year, a friend and I decided to have a picnic. On the menu was poke [raw-fish salad], one of my favorite foods from home. Preparing it felt therapeutic—cooking the rice, cutting the fish and fruit. The day was beautiful, the food was delicious and I enjoyed it in the good company of a friend.
SAQ, Fall 2017