As the world becomes more connected through technology, our native cultures become more blended. In this multi-ethnic and multi-cultural world, our children will seek out their own path and identities. In building healthy self images, parents should teach their children about the wonders and magic of their family heritage. In doing this, young people have some sense of themselves and their place in the world. One of the best ways of creating this sense of connection is through sharing family recipes.
America has been known for the melting pot for good reasons. The various immigrants came to our country and immediately began to share their customs and foods. For so many, their families share in these rich histories of migration and immigration as well as the stories of the indigenous people and imported people.
From England, families share scones, teas, Cornish pasties, shepherd’s pie and Yorkshire pudding. For those with Caribbean ancestry, African, Spanish, French, indigenous, Amerindian, and East Indian, and Spanish styles of cooking influenced the local cuisine. Rice mushrooms, kremas, calabaze fritas, coffees and flans may be traditional meals at the family table. And, there are some foods such as cracker pudding, corning puddings, collards, ribs and chicken with are specialties in the Deep South.
As food seems to bring people together, children helping to prepare, cook and learn the history of their family recipes allows a child to understand the uniqueness of their family’s story. Just as the Pilgrims shared the first Thanksgiving with the native people of Plymouth, gathering to share in history and harvest is part of American traditions.
For example, I remember the various foods my grandmothers, who have now passed, prepared with great fondness. Gumbos, oyster stews, crackling cornbreads, country ham, brains and eggs, sweet potato pies, and pan dressing. Some foods such as rice and neck bones developed because, in the past, African Americans had to create meals from food scraps and from meager provisions. Special recipes for foods, such as Brunswick stew, came from dietary preferences as much as they were influenced by the need to revive leftovers.
In sharing these family recipes, its best to have your child help you shop for the ingredients. Plan a time to create the dish. Invite over other family members or friends to help you. Share stories about the first time you tasted the dish or made it with your own mother, grandmother, aunt or even great grandmother. Retell your family story as you recreate this special family dish and in turn pass on the tradition to your child.
As parents, we want to give our children the world. Sometimes, that starts with giving them a sense of who they are in the world. Sharing family recipes gives a child a delicious way to connect to their past and creates a wonderful memory for you.