Food can evoke memories of family and provide clues about your ancestors. This post is part of my Discovering Family History through Food series.
In my recipe collection, there is only one recipe written down that is from my Venezuelan Grandma. My Grandma ‘Tona was born in Venezuela but I always fantasize that because of her surname that there was a connection to Sicily somewhere in her past. She passed away when I was 8 so most of my memories of her are sense memories. I remember her speaking to me in Spanish. At age 3 or 4 my favorite (and vividly colored and patterned) outfits were made by her. I remember the smell of the lemon tree outside her back door. I remember coming in from the heat of the day to the comfort of the dim coolness of her concrete-floored, adobe house. Her house had a distinctive smell – somehow a cross between a church and a clean, working kitchen. She was known as a great cook; the kind that doesn’t ever use recipes.
Thanks to my Mom, again, we do have some genealogical information about ‘Tona’s ancestors that goes back to the 1850s and shows they were also Venezuelans by birth. Because I know this there is somewhat of a mystery surrounding my favorite recipe that I have from her, which is a recipe for fried salted codfish fritters called Accra.
It is a happy accident that this recipe was written down because my mom wanted to make it for my dad. My grandmother dictated this recipe to my mom. You can see some of the corrections on proportions from my dad. The recipe card upon which it is written is slightly yellowed with age. The recipe is written in my mother’s handwriting and signed by my Grandma ‘Tona.
Accra by Elisa Antonia Barrozzi Stewart
- 1 lb. Salt fish (codfish)
- green onion
- 1 small onion
- 2 small pieces of green pepper
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 cake Fleischman’s yeast
- 3 cups warm water
- 4 cups flour
- celery to taste
Scald fish once in boiling water and remove skin and bones. Place fish, onion and green pepper [on cutting board] and chop finely. Dissolve yeast in warm water; add flour and black pepper. Add fish mixture and beat until smooth. Cover and let rise until light and bubbly, about 1 1/2 hours. Drop by spoonfuls into hot oil and fry until brown. Drain and serve hot.
In my experience there is a version of the fish fritter in many cultures, however, the salted fish component seemed like it might be unique. I did a small amount of research in the past about the origin of the Accra recipe. It is not a traditional Venezuelan food. I wanted to find a connection to Sicily but it just didn’t exist as far as I could tell. Further research revealed that the origin of Accra was most likely Trinidad or Tobago. Has my Grandma ‘Tona’s recipe for Accra revealed a possible new direction for finding out more about my family history? Her son (my uncle) Ray was born in Trinidad… It’s worth doing some more research, certainly.
This recipe is actually pretty simple and easy to make. I get my salted cod at Mutual Fish on Rainier. It still comes in a wooden box. I love that.