Tried and true: recipes from West

In every culture, no matter where, food plays an important role in highlighting family values and bringing people closer together, and Katie Nodia ‘25 (she/her) knows this better than anyone. Cooking with family- no matter how much time it takes- is time well spent. 

“We have a recipe called khachapuri. It doesn’t take long to make, but I have a lot of fond memories within the couple minutes it took to prepare,” Nodia said. “My mom always gives me the same job every time.”  

Typically made around holidays, khachapuri is traditional Georgian cheese bread. “There are so many different types of khachapuri, but the one my family makes uses puff pastry and three types of cheeses. It’s not very recognizable to authentic Georgian khachapuri, but it still tastes delicious.” 

Nodia’s grandparents immigrated to New York around 50 years ago, and with the harrowing journey of moving across countries, the family recipes were one of the few things they took with them. “A lot of my family still lives in Georgia, so I feel that much closer to them when I eat food that reminds me of them.”

This isn’t a rare occurrence. In fact, over 80% of West High respondents said they feel more connected when they cook with their families. The Family Dinner Project reports that teens who eat with their families are at lower risk of depression and anxiety, as well as less of a chance of developing an eating disorder. 

“A lot of my family still lives in Georgia, so I feel that much closer to them when I eat food that reminds me of them.” ”

— Katie Nodia '25

English teacher Katy Nahra (she/her) has a similar experience with a different recipe – and culture. Nahra was interviewed about some of her favorite family recipes. One favorite was Belgian waffle cookies. 

“Me and my cousins all get together and we bake these,” Nahra said. Everyone had a job, even her grandpa who would sit and roll the dough into perfect one-ounce balls. The recipe began with Nahra’s grandmother, who taught her how to make them and even gave her a special waffle iron used for making the cookies. In addition to the meals that Nahra cooked growing up, she also shares many recipes with her husband, who is Lebanese. One of these recipes is stuffed grape leaves, which are essentially meat, spices, and other ingredients mixed together and wrapped in grape leaves.”


“My father-in-law used to get annoyed because you couldn’t find grape leaves anywhere, so my aunt who lives in New Orleans would have to find them at a special restaurant and ship them up, but now you can find them at Hy-Vee.” Currently, Nahra plans to teach her children all her recipes.

Nahra treasures her family recipes. “I have all my recipes organized into a Google Doc, with hyperlinks to everything, all the recipes, and pictures. I’m kind of a nerd about it,” she said.  “I think food brings everyone together.” Nahra and her husband have combined many of their recipes and often enjoy spending quality time cooking them together. “When you have a partner in your life someday, you make some concessions because your lovely family traditions might seem crazy to someone on the outside.” No matter the recipe, people are always united by food. 

“I think food brings everyone together.””

— Katy Nahra

Airi Thompson ‘24 (they/them) has many great memories of cooking with their family as a kid. “It was usually some cousins and my grandma, mostly because she would babysit, while the parents, aunts, and uncles would have a break from the kids,” Thompson said. They recalled baking chocolate chip M&M cookies with their family at a lot of family reunions. “The cousins would come and go, but it was always me, my brother, and my grandma baking cookies together.”

Another way that Thompson would feel closer to their family through food, was the family cookbook of recipes compiled by their grandparents. “Sometimes my mom or my dad was like, ‘Oh, let’s bake something out of it,’ and we would,” Thompson said. A favorite of Thompson’s was chocolate crinkle cookies. They would eat them all the time. Thompson considers the recipe book to be very important to their parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. “It’s a bunch of recipes that are from their parents and grandparents. It’s pretty special.”

Although all 4 of these recipes may be different, they all share the common elements of family and togetherness. It’s very clear that at West High School, family recipes play a huge role in making families feel closer to each other. Each different recipe brings something new to the table.