Thursday, November 24, 2011

Food & Tradition

I grew up in every sense of the term "nuclear family." Mom, Dad, Little Sister, me. Where other kids had grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and even neighbors around that were considered family, I just had my tiny, four person unit. I have grandparents (we occasionally visited), and aunts and uncles and cousins (I love those who have stuck around dearly), but my family is separated by the pains of divorce and distance. Our lack of extended family to cook for over the years has resulted in very little consistency and tradition..

I remember my mom saying almost every holiday something like, "We have to start our own traditions," and try as we did, nothing ever stuck. I do not have any vivid food memories from my childhood that involve traditions or holidays. No special cookies, like the ones my mother in law makes every year, no memories of my own mother cooking dinner or baking. The one most vivid food memory I have from my childhood is eating at a free school lunch program one summer when my parents were struggling to make ends meet (I remember being embarrassed and grossed out by the smelly cafeteria).

I grew up eating meat and never really questioned why. It was just food. I never thought of meat as anything other than that. In March of 2007 my husband (then boyfriend) and I were attending a small church that had decided to participate in Lent. At the last minute we decided that we would give up meat for the 40 day fasting period. We were unprepared, excited, and motivated. We had come across some statistics about world hunger and vegetarianism that we were eager to share with our friends and family.

Little did we know at the time that we would stay on the path to permanent vegetarianism.

Our unpreparedness at first led us to eat a lot of unhealthy things such as fast food burritos, cheese pizzas, veggie burgers (with fries of course!). Our new culinary path was not one necessarily of health, but simply of no meat.  We were trying to eat all of the things we loved when we were meat eaters. Although our diet evolved and we had the resources and know-how to make much healthier choices with our diet, we found our selves stuck in a rut of lazy vegetarianism.

Fast forward to today. Thanksgiving 2011. My family cooked prime rib, fresh green beans (sans casserole), sweet potatoes, and a choice of cheesecake or pumpkin pie for dessert. I contributed a beautiful vegetarian lasagna packed with thinly sliced zucchini and tons of cheese (with my sauce that I made from scratch!) We still have no set traditions. My family does not care much for turkey, and so we had no use for stuffing, or cranberry sauce. The Thanksgiving staples are almost foreign to our family table.

To be honest, I never really noticed that we didn't have real traditions until I got married. Seeing my husbands big family gather year after year and enjoy each others company and favorite foods has made me long for a sense of tradition and home. As I start thinking about raising a family of my own I dream about handing down recipes to my children who I hope will hand them down to their children and their children after them.

So I have started a journey. I am cooking from scratch and making my own versions of recipes that I love. I am searching for a food culture and a set of traditions that I can call my own. I hope that through this experience, I will change the way my husband and I, and my family, approach food. I hope to create memories and gain lots of new cooking skills.

I sincerely hope that you will join me on my new journey as a scratch kitchen chef, as I cook, learn, and create memories and traditions from my kitchen.

Happy Thanksgiving,

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