If you ask me what my favorite video on the internet is, I would answer, without a question, any video of Grandma Sheila.
Did I know that a two-and-a-half minute long video of a Jewish grandma pulling out goods from her Mary Poppins-esque shopping carts (because of course she has multiple shopping carts!) and offering them to her Jewish children and grandchildren auction style would spark such joy in me? I mean, yes, I probably could have guessed, but I could’ve never foreseen the absolute masterpiece that is Brooklyn-born Grandma Sheila.
this jewish grandma is everything to me and everything i aspire to be ( except a grandma) pic.twitter.com/DG6qgs8XJq
— 2 eggs 1 pan (@boobyhaver) May 15, 2023
In one said video, which are posted on social media by her granddaughter Allie Chernik, Grandma Sheila brings out “a little whitefish,” apologizes for the mushrooms in her pea soup (you can pick them out!), and unloads six small containers of egg salad. She laments that the blueberries she had to make muffins were too huge. She tells Allie, who runs Allie’s Banana Bread, that “whenever I see something yellow that has bananas, I buy it for you.” She offers up a bat mitzvah shirt from 1981 and a green shirt that doesn’t fit anymore because her “breasts got bigger.” She also offers Yad Vashem mailers and newspaper cutouts. A whisk. A cookie tin. Colored pencils. Copies of People magazine, because, “I don’t even know the people who are in there.” Counterfeit bills. Canned soup. And on, and on, and on.
I could watch 500 hours of Grandma Sheila and never get enough. And I’m not the only one. Grandma Sheila has gone viral on Twitter, TikTok and Instagram, and she’ll probably go viral on any platform you put her on, because she is just so charming and wonderful. She strikes a perfect balance between funny and nurturing, and if you believe in love languages, she can definitely teach a master class for those who wish to study the art of giving gifts.
I reached out to Allie, Sheila’s granddaughter and purveyor of the finest banana bread in the nation, to ask about the marvel that is Grandma Sheila. Here’s what she had to say.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity, because yours truly couldn’t help but send a bazillion questions.
Tell us a little bit about Sheila — where was she born, how old she is (if it’s OK to ask, of course!), how many children and grandchildren does she have? What does she do? What are her hobbies?
Sheila is a realty manager. She was born in Brooklyn, she’s 80 years old, and has two kids — my mom and my uncle. She has five grandkids.
She loves to bake and cook, eat ice cream, see Broadway shows and movies. She’s a part of a few classes that go see shows and movies once or twice a month. Usually at the end of the movie, someone who was involved in producing it comes and talks to her class. She took me to one once and it was so cool. She also used to love going to museums and doing anything and everything around New York City. Her older age kind of prevents her from that now, but she still loves to read about what’s going on and tell me about it so I can go. And I take photos for her.
Can you tell us a little bit about your relationship with Grandma Sheila?
We grew up in Rhode Island, and she’s always been in New York. Every time she came, my siblings and I would get so excited. We’d get so happy to see her and hang with her, and of course we always loved seeing what she brought in her bag. She used to let us have one thing from her bag every day, so it wasn’t over all at once.
As for me specifically, she was the one who made all the best baked goods, so I wanted to make them, too, and I don’t think I’d be as into baking today if it wasn’t for her.
She also is the one who got me into my love for Broadway musicals. I especially remember seeing “Mamma Mia” together. I couldn’t believe how much I loved the music. I remember her telling me, “You know the songs are based on a band called ABBA,” and I said, “YOU MEAN THERE’S MORE SONGS????” and that’s what started my ABBA obsession that’s still a huge part of my life today. I don’t know if she realizes it, but Grandma Sheila has had a huge impact on me as who I am as a person today.
Where was the original viral video shot? And who was in attendance? What made you decide to share it on social media?
All the Grandma Sheila videos are shot in my mom’s apartment in Manhattan. A lot of my family lives near the city so we try to get together as much as we can for dinner, and usually congregating at my mom’s is the easiest way to do it. The people involved always include my mom, her boyfriend, me, my sister and her husband, and my brother. Although most of my Instagram grid posts are about banana bread, I share a lot of my life on my account via Instagram stories.
My grandma does this every single time we see her, and a few years ago I filmed her taking a few things out of her bag and put it on my story, not really thinking much of it, just that it was funny. I mean, it’s something she’s always done so I’m used to it. My followers just absolutely loved it. People were always asking for more, it just wasn’t enough. So then I started to actually film her whole haul for the people. I started by putting the videos on TikTok and they began to go viral. And then basically I switched from only putting her hauls on my Instagram stories, to also making them into reels on my Instagram. I mean, she brings so much stuff, I might as well show it all.
What is special about Sheila’s egg salad?
She makes the best egg salad. The thing that makes it so special is that she puts tiny pieces of caramelized onions in it. It adds a sweetness to egg salad you didn’t know you needed. But honestly, it’s also just the way she makes it. It’s the perfect mayo to egg ratio. I’ve made it before, and it never comes out as good.
How often does Grandma Sheila put on this show and can we attend — via livestream?
She really does do this every time we see her, and she always has. The longer we haven’t seen her, the bigger the haul is. It’s so funny, a lot of people have asked me if we’d ever live stream it. But the thing is, I think the more I make it a “thing” the less authentic it would be. People also ask if I’d make her a specific TikTok account. I just think it puts too much pressure on this thing that happens very naturally. And you might not think this, but she’s actually pretty shy. I think she trusts me filming her, I’m not sure how she’d feel about it actually happening live, but maybe we’ll do it one day.
What are some other Grandma Sheila specialties?
Her coffee cake, chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins, zucchini bread, banana bread of course (kinda my thing now though, sorry grandma), brisket, pea soup and meringues.
Did you use the banana slicer?
I actually haven’t used it yet, but don’t worry, I will. I keep every single thing she gives me! I’m a bit of a hoarder — can you guess who I got that from?
Whose bat mitzvah shirt was that?
That’s from my mom’s bat mitzvah! Her father (my great-grandpa) had a women’s leisurely apparel brand, so his designer made the rainbow and printed them on his shirts. They’re so cute.
What is the most Jewish thing Grandma Sheila has ever pulled out of her bag? (Aside from that gigantic box of matzah, of course. Side note: I also have one in my basement if you need more.)
Haha, yes. Oh God, I feel like she brings at least one very Jewish thing every time. Probably the “menorah from Russia” she randomly pulled out of her bag once. It was her grandmother’s. It’s in my apartment now!
What is the best life advice Grandma Sheila has ever given you?
To not let your life go by and say you’re going to do it tomorrow, just do it today. I’m sure you can tell she’s this way from all the lists of activities she’s always giving me. She likes to joke and say, “Some of my friends would say ‘oh I’ll go to Europe next year’ and now they’re dead.”