‘Baking With Lucy’: 97-Year-Old Woman And Daughter Teach A Lifetime Of Cooking During Coronavirus Lockdown
Celebrities and professional chefs are offering their advice to the novice cooks learning the ropes of the kitchen while restaurants remain closed and groceries are in limited in supply during the coronavirus pandemic.
There’s a plethora of talented cooks to follow, but how many of them have 84 years of experience?
Lucy Pollock of Unity Township, Pennsylvania, located not far from Pittsburgh, has been cooking since she was 13 years old, and at age 97, her and her daughter are creating cooking videos tailored to beginners while accounting for limited supplies.
“Baking With Lucy” is the name of the Facebook page that hosts the live-streamed videos that have gathered over 15,000 followers in less than a month. Mary Ellen Raneri, Pollock’s daughter, tells Daily Caller that the idea to create cooking videos was inspired by a casual conversation with a friend. “My friend knew we liked to bake, and she said we should do a video, and my mom said okay,” Raneri said.
A scroll through the Facebook page shows Pollock masterfully rolling gnocchi, posing with a beaming smile in front of freshly baked cinnamon rolls, and showing off rows of pierogies, a Pittsburgh favorite. Within only a few weeks, the duo has been featured in numerous local news articles and segments, and have amassed thousands of questions and comments from eager and enthused cooks.
“You want to know how long I’ve been cooking?” Pollock pondered for a moment in the interview with the Caller. “Well, I’d say since I was 13, and now I’m 97,” she answered.
Her daughter reflected on being a child and walking home from her bus stop and smelling bread wafting from her mom’s kitchen.
“My mom used to bake for people, the church. Kids were bringing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school, and I was bringing a meatball sandwich,” she says while laughing. “We didn’t buy store-bought bread, my mom made it all. We ate cooked food.”
Raneri explained that most of her mother’s recipes are passed down — her family immigrated to the U.S. from Italy and lived through the Great Depression and extreme poverty.
“Watching my mom who’s 97 do this, it’s pretty amazing,” she said. “They cooked during the Great Depression, and they were so poor. They had all these kids, too. I think it’s pretty cool she can share this with other people.”
So far, many of the recipes they’ve made for their cooking videos have been Italian, including ricotta rice pies made only for Easter. She also recently made Easter bread. (RELATED: Tyler Perry Pays For All The Groceries During Seniors Hour At Stores Across Atlanta And Louisiana)
“The Easter bread was passed down,” Raneri said. While Pollock was raised by Italian immigrants, she soon enough became acquainted with other traditional immigrant dishes.
“She has boxes of recipes, and my dad was part German and Slovak, and his family were immigrants,” she adds. “My father would want her to make nut rolls and haluski, and she learned to do it. A pierogi is like a ravioli.”
When digging through the recipe boxes, Raneri said she and her mom deliberate over the skill level and ease that each recipe necessitates, especially under extraordinary circumstances like the ones most people are currently facing when buying groceries comes with hurdles.
“We go through the boxes and think about what we think people would want to see, and maybe pasta fazool might be too hard because people wouldn’t know how to do the beans,” Raneri explained. “We think about what’s doable in the video, and many people have limited cooking knowledge and we want to make sure they can follow us. Sometimes she just wants to do something that was handed down, so we’ll break it down enough for people to follow it.”
Raneri posts the ingredients on the Facebook page beforehand and mentions what equipment people will need. They might nix recipes that require ingredients currently difficult to acquire. “A week ago she wanted to do something with yeast but people can’t get yeast right now.”
Pollock also has a lifetime’s worth of cooking advice for her viewers. First, make sure to have all of the ingredients and equipment you’ll need out. Then, once it’s time to cook, “make sure everything is stirred well, take your time, and use a wooden spoon,” she said. She also has strong opinions on making bread.
“People will write in and ask if you use a bread machine,” Raneri said. “My mom’s shaking her head right now saying ‘no, you use your hands! You have to get your hands in the dough and really feel it.’”
Raneri says her and her mom will keep making the videos as long as people on the page want them to, although they might switch to posting once every other week. “We’ll keep doing it until the wheels fall off,” she said.
Until then, they’re motivated by how happy the videos seem to make their followers during a difficult time.
“It seems to make everyone really happy, and it’s nice to see people come together over something. They’re really united in it, and there’s no disagreement unless it’s over what flour you should use.”