It was only several years later, when trying to remember how my grandmother made panzerotti, that I learned that a distant cousin who lived in town had been given my grandmother's recipe book. I remember feeling a twinge of discontent - why hadn't my mother or my uncle (the one who loves to cook) received it? And if they didn't want it, why didn't they think of me first? I am certainly not one to feel entitled to anything, but I did feel a bit resentful (I'm only being honest). Cooking with my nonna was special to me - and I would have cherished that book immensely. It meant maintaining an open dialogue with my grandmother - we could keep cooking together.
Who had given that book to our cousin? Was there even any discussion about it? To this day, the issue remains clouded in mystery. And though the recipe book stayed in geographical proximity of my grandmother's house, I felt it had strayed too far across our genealogical tree.
I love our cousin and have the utmost respect for her and her family. Our families are close and have spent countless summer evenings together. My grandmother and her father are true cousins - and I'll leave you to figure to what degree that makes us cousins, but that's hardly relevant when everyone agrees that we are cousins and close family. That's how it is in Puglia - families are extended clans and relationships are solid enough that no one questions them or even bothers to figure out "how far removed" one person is to the other. You're either in or your out, and these cousins are definitely in.
It's for this reason that last summer I felt comfortable enough to approach our cousin about the book and ask her if I could xerox the whole thing. I was okay not having the original - I simply wanted to see what my grandmother had in there and read all her notes. I had even planned enough space in my suitcase to return with the pile of paper.
So when our cousin told me she couldn't find the book, I was secretly devastated. I say secretly because I knew she felt very badly about this and I didn't want her to feel any worse by showing my disappointment. She promised to look for it, and I didn't ask for it again. You see, this is also how it is in Puglia - family comes before the individual. And to preserve family harmony, I decided not to pursue the issue further. If she finds it, she will give it to me - I am certain of that. No need to prod.
I will simply have to find another way to recreate her book.