I don’t know whether it’s the anticipation of fall and the holiday season, or the recent havoc wreaked by Hurricane Harvey on families on the Texas Gulf Coast, or a combination of both, but I’ve been thinking a lot about comfort foods, preserving family recipes (many may have been lost in the hurricane), and the ties that bind families. Everyone needs food, and meals have been a symbol throughout the ages of sharing, and nurturing one another.
Family recipes are a way of keeping our ancestry alive, as well as a part of ourselves. Food can evoke vivid memories of our childhood, of our relationships with family members who have passed away and of who we were during that time period. Food can remind us of experiences long forgotten and allow us to relive feelings of comfort, satisfaction or excitement. Preserving family recipes allow emotions any time we choose, whether it’s a holiday or a simple occasion we want to make special.
I watched a movie recently where a new widower was quite distressed because he couldn’t find the recipe for his late wife’s special dessert, a family favorite. He kept trying to make the dessert from memory until he finally got it the way he remembered. It was a special moment for the family as they tasted the dessert, and became overwhelmed with wonderful memories. In a real life scenario similar to the movie scene, my husband has been trying to make his late mom’s sweet potato pie without a recipe. He has come close, but has not quite been able to replicate it. So often, our family members have recipes in the heads, but not on paper! Many family recipes call for ” a pinch of this” or a “dash of that”. We should ask relatives for the recipes while they are still with us, or risk never getting it right, and losing not only the family dish, but the memories that go along with it. My grandmother had so many recipes in her head that I wish I had preserved. One of the things I remember from my grandmother’s cooking is that nearly every dish needed “a little paprika”. For me, the mention of paprika evokes memories of family barbecues in our backyard growing up.
Documenting family recipes keeps part of the legacy of our loved ones alive. As we record the thoughts, ideas and processes of our traditional family meals, we create an heirloom that will be handed down to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We build a bridge by which our loved ones can learn about who we are, even after we are gone from this world. Part of knowing the path ahead is to understand where you come from. This legacy of food passed down from one generation to another is a tool, a family tree of foods, a line that can be traced for decades into the past and the future.
I need to ask my mom for her delicious recipe for peach cobbler! What recipes do you need to get or have you already gotten from family members to preserve for future generations? Was is your favorite aunt’s gumbo, or your grandmother’s apple pie? We’d love to hear about your family recipes, and the stories/memories that go along with them. Please join the conversation and post in the comments section!