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New Media Gives Our Kids A History We Never Had

YouTube, blogs, great places to honor living history

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Think about what you know about your great, and great great grandparents. Unless they were famous for something, chances are what you know about them is limited to what your eldest relatives can tell you and, if your lucky, there’s documentation of some kind, somewhere, perhaps decaying in a trunk stored in a decaying attic.

Much of our personal heritage, especially in America, is so poorly documented that large chunks of ourselves are seemingly missing. I’m from Eastern Kentucky, the foothills of Appalachia, and while I can trace most branches of my family back to Europe, and some of it to Native American roots, there is one part of my family that appears to have sprung out of the trees and hills themselves—beyond my great grandparents, no one seems to know anything, maybe “black Dutch,” maybe Welsh, maybe the mysterious melungeons.
Grandma Cooking
This is just one arena of the human experience where our descendants will have a distinct advantage over us (and by us, I’m referring mainly to Generation X and older). The Information Age offers them brilliant access to where they came from, to learning what attributes in themselves they share with their genetic past. Even better, they can actively archive their ancestors who are still living.

Christopher Cannucciari, for example, has created a YouTube series featuring his grandmother Clara, called “Great Depression Cooking,” which at once honors 93-year-old Clara and imparts to the economically challenged how to make tasty dishes on a shoe-string budget. Who knew so much could be done with eggs, flour, and potatoes?

Your own grandmother, probably, and be honest, who is (was) a better cook than she?

Cannucciari has posted dozens of Great Depression Cooking videos on YouTube over the past couple of years, some of them with as many as 44,000 views; “Pasta with Peas” and “Poorman’s Meal” are among the most popular. Who wants to bet Grandma Clara could give Rachel Ray a run for her money? If she’s like my grandmother, she could kick the snot out of Gordon Ramsey if he “got red” with her, too.

Because of overwhelming demand, Cannucciari can transform his series into a business as well. Because of the "out pouring of requests," he’ll soon be offering a DVD with all of Clara’s video recipes.

The Great Depression Cooking series made me marvel at the opportunity young people have today to archive content about the aging, and soon to be gone, gems of their family histories. They won’t need marriage records, death certificates, census reports, microfiche and old, yellow newspapers, grave markers, or the failing memory of a distant uncle.

But if you’ve got a grandfather around who still vividly remembers shooing cows out of their sleeping spots on the morning of the first frost so he could dip his bare feet into the warm hay they left behind (one of the best little tidbits my own grandfather relayed to me), the Internet, user-generated sites like YouTube, and cheaper technology allow a real golden opportunity for your descendants to get to know very distant parts of themselves.
 

New Media Gives Our Kids A History We Never Had
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  • Jand

    My mother used to do the same thing using canned corned beef. Loved it. I was born in 1937 when my parents were in their late 30s. My grandparents were all born in the late 1800s. Lots of good things you don’t hear about now. And then with the war, things were rationed. We had chickens and rabbits in the back yard and the neighbours had Victory Gardens which the kids used to raid. Nothing like a ripe tomatoe, hot from the sun, straight off the vine.

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