Something else to learn from the Great Depression

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I am continually astounded by the depth of food, the many levels of meaning it can have to anyone -- no, everyone. Food is about culture, memories, competition, entertainment and so much more. And it tells stories that words never could: If a picture says 1,000 words, then a dish tells 10,000.

Cue in Clara Cannucciari, star of the Youtube series Great Depression Cooking with Clara. The series of videos was made by Cannucciari's filmmaker grandson, Christopher, and features the 93-year-old great-grandmother methodically delving into Depression-era recipes that her family would eating nightly.

This is a surprisingly moving series -- and not just because Cannucciari, who doesn't look a day over eighty, is both charismatic and informative. The videos' focus on the power that food can have is inspiring. As she tells her stories, it's like looking at history through the bottom of a saucepan.

These videos were originally made in 2007, before the shit hit the fan, but today they have new meaning. Cannucciari is always cooking nourishing, dirt-cheap and seemingly decent meals. Following her recipes, you can probably cook dinner for three with the same money you'd spend on a prepared meal, and both your soul and your stomach will be nourished by the meal you make yourself, which is the ironic twist food has taken in the last fifty years.

A Big Mac may be filling for cheap, but it is not nourishing -- you are getting very low nutritional bang for your buck. Low nutritional intake means more health problems and less energy, making these hard times even harder. 

Too bad Cannucciari doesn't live in Denver; I'd love to see her in an Iron Chef-like challenge. But with these videos, she's already a winner.

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


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