Over the holidays I was sitting with a group of friends immersed in a conversation about traditions. Specifically, we were discussing two things:
First, we noted that once you join another family you start to realize that not everyone shares the same traditions as you (and I don't just mean some have Christmas trees and some have menorahs). For example, is Christmas Eve a formal event or a casual affair? Is everyone invited or only immediate family? Is your holiday dinner a delicious mix of cuisines ranging from German to Mexican to Italian (like it was in my family), or a tried and true menu that everyone can count on from year to year?
Second, we realized that as we start to have children of our own it's our responsibility to uphold the traditions that are meaningful and memorable to us and also create traditions that reflect the ethos of our new families. For my family this means blending the traditions of two faiths and coming up with a shared understanding of what the holiday season is all about.
It's easier to think about traditions when related to something as concrete as a holiday. It's more difficult when we start thinking about the traditions that shape our lives when it comes to cooking and food in general. But the truth is that, "kitchen traditions", I'll call them, are deeply ingrained in who we are, and they impact our expectations of mealtime as well as our relationship with food. It's worth taking a minute to think about what your kitchen traditions are so you can make conscious decisions about whether or not you'd like to keep them or create new ones.
Here are some questions to consider:
- What are some of your earliest experiences cooking? Were they positive or negative?
- What was dinnertime like in your family? Did everyone eat the same meal? Or to each his own?
- Did your parents cook together? Did your parents cook at all? Did you help?
- Was mealtime a peaceful time or a stressful time?
- Were you overweight or underweight? Did this create pressure or tension for you?
- Did your house have a "there's-always-enough," vibe, or a "who-ate-the-last-cookie," vibe?
- What phrases were often heard in your home? (Some common ones include: "It's not a meal if it doesn't have meat", "Dinner is not complete without dessert", "You can't have/watch/go <insert favorite toy/show/activity> until you eat...")
Now think about your answers to these questions. How did your experiences shape your beliefs about food, cooking, and mealtime? Which traditions will you carry forward and which ones are best left in your childhood kitchen along with the floral print wallpaper and linoleum tiles?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Cheers to you,