I love old people; hanging out with them, hearing their stories and most importantly learning from them. They know things we can’t comprehend because they’ve lived lives we can’t imagine. My own grandmothers exposed me to things I would never have discovered without them and I find myself wishing I learnt more from them when I had the chance. Sadly the traditions of generations past are being eroded and consumed by modern ways of thinking but one lady is here to make sure we don't lose them forever.
Rebecca Sullivan created Granny Skills with the intention of safeguarding the valuable ways of our foremothers and what she’s doing has gathered such a following it has become a movement. Through her venture Dirty Girl Kitchen and cookbook 'Just like Grandma Used to Make', she has inspired women to get in touch with their inner granny and regain the old school skills that made our nans the sassy baking matriarchs of their time.
This week Rebecca spoke to us about the importance of protecting old traditions, male nostalgia and finding the inner granny in all of us.
Tell me about you and the Granny Skills Movement.
We encourage everyone to find their inner granny. By shopping for local, seasonal produce and not wasting anything we are doing what our grannies did because they had no choice. We have a choice, we should not be doing it because its trendy we should be doing it because its right. We are also all about the protection of elders knowledge, tradition and skills.
What are some of the skills you're trying to reintroduce?
All of the ones that are considered to be worshipful skills like pickling, preserving, fermenting, knitting, crocheting. If your nan did it we want to preserve it for the next generation.
I love that you’re trying to get people to better connect with their elders - how did your want for this come about?
I lost my great grandmother Lil when she was 100, what a great life she had. She was literally the matriarch of the family and loved by us all so much. I had been working in food for probably 7-8 years by the time she left us and when she died my mum gave me a box of her things, in it was all of these awards from the Women's Own Cookery competitions in London. She was an award winning baker and I had never seen her bake and that broke my heart, a lot. I knew I wasn't the only person out there that had lost someone and had regrets in not asking questions or learning something from their elders and then it all just made sense. Granny Skills was born.
Do you have real grannies involved with this?
Yes we did some trials where we placed grannies into schools and they taught basic home skills like cooking with things that would normally be wasted, preserving, pickling and knitting.
What do you think has happened in recent generations that has led us to want the knowledge back?
All kinds of things have happened and I actually began a PhD in the topic (sadly I have had to withdraw for now) but technologies, people moving to the city and elders not living with families like they used to all have played a massive part in the loss of these basic skills.
I’m sure you’ve heard quite a few stories that have come with learning these amazing skills and traditions - have there been any that have surprised you?
Nothing tends to surprise me these days but I guess whenever I do radio interviews on the topic I always get more male callers than female calling up with their nostalgic stories, which is wonderful.
What is the best ‘old school skill’ you’ve learnt?
What are the core ideals you’re trying to promote with Granny Skills?
Know where your food comes from. Don’t waste food. Preserve the seasons (in jars).
Have you noticed any food shifts of late and if so, where do you see it taking us in the future?
All trends are really just history repeating itself. No one can really reinvent the wheel anymore, just add to it.
Lastly, do you think there’s an inner granny in all of us?