Around this time of year, most people look forward to the presents, family traditions, and, of course, the food. Roasted turkey, pumpkin pies, honey hams, steak, seafood, gingerbread cookies, green bean casseroles, and sweet potatoes are just a few of the dishes many of us have come to expect.
But, aside from the gastronomical benefits, food bridges the sometimes-wide chasms between generations. While millennials sit at a table and discuss the latest Instagram hashtags, hottest celebrity gossip, and pressing social issues, Baby Boomers and the generations before them reminisce on the times long gone by. Just as seniors are baffled by hashtags and memes, those of us in the millennial generation are baffled by times when you could buy a house for $11,000 and bubble gum cigars.
During this holiday season, take the time to share some bygone traditions with your loved ones. Instead of baking your world-famous chocolate chip cookies, share the recipe with your grandchildren and let them help you make them. Better still, pose with your loved ones in a selfie, feature yourselves in a live stream on Facebook, send out a snap on Snapchat, or post a tweet on your newsfeed. So, now that you have a few ideas on how to pass on your food traditions to your loved ones, let’s explore some of the reasons why it’s so important.
Food Is a Tangible Representation of Your Culture.
Whether you or your family lived through The Great Depression or whether your family was like mine and fled from Communist China, your food tells of the hardships, struggles, and triumphs you endured. In my family, a simple bowl of hot rice porridge represented abundance, even though it was plain. During my grandparents’ time, having a bowl of rice meant you and your family’s stomachs would be full for another day. The act of sitting down for another meal was a ritual which further cemented family bonds and the resolve to endure whatever hardships the future would bring.
In your family, the humble chicken noodle soup may represent the same. A bowl of piping hot broth, hearty chunks of chicken, and fresh vegetables from the garden may evoke memories of the years in which your family tended their own gardens or made the most of what they had.
Food Passes on Essential Survival Skills.
Though the millennial generation is fortunate enough to grow up with technology at our fingertips, we are still in need of survival skills. Canning, pressure-cooking, hunting, fishing, gardening, and foraging are all skills we need to learn despite our mostly urban upbringings.
If there is anything we can know for certain, it is that the world and, even life itself, are unpredictable. Sure, some of us may know how to brew our own beer, and others of us may be able to make our own chicken stock. Yet, we as a generation lack the skills to make our own clothes, and many of us would be utterly helpless in a garden.
So, this year, as you share your memories of times gone by and as we sit around the table and enjoy your food, please teach us how to be better. Teach us how to make the most of what we have and how to be resourceful outside our computer screens.