Saturday, January 02, 2010

Home Cooking: Food Traditions

Have you ever considered the fact that you eat the way you do because of the traditions which have been established in your family and your life? Take for instance, the way food is associated with the holidays. Are there traditional foods you make or eat—whether anyone else likes them or not—just because that’s the way it’s always been? Come on, I know someone out there always makes yams, opens a can of cranberry sauce, and attempts to thank Great-Grandma for the lovely fruit cake, all-the-while knowing it hits the garbage can as soon as she drives off at the end of either Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Although I’ve never been one for much cooking—my mom and older sister took over the kitchen when I was a child, and now my husband tends to boot me out as soon as I get something started—I do know how and occasionally manage to make one of my childhood favorites, even if I’m the only one willing to eat the finished product.

Take the last few weeks for example. For Thanksgiving, I happen to love my mother’s cranberry salad—not the slimy lump that comes from a can and wiggles like a stack of Jell-O on the plate, untouched by human hands, spoons, or anyone until it gets dumped into the garbage disposal. I’m talking the tart, yet yummy mixture Mom taught me how to make. I haul out the food processor, grind up a couple bags of frozen cranberries and a whole orange—peel and all—add a cup of sugar and let it all set for awhile to mellow before adding the final ingredient—raspberry Jell-O. HAHA! I love it, my husband likes it, Zach tried it, but none of the other boys will even give it a chance. Their loss!

Creamed eggs and toast, on the other hand, is developing a following. I made this dish for Christmas morning, putting the eggs on to boil after the packages were opened and the kids spread throughout the house with various gaming systems or DVD players. Two hard boiled eggs and two pieces of dry toast per person gets the stuff started. Tear up the toast into a dish after the eggs are peeled and the roux (butter, flour, and milk) starting to thicken. Chop the boiled eggs and drop them into the sauce, stir, and pour the mixture over the toast. Add salt to taste and you have a wonderful breakfast. Of course, this one is also a favorite on Easter morning, and a great way to use all those eggs the Easter Bunny brought. We hit 100% attendance this year in the creamed eggs division.

New Year’s has a food tradition all its own—greens or cabbage on New Year's Day will attract a financial windfall. Passed on from my German-born Great-Grandmother to my Grandma Heffner to my mom to me, it is mandatory that one boils and eats cabbage before noon on New Year’s Day if one wants a prosperous and happy New Year! This one is the easiest of all—chop up a cabbage, put it in a pan, cover it with water and let it boil about fifteen minutes until the leaves get soft. Toss in a cooked piece of bacon for flavoring and add a dollop of butter. Simmer a few more minutes then serve hot, salted to taste. Yum! And actually good for you, if you don’t overdo on the fats.

As for now, my husband is back in the kitchen cooking—spaghetti and meat sauce the last I heard—but I think I’ll take out my family cookbook and peruse it’s pages. You never know what goodie I might find there to next whip up.


Hoosier in Iowa said...

and that's why i put together that heritage cookbook for melissa before mom died. food is the binding thread that brings many generations together even if they have never met. i even started a cookbook for my kids that i need to finish because food also means love, tradition and brings forth memories of those we love.

TBro said...

When Uncle Mike was here in Indiana last, we went to HiWay Cafe for lunch. He saw Chicken Noodles with Mashed Potatoes on the menu and thought that was the strangest thing he had ever heard to be put together on a plate. Of course in Indiana, that is a staple dish...especially on Sunday after Church. I just made some for my kids and I yesterday. After a lengthy debate, Uncle Mike decided to give it a try. When it arrived at the table, he stared at it for a few moments, took his corn and dumped it all of the top and then mixed it all together. I laughed about that for several days after. ;)

L.T. Elliot said...

We definitely have food traditions in my family. My grandmother makes a divine 7 layer salad and her gravy is the best I've ever had. On New Years, we always have collared greens and black-eyed peas for luck. I used to hate it but you get used it after so many years.