Our Delicious Family Meals and Heritage
One thing that is consistent with all cultures and all generations is food. Family meals are times to come together in celebration and eat; no special occasion is complete without some kind of food. We eat delicious recipes together with family, we eat as a way of getting together with friends, we pass on our special recipes as a sign that we care, and we honor those important to us by spending hours in the kitchen just for a few minutes of culinary delight. Entire relationships are created and centered around food.
Who doesn’t remember certain foods and associate them with the cook? Whether it is a grandmother, mother, father, cousin, or aunt, food can tie our memories of family dinner to a specific person forever. Culinary experience can have a deep effect: the smell of sweet desserts baking in the oven, the aroma of a savory pot of soup simmering all day on the stove, or the experience of watching a truly great cook roll a special dough over a filling time and time again until a pile of puff pastries are prepared for family meals.
When someone cooks for me, I feel anticipation, excitement and the jumble of emotions that bind me to those I care about. Cooking is an act of love, and special family ideals are the things that connect us to our history. Every family has secret recipes, and every family’s gifted cooks carry them in their hearts. The delicious recipes that are passed down to the next generation are a kind of keepsake and memento – as solid as anything else. Cooking the same family meals for your children that your grandmother cooked for you can be a way of carrying on traditions and values. Just a smell can bring back vivid memories and preserve past times. It’s one of the keys to understanding your roots and culture.
For those families that have immigrated to another country, preparing cultural foods for family meals can be especially important in preserving a way of life and helping children understand the values associated with a family’s background. Food is a way to bring the whole family together to feel the bonds of the past, as well as the pathway to a new future by mixing some new foods with traditional family meals.
My grandmother didn’t speak much English, but I remember mostly that she always said, “Eat!” She prepared the dishes she was familiar with from the “old country;” dishes such as Ozookies (sweet fried twists of dough sprinkled with sugar), Kugela (potato pudding), and Saltibarsciai (cold beet soup). I can’t remember a time when I went to my grandmother’s house and there wasn’t some delicious recipes cooking on the stove. She grew a huge garden of vegetables in the backyard, and that family tradition was passed through to me. She canned “Chow Chow” made from peppers, shredded cabbage, and green tomatoes. She visited all her children and grandchildren with gift baskets of food and canned goods, all of which she personally made.
As times change and the world gets busier, it may be more difficult to create family meals from scratch or to find the time to sit together and share traditions, but the same need to connect with family still exists today. Children love to know where they came from, and having the opportunity to try delicious recipes handed down through the generations is a perfect experience to help future generations learn about their ancestors. Families need to honor their own legacy and make sure that special family recipes get passed on to feed future offspring.
We encourage everyone to consider having a family meal recipe exchange among their family members. Asking each talented cook to write down a fond recipe and collecting them in one place, like the Everlasting Footprint Storybook for a family member, so they can be distributed helps carry the legacy of all the family cooks who have come before. As your family grows, and new cultures and people are introduced into it, the melding of food traditions is a wonderful way to maintain your unique culinary footprint.