Food Memories

A Souvenir from New York City

By Liana Grey

I asked my grandmother, Helene, to share a food memory about Brazil, where she lived for nearly 50 years. The story she told began thousands of miles away in Manhattan. Helene grew up on the Lower East Side, in a brick apartment complex on Grand Street. Her father owned a rubber cement shop on Bleecker Street, and her mother ran a yeshiva for girls. Helene had five siblings, two of whom became prominent rabbis.

After marrying my grandfather in the late 1940s, Helene left behind her life on the Lower East Side and moved to Brazil. She and my grandfather had some family there, and my grandfather had the opportunity to open a textile business in Sao Paulo. My grandmother brought along two prized kitchen possessions from New York: a KitchenAid mixer and a little red and white checkered cookbook that came along with the machine. For every nearly every special occasion over the next few decades - namely my mom and her sisters’ birthday parties - Helene faithfully prepared her favorite recipe from the KitchenAid cookbook: sponge cake layered with whipped cream and topped with fresh strawberries. My grandmother, who never considered herself an expert baker, loved the cookbook’s precise instructions. “I followed the exact recipe,” my grandmother told me. “It came out fantastic if you followed it exactly.”


Angel Food Cake


From KitchenAid, also on


  • 1 1⁄4  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1⁄2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 1⁄2  cups egg whites (about 12 to 15 egg whites)
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla or 1⁄2 teaspoon almond extract


Mix flour and 1/2 cup sugar in small bowl. Set aside. Place egg whites in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and wire whip to mixer. Gradually turn to speed 6 and whip 30 to 60 seconds, or until egg whites are frothy

Add cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla. Turn to speed 8 and whip 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, or until whites are almost stiff but not dry. Turn to speed 2. Gradually add remaining 1 cup sugar and mix about 1 minute. Stop and scrape bowl. Remove bowl from mixer. Spoon flour-sugar mixture, one-fourth at a time, over egg whites. Fold in gently with spatula, just until blended.  

Pour batter into ungreased 10-inch tube pan. With knife, gently cut through batter to remove large air bubbles. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and cracks are very dry. Immediately invert cake onto funnel or soft drink bottle. Cool completely. Remove from pan.






Introducing Food Memories

In my grandparents’ home there is a picture on the wall. In it, a three year old little girl tips a massive tin of flour over her head. Her face is covered by the bowl, and the subsequent afternoon filled with stirring, sifting, and baking South African milchika is similarly not photographed. Yet that afternoon, and those moments with my grandmother and sister are as clear in my mind as that picture.

British primatologist Richard Wrangham famously claimed that cooking is what makes us human. There are no primatologists on staff at Emma’s Torch, but we too believe this theory. Cooking is what makes us human. It is what brings us together. It is what simultaneously defines and transcends our communities.

In this blog you will find updates about Emma’s Torch, as well as recipes from immigrants, refugees, asylees, and other home cooks. These recipes are not simply a list of ingredients. Each is wrapped in memories.

We invite you to try these recipes, learn their stories, and create your own memories.

Happy Cooking!

P.S. Want to share your own food memories? Email us at



  • 4 cups of flour
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ lb butter
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 3 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • cinnamon and sugar


In a large bowl combine flour and ½ cup of sugar. In a pot melt together milk and butter. Set aside to cool. In another bowl prepare yeast by combining water, 1 tsp of sugar and yeast and mixing it together so that it proofs. Add all of these to the flour mixture Beat three eggs together and add to the mixture and stir until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Set aside in covered bowl for 3½ hours until doubled in bulk. Knock down dough and divide into eighths. Roll out each eighth, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar in center, roll like a jelly roll, and cut into 1½ inch sections. Place sections in greased muffin pans and let rise for 45 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.