October 12, 2010 § 3 Comments
They say that if you repeat something for three consecutive years, it qualifies as a tradition.
My Aunt Verna reminded me this year that it was my seventh consecutive Thanksgiving with them since 2004. I think that more than qualifies my visits out near Swift Current, Saskatchewan as tradition.
For a while now I’ve been trying to find my place in an ever shifting family scene. Wherever I can find a constant, I cling to it. As it turns out, Thanksgiving with my dad’s family is a big one.
No major holiday is ever complete without a full spread of food. From salads, to the main course, and then onto desserts, a Peters’ table is always full and a Peters’ stomach often left bursting at the seams. Thanksgiving is no exception. A turkey big enough to feed a dozen or more people and still leave leftovers, followed up with ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, carrots, at least five different kinds of salads and finished with six different kinds of pies (chocolate, banana cream, pumpkin, coconut, apple and lemon meringue), yes sir, nobody at that table leaves hungry.
We always spend a large part of Saturday preparing all of the food for Sunday’s big dinner. Vegetables are chopped, salads are made, fresh buns make their way out of the oven.
Saturday evening, my cousins and I spend making turkey hats. We started out with just newspaper hats that we painted one year and called Thanksgiving Hats. We’re now on our fifth generation hat and each year we expand on the concept. One year we even had real feathers.
A large part of the weekend is also dedicated to kittens. Being that we’re out in the country, there are a few farm cats around and there are always at least a few kittens for us to track down and play with. It’s a wonder I haven’t come home with any yet.
When Monday morning rolls around and it’s time to think about heading home, I get in line with my cousins for a share in the leftovers first. We take turns dishing