Rooting Around

I’m on the hunt for a good recipe for lemon ricotta pancakes.

I tasted them at brunch a few weeks ago and wondered if I could replicate them in my own kitchen.

I found a recipe online and although my first attempt produced good-tasting pancakes, they were a little tough on the outside and soggy on the inside. So I’m back to searching Google for more recipes.

This is actually a pleasurable pursuit for me since I love flipping through cookbooks or gazing longingly at beautiful photos of food online.

And I'm wondering if you all who are cooks and bakers feel as I do, but isn't there just something hopeful about the possibility of discovering a new recipe that becomes a family tradition?

I think I got this love of recipes from my grandmother. She was an expert cook and baker and even worked in a corporate kitchen in her later years.

After she died, my mother gave me a box full of recipes my grandmother had clipped from the newspaper.

There were recipes for dishes and desserts I remember being her specialties, along with recipes I could never imagine her making or even being interested in trying so I wondered why she saved them.

Growing up I liked listening to her talk about food but sorting through the recipe clippings was like a little glimpse inside her food dreams.

I think I might also attribute my fondness for food to my dad's mother -- my Italian grandmother -- whose specialty was lemon meringue pie {maybe she made lemon ricotta pancakes too?} but since I never got to meet her I can’t say for sure.

But I have to believe I inherited some of her food genes.

For Christmas this year my mother gifted me with one of those DNA test kits where you spit in a little vial and send it off to a lab for analysis of your heritage.

She and my dad both sent their samples in, and the results pretty much confirmed what they already knew about their roots, except that my mother discovered she is 3% Jewish.

This surprised her -- and the rest of our family, too, but mazel tov to her.

So after weeks of waiting, I finally got my results.

Since my mother is mostly eastern European, and my dad is almost completely southern Italian, I wondered how my heritage would shake out.

But it turns out that my DNA is equally split between my parents with a little Scandinavian thrown in for good measure.

That part of the assessment seemed a little off to me {although I've read that this Scandinavia result tends to be inaccurate} so I'm taking it with a grain of salt.

But there was no real surprise for me -- I am who I thought I was.

I like it that there are threads of all those who came before me stitched into my DNA. My foodie grandmothers, my taciturn grandfather, my book-loving dad and my vivacious mother.

And somewhere out on a branch of my family's tree were lovers of words.

Whether they wrote them or read them or spoke them, I know there were relatives who were storytellers.

But really, aren't we all?

If we're not telling our stories, we're living them.

We're hoping to make sense of our own lives as we dig up the roots of our family trees to find the stories of the past.

We're all living our small stories within the much greater story God is telling about the world and its people -- who are our ancestors -- that he created to inhabit it.

And when God seems far or my circumstances don't make sense and I'm wondering how God is working in my life, I think about my family's story.

If my dad's mother hadn't died when he was very young, he wouldn't have had the influence of his grandmother in his life and would have been raised quite differently. He probably wouldn't have met my mother and maybe I wouldn't even be here.

That tragedy turned the page in my dad's family life for God to script the details for a different story for him in an astonishing way.

But then God's ways are always more extraordinary than our own, aren't they?

And they reveal his great love and tender care of us even when we can't quite see what he's doing.

So I’m still rooting around for lemon ricotta pancake recipes.

There's a newly published cookbook of Italian recipes and beautiful photos of Venice waiting in my Amazon cart.

I think I'll order it so I can write my thoughts about making pancakes. {And then I can share them with you, of course.}

After all, I guess writing and cooking are rooted in who I am.

How about you? Have you gotten your DNA results? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

I'm joining my friends at Holley Gerth's place for Coffee for your Heart.


  1. Cooking is something I do because we need to eat and if my husband did all the cooking, which is the better cook, I'd weigh 1000 pounds! The past few months I've taken to more baking purely to get myself away from the screen. I should write a blog about my foibles in the kitchen. I'm a clutz! Clearly, I didn't inherit my mom's skills in the kitchen. I appreciate your story about our stories and how God is part of them. I've often thought how things would have been different for me had my parents not divorced. I've long believed God has cared for me in it and through it. Thanks for sharing a deeper look at your story. You are a lovely soul, Valerie.

    1. Hi Debby,
      I'd love to hear about your kitchen adventures -- those make the best blog posts! :) It's easy to think that our lives would have been better if the difficulties or challenges we experienced had never happened but if we look deeper sometimes there is a hidden gem for us to consider. Thank you for your very kind words and I'm always delighted to see you here, friend! xo

  2. I do wish we lived closer so I could be your culinary guinea pig. I'd be happy to graze and sample and enjoy your endevours.

    I have my Grandma's old metal recipe box. Just seeing her handwriting touches me somewhere deep. I'm curious as to her recipes since she never used them and cooked completely without guidance.

    Those were the days.

    1. Linda,
      Me too! I'd gladly welcome you to be my recipe taste-tester! :) How wonderful that you have your grandmother's old recipe box. Mine cooked without recipes too so it's hard replicating her specialties but at least I can dream about how good they tasted! xoxo

  3. Love this! I have never taken a DNA test, but I have been told I am so many different things that I am definitely interested! You also have my mouth watering thinking about lemon ricotta pancakes!

    1. Brittany,
      I think the DNA test would be more interesting if your heritage is more diverse since it offers more mystery to see how you're actually put together! And I think I'm convinced that just about anything with lemon as an ingredient has got to be delicious! xo

  4. It's so interesting how both your grandmas were into food as well, Valerie. I know you write and publish articles about food already, but sometimes I think you would be great at being one of those food critics who travel, taste, and write about it. I'm sure they get paid, right? Anyway, you are so good at it. I love your photos, especially the one of you and the ones of the trees. :) How do you stay so thin?! I guess maybe you inherited a high metabolism, too? :) I love the truth that God's ways "reveal his great love and tender care of us even when we can't quite see what he's doing." Thank you for the heart-warming smiles you gave me today! Love and hugs to you!

