Celebrate The Food You Grew Up Eating

Sep 22, 2017

It’s not every day I see articles combining food and genealogy. A piece on the FamilySearch blog caught my eye: “How to Start Family Food Traditions from Scratch.” The essence of the article was to encourage readers to preserve their family food traditions—or maybe even start some.

Food traditions are those recipes, meals and cooking habits we acquire being part of a family. Like any other part of family history, they should be written and passed down.

I think of Italian friends who made home-made pizza. I took an “apprenticeship” a few years ago with Josephine, the matriarch of a Polish-Italian family I’ve known for years. I learned how to roll out the yeast dough and make her traditional leek and potato fillings. It was a lot of work, but what a treat!

And I remember my first college roommate, a second generation Latvian, whose mother would send pickled vegetables to our dorm room. I still have the recipe. I should get it out and share it.

That’s the gist of the article: actually fixing those foods, writing down the recipe and making those special foods part of our life.

Credit Tamra Wilson

I grew up in the Midwest where kidney beans figure into a mayonnaise-based salad that appears on buffets and at potluck suppers. I’m not sure what it says about my family other than they apparently liked the idea of kidney beans and egg salad combined. It is a protein-rich alternative to the usual potato or macaroni salad:

KIDNEY BEAN SALAD

1 can kidney beans, drained

1 boiled egg, diced

1/2 stalk celery, diced

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish

 

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste and chill at least one hour before serving. Yields 3 to 4 servings.

And then there’s this little episode at my grandmother’s kitchen table. Irma Hart McElroy was a school teacher who lived in Oregon. Creating good food was something she took for granted, having raised a family of six children, and cooking for farm hands and threshers during their farm days in Canada. Yet she had learned to add finesse to a plain bowl of potato salad.

On one of our rare visits, she insisted on cooking us dinner. She peeled a boiled egg and carefully sliced it in half, removing the yolk. Then she sliced the white to create “petals” and arranged them evenly around the yolk to create what became an egg “flower” at the center of the bowl.

I was charmed. Who had taught her to decorate food? Her mother? Her grandmother? I was too young to think to ask, so we’ll never know. I can still see her there working her paring knife magic.

Now that I’m a grandmother myself, I am practicing with boiled eggs. I think I’ll make one of those flowers to start a food tradition for my own granddaughter when she visits from California.

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