in my family and cultural stories with food
Delicious Foods I Ate
I come from a very diverse ethnic background, with many variations of what may be considered cultural foods. I have many fond memories of family reunions and all the interesting dishes my relatives would prepare. Food in my family holds so much meaning; it’s the glue that has held us together for many years even before I was born. Food in my family isn’t just a substance we consume to keep our bodies healthy and energized. When we create a meal, it’s as if we are creating art by expressing ourselves in our dish. We take the time to perfect our meals while also keeping our tradition alive by incorporating the same rituals as our ancestors before us.
When it came to certain meals my mother was very traditional in preparing it, and it had to be done a certain way, was ruined. She wanted to maintain our family’s culture in each dish she prepared. She felt as if by doing this it kept our ancestor’s memories alive; with each recipe preserved to its natural and formal state with zero alteration kept our tradition alive. She didn’t believe in wasting food, so when she prepared dishes, she would make sure to cook everything from the head to the feet. My mother’s favorite dish to create was Cassava, which is plant or tree in most people eating it in Africa and South America. I remember going with my Mom to the meat market and having to wait in long lines to buy a whole pig so that she can begin prepping it for the family reunion that scheduled for next week.
My mother always says, “One of the most important things to remember is that it is not the food you eat that is important, but it’s how you created it that makes it memorable.” Preparing meals for a family reunion takes a group effort; especially if it requires large quantities of food needed. I believe it brought us closer together when we were cooking the meals compare to when we sat down to eat it. Everyone had their responsibilities to help contribute to the meals; my Family was big on making sure no one was left out. It brought everyone together as a whole, no matter what prior arguments you had with one another or what grudges you may have construed towards each other. It was always put aside when it came to the family reunion because on that day nothing else mattered but family.
I believe certain foods can trigger certain memories, depending on what your mind can connect it too. For example every time I smell the sweet scent of buttered pancakes in the morning with a side of bacon. It reminds me of my mom, and how I use to wake up, and run to the kitchen as fast as I can try to beat my brothers at the table. Because I knew, they would eat up all the beacon. It reminds me of happier days; when I use to not have to worry about anything and I could just be myself. When my mother would create Kabab, it would take hours just to prepare it and then she would have to wrap it up in aluminum foil so that it would allow the seasonings to settle in. With big family reunions, it bound to have some people bring the similar dishes.
Even though they cooked the same type of meat doesn’t mean that they are the same dish. Since they been prepared by two different people with different backgrounds, the dish itself represents two completely different styles. For example, my mother cooked a lot of foods traditionally, because that’s she raised and grew up with the knowledge of our ancestor recipes. But our relatives from other countries grow up with their cooking style. They made it the best way they felt expresses themselves and what they grew accustomed. I looked forward to having family reunions not just because I enjoyed learning how to create new dishes, but also I wanted to feel closer to my relatives who I hardly ever get to see. By tasting their foods, I was able to take a journey to their home town. I was able to taste all the seasoning that they grew up with and to what they felt best to express the true essence of the meat. From the bittersweet aroma to the texture of how it was deliciously prepared, with each morsel I bit into, you could tell how much attention to detail put into it. I love trying new things especially created by my family members because their style of cooking was so different compared to what I was used to; it was so unique. It always surprised me how dramatically different their dishes tasted compared to my mothers.
They would use ingredients I didn’t expect would ever mix so wonderfully together. That’s why I believe when you create a meal it is a form of expression of who you are and where you from. Every time when I eat at African restaurant in Minneapolis it reminds me of many different fond memories of my mother because that was what she loved to make. She took pride in her cooking and because of it I also take pride in everything I cook it.
When I was young, I stay together with my fraternal grandfather, grandmother, family and aunties. Often my mother and grandmother will be the homemaker, taking care of me and doing the chores at home.
Being a traditional African family and not very well to do then. Most dinner we had it at home and prepared by my grandmother and mother. Then my favorite past time was to catch variety show and dramas on television. As the dining table have a limited amount of seats, not everyone ate at the dining table. A few of us will get our share of dinner and sit in the living room to catch our favorite television programs.
Meanwhile For myself then being the youngest and favored by my grandmother and other aunties, get food. I will rather stay in the living room continue watching my favorite television programs and wait for my dinner. As such my grandmother will get my portion of dinner and add in the different dishes that she had cooked into the plate of rice. When she was doing that, she will routinely add in any accompanied sauces of the dish into my plate of rice. And the end of the state of my dinner will be a plate of rice in a mixture of sauce with the different dishes. She will often mix up the plate of the mixture before passing it to me for my dinner. Even though all the different dishes cooked brilliantly and tasty, after the “mixing” done by my grandmother, the dinner became disastrous. Because of this, I dislike having dinner that was served by my grandmother as it feels like having a plate of “pig feeds.” That when I started getting my dinner from the kitchen.
From then on, whenever I had my meal, I will never mix different sauces in my meal. I always organize my meal so that I will never mix different flavors of the dish together when eating. I will taste and savor each dish by its own to appreciate the taste and not tarnish it by mixing it together with other dishes. Due to this habit I become less inclined to use condiments when having my meals and preferred enjoying my meal as it is
Now, whenever I see parents mixing up the meal and mashing up almost everything for their child, it will trigger the memory of my grandmother. Even though I never like her helping me to get my dinner, I still missed talking and spending time with her. Some different factors influence food choices within a family. Significantly when considering how many different foods there are in the world.
In conclusion, there are many influences that determine which food could be eat in my household. From eating healthy to budgeting money, to holiday traditions, each factor that influences our food choices is different from the others but are each holds a significant importance in helping us decide which food to buy. The food values that have been passed, on to me from the members of my family will likely remain with me for years. Eventually, be passed along to my children, which I might have one day.
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