    1. Hi Trudy,
      Yes I think I got a double dose of food genes from both of my grandmothers! :) Wouldn't it be so interesting to be a food critic? I'd hate to hurt anyone's feelings though if I didn't like something I reviewed! Glad you like the tree photos -- the one with the big trunk was in Bellagio, Italy -- and thank you for your sweet words about the photo of me! :) Sending lots of love to you today! xo

    2. After I mentioned something about being a food critic, I thought I maybe shouldn't have as I don't feel you would have it in your kind heart to hurt anyone's feelings. Though you would be good at traveling and tasting foods, I can't see you giving a negative review on anything. I couldn't do it either! Hugs!

    3. No worries! I actually don't think I have the food credentials to be a critic --they are usually excellent cooks themselves and can pinpoint exactly what's in a dish! I'm not that accomplished! :)

  5. I adore reading your interesting and beautiful posts. My hubs (that no rule follower rascal) and I are toying with the doing the whole spit in a vial thing. Our disposable income is feeling the hit of his retirement though!!! But, what a great idea of it being a gift. Hmm. When you finally finesse the lemon ricotta pancakes, will you call me? xo

    1. Absolutely, Susan! I'll let you know when I have a hot stack of pancakes waiting for you! You've got to let me know if you do the DNA test -- I think my mother got it when was running a discount! :)

  6. Oh, such beautiful photos and words, Valerie! How your words about food can move me to tears is a special and sweet gift you have. I wonder if that's passed down through your DNA as well, or if it's my own DNA tendencies? :-) I do know that all of my Grandmothers loved reading and writing about food too, because I have a collection of all of their cookbooks and recipes. Seeing their own food-stained recipes and imagining the love they poured into their families always touches something so deep within my heart. Thank you for touching my heart again today, dear friend! Many Blessings, love, and hugs to you!

    1. Hi Bettie,
      Thank you for your sweet words! I can imagine how seeing well-worn recipes would bring a bittersweet of your loved ones and imagining them making a delicious dish for your family! Maybe everyone has a little bit of food-love stitched into their DNA?! Sending much love to you! xoxo

  7. I haven't, but I know I'm mostly Scottish. My Mom had a bit of Irish thrown in. :) she was a home economics teacher and loved to cook and sew. I wish I had those desires!

    1. Hi Sarah,
      The sewing and cooking gene didn't make it into your DNA?! A Scottish and Irish heritage are so fun to consider -- so much fabulous history! xo

  8. Such lovely words and photos! I was awestruck by the tree photo. Beautiful! I do like baking, and decorating baked goods but feel I lack any real ancestry gifting at it. And my sister did the DNA testing and is also doing the online family tree where it connects others to your family links that you would have never known. Have you tried that? Yes, in God we are known. And He's got the big picture always figured out. There is a lot of comfort in that especially when feeling alone in this big world. Even knowing our families, we can still not feel completely 'known.' But we are by Him!

    1. Hi Lynn,
      Glad you liked the trees! :) Although I like baking and cooking, I'm not sure I have any real gift for it either! :) My mother has put together the family trees and connected with distant cousins, which produced some interesting stories we'd hadn't heard before. I think it's a fascinating process with plenty of spiritual thoughts to consider too! xo

  9. Oh, my! Those pancakes sound yummy! I look forward to hearing if you found a great recipe and have decided to share it here! Our son LOVES lemon AND ricotta cheese, so he would be absolutely thrilled if I made these! We haven't had our DNA test done yet, but my husband has been saying that he wants to. I think it would be so neat to know where we came from, specifically. Your ancestors sound like such wonderful people, and I am SO thankful God worked in your Dad's life in the way He did, because YOU, my dear friend, are a precious gift to this world!! I hate to think of it never having had you in it. You are such a blessing to us all. Sending much love and many hugs to you today!

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      Loving your sweet words here and I'm always so grateful for your encouragement! Isn't it interesting to see the twists and turns of our lives and know that God was working even when we can't see him? xo

  10. The lemon ricotta pancakes sound good! My dad is really into food and always loves experimenting with new recipes. I think I've inherited it a bit but I'm not quite as into it as he is! It is interesting to think how God is working through our families' stories, and how even difficult events in our individual stories can often somehow make sense in the context of his big story.

    1. Hi Lesley,
      I love that you inherited your dad's love of recipes -- I'm not sure if you've already shared that on your blog or not, but I'd love to read about it! xo

  11. I do love looking for just the right recipe! Though sometimes it's a struggle to find something to please both my picky eaters! I wish I had my grandmother's recipes though- she made the best hush puppies and coconut cake! (crazy combination I know...) And how fun to find out about your DNA even if the results were not as exciting as your mom's! Shalom! LOL! Happy almost Easter dear Valerie! Can't wait to read more about all your adventures! ♥♥♥

  12. Hi Valerie

    Happy Easter dear friend! I have missed being able to read as regularly as I like! (and post :( ) But always feel refreshed and happy when I visit your place :) I wonder if you got those pancakes figured out by now! They sound very gourmet and amazing. I loved lemon meringue pie as a kid and would often ask for that for my birthday,I was an Amelia Bedelia fan and she alway made the best lemon meringue pies :) It is s amazing an comforting to hear stories of how God took something tragic and turns it into something good. Hard to see when you are in it but what rest it gives to really believe it. Loved hearing about your DNA testing too. Your pictures as always are just beautiful! Anyway hope you have a beautiful and yummy Easter! sending hugs -Susie


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