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Food Traditions

If you ask either of my daughters what the days of the week are they’ll likely start with Sunday and then rattle off each day till they get to “Pizza Friday.” Around here, Friday doesn’t really exist. But Pizza Friday? Yes, that’s a day we firmly believe in. Ten years ago when my husband and I were both working and in college, our weekends were really something to celebrate. Since we share a deep love for good pizza and lived in a small town without a pizzeria, we decided to make pizza every Friday night. It became a delicious and anticipated tradition for us. As our kids have grown they’ve all learned our family term “Pizza Friday” and know that hot, tasty homemade pizza is followed by the weekend.

Traditions help to define families by establishing meaningful recurring events. Traditions that have an edible element also have the benefit of being easily passed down from generation to generation. Through the years I’ve heard of lots of clever memorable food traditions. One family I knew made candied popcorn every Sunday and munched it while they filled out their family calendar for the coming week. A Greek family I knew would make massive amounts of baklava every Christmas and share it their neighbors.   Another family with Mexican heritage would host a tamale open house every year. Their family would gather in the kitchen for two days making tamales, salsas, and beans and then they’d invite all their friends to come feast with them.

(L-R, Top to Bottom) Pizza Friday with friends, Grandma Unkeles’ fruit salad, Christmas morning biscuits, cinnamon sugar pie crust, THE Thanksgiving stuffing, Pizza Friday creativity.

In my family we have a few food traditions that have lasted for generations. One is my maternal grandma’s fruit salad. It’s a simple combination of canned fruit, marshmallows, coconut and a secret sauce. Since my grandma is no longer alive, I make her fruit salad in remembrance of her. I love that its presence on the table inevitable leads to a conversation about her. My kids are more connected to her through this simple, tasty recipe.

Similarly, my Dad ate the same menu for Christmas breakfast every year of his life: biscuits with corned beef gravy, whirly orange slices and hot chocolate with marshmallows. It may not be the fanciest fare, but I can’t imagine anything that would taste better to me on Christmas. Now I make the same breakfast for my family every Christmas, too. As my kids join me in the kitchen on Christmas morning we cut out biscuits, pile copious amounts of marshmallows into our cups and I remind them that their Papa celebrated Christmas with this very same breakfast.

These small simple foods have become a meaningful part of my identity. They connect me to people I love and help create a strong generational bond within my kids.

The best thing about traditions it’s never too late to pick up an old one or start a new one. Remember holidays or celebrations past and see if there is anything you want to start doing again. Look at your family and see what foods and events you enjoy and want to celebrate. Be creative. Pick something memorable and easy and start a fun food tradition in your family.