How are you documenting this festive season? Some of the primary things we think about when we consider the holidays are the special foods we serve. Give a little thought to what you serve, how you serve it, and why. Share your holiday food memories with your loved ones. Write down your memories. Pass on your recipes and stories you have about them. Photograph your dining events and those who attend them. Record information about your special serving pieces so that loved ones always remember the stories behind these heirlooms.
"Food is a vital part of culture. Our food heritage -- the dishes themselves, the dining company we keep, the places we associate with a good meal, our heirloom serving items, and more -- reflect our cultural identity, giving us a sense of who we are and what is important.
"Food is part of the culture that cultural heritage professionals refer to as “intangible” because many of our food traditions are not recorded and are passed from generation by word of mouth or by live demonstration. For example, I know how to cook a meatball properly (the Italian way) because my Italian mother-in-law stood in the kitchen with me and showed me how her mother showed her.
"Think about the foods you eat that have special meaning to you because they were passed down by your family or were integral parts of your community life. Consider what foods represent your heritage and how that heritage has been passed on to you. Did you learn to cook standing at your mother’s side? Do you have a dog-eared, food splattered recipe book that once belonged to your grandmother? Do you have the sedar plate or the Christmas cookie platter that served your family well for generations? Is there a dish that reminds you of a favorite community eatery? This book offers you the opportunity to explore behind your everyday food experiences to discover the more meaningful side of sustenance. Why do we eat the things we eat and how do our meals reflect our life in context?
"We can think of the context of our lives in two parts: a little context and a big context. Our little context considers each of us at our very core. Who are you? What do you like? What specific memories do you have? The foods and food related things we like give some insight about us. We are a person who prefers salt or sweet. We may like to cook. We may prefer to go out to a restaurant. Those closest to us know our preferences and may acknowledge our food desires by serving us certain meals or helping us create food habits that suit our schedule. This is the little context of our food memories.
"The second part is a larger context. Who are you and who is in your community? What do you like to eat and how does it reflect your ethnicity, geography, or other community group? Do you like certain foods because they are part of your community? What specific memories do you have about certain foods and do other members of your community have related memories? How do your community’s memories differ from people in differing communities?
"... When you begin thinking about the value of your activities, your traditions, and objects, you begin to piece together a puzzle that provides a better understanding of your role and your place in the world. Understanding your food heritage is a vital piece of this puzzle because food says so much about your values and your culture. Indeed, you are what you eat!"
- From the upcoming, The Life in Context Project: Food Workbook
Join The Life in Context Project on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @URLifeinContext.
Learn more about this unique collaborative endeavor on The Life in Context web site
Read about simplifying and reorganizing food traditions to suit our lives from my Life in Context Partner @Space4U