All families have food traditions that go beyond the necessity for sustenance. Habits formed around the eating process have evolved traditional culinary grooves that are major components in defining families. Some of these develop even during times of hunger: Older generations fondly remember oranges in their Christmas stockings while persons of certain faiths may recall particular fasting recipes.
Consider the menu that springs to mind while reviewing shopping requirements for any celebratory meal. While flipping through mental photo albums of previous feasts, if you think the upcoming experience would be incomplete without a particular dish, you’re beginning to get the picture. Once these traditions have become part of the family identity, it would be unthinkable to ignore them.
Ask any acquaintance to share memories of childhood holiday celebrations; fond food memories quickly emerge. Pay attention the next time siblings gather and note the plethora of nostalgic commentary regarding culinary matters, from the process of preparing iconic meals to chuckles about good times at the table, to sharing of old family recipes.
Reverse that thought and chew on this: Sometimes what goes down the gullet is a direct result of a need to evoke particular family memories. Consumption of “comfort food” is nothing more than sentimental eating that fulfils a person’s need to reconnect with the past. Eating chicken noodle soup while under the weather may not have a physical impact but the psychological soothing it triggers via recollection of being cared for as a child by a loving parent may speed the healing process.
Thus the extra pounds often carried about sometimes are less about gluttony and more about emotions. Several times I’ve caught myself reaching for the cheese slicer with one hand and crackers with the other before self-diagnosis revealed I wasn’t attempting to satisfy an empty stomach but a hurting heart: I was missing my dad. His tradition of cheese and crackers on every possible occasion feeds my desire for that snack when his absence is particularly challenging.
Is it possible to discuss family traditions without a mention of food? Humans enjoy the process of sustenance and we enjoy it as a family. It even provides therapeutic services. At the heart of it, food is the core of our customs, forming the basis of family identities. I’m going to explore ways to be more intentional with it, to make my family even stronger, both physically and emotionally. Salud!