My husband’s family is a ginormous, Italian-American with some German and English thrown in, family. Thanksgiving dinner requires five tables – with a sixth in the basement.
His maternal grandmother preserved an Italian American tradition called, “the Seven Fishes dinner,” on Christmas Eve. Thinking this was an Italian thing, I mentioned it to a friend in Italy. She’d never heard of it. An Italian American coworker had, as well as an Italian Canadian friend online, so I settled on it being a new world tradition.
There are stories like these in any family. For example, in Home Comforts, the author talks about how her mother cut the tips off either end of a roast before cooking it. When the author asked her mom why, her mom said that’s how her mom did it. When asked, her grandmother said airily, “Oh, that’s so it fits in the pan!”
Look around you for stories about food. My neighbor makes sausage from scratch. A coworker makes beer and does something called a “crawfish boil,” a large party-centered around a huge soup pot that is common in his native Louisiana.
Consider writing these stories down, or even photographing a family gathering to preserve it for future generations. I’m convinced that’s how cranberry concerve got its start, (and sorry, Mom, I hope you have it in the afterlife ‘cuz that’s one tradition I’m not preserving here on earth!).
– E.E. Cummings
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