This category includes recipes but goes beyond that. Does everyone in your family like their steak medium rare except for one who likes it well-done? You’ve probably heard the story about cutting off the ends of the roast prior to cooking. In case you haven’t, it involved a daughter asking her mother why she always cut off the ends of the roast before putting it in the pan. She said because her mother always did it. When she followed up by asking her grandmother she found out it was because it was the only way it would fit in the pan. Did Auntie Jewel make the worst gravy in the history of the world? What family food traditions were there? Smoked brisket on the Fourth of July? Green bean casserole on Thanksgiving? Black-eyed peas on New Years Day?
When I first got married I was a stark traditionalist and when I got roped into having Christmas dinner for the family because we were the only ones with a house I went way overboard making everything from scratch and sticking to traditional recipes such as pumpkin and mince pie, which had been traditions in my own family that hailed from the East Coast. This did not fly with my husband or his family, who were dyed-in-the-wool Californians. I was entirely scandalized to have chocolate cream pie for Christmas but acquiesced. And after twenty years of making chocolate cream pie for Christmas dinner I realized that we’d created our own tradition.
One holiday-specific meal that my family enjoyed was for Halloween. I had a less than fancy casserole I used to make on a regular basis that comprised hamburger, potatoes, carrots and cream of mushroom soup. Yum, right? Anyway, I got the bright idea to hollow out a small pumpkin from the garden, carve a face on it and fill it with the casserole and bake it in the oven. (The pumpkin takes quite a while to cook, by the way, if you’re thinking of trying this.) When it’s finished, the casserole is drooling out of the eyes and mouth in a disgusting enough way to please the kids and the pumpkin tastes like squash which is delicious with butter, salt and pepper, creating a healthy yet fun meal to prepare the kids for trick-or-treating.
Christmas and Thanksgiving are usually no-brainers but I’ll bet most people never document the recipes that form their most savory traditions. If they’re anything like mine, they’re scattered all over in various cookbooks, bundles of random magazine clippings, and an ancient recipe box that belonged to my mother.
Does your family enjoy picnics? What simply had to be included or it wasn’t a proper picnic? What about the Fourth of July? Did you feast on the usual hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill or a smoked brisket or turkey? What about Aunt Hannah’s famous potato salad or the time the watermelon fermented, unless it was spiked by Uncle Jake? When we first moved to Texas we spent our first Fourth in the nextdoor neighbor’s pool watching the fireworks display at the high school stadium a block away. After that we’d walk over with an ice chest filled with our favorite ice cream to eat during the festivities. Then they built a subdivision in the undeveloped area where the fireworks were previously ignited from, extinguishing that tradition for all concerned.
Food not only sustains life but also feeds your traditions. Traditional recipes handed down from generation to generation should most definitely be included. Poll the family and compile a listing of their favorite dishes, another activity everyone can enjoy.
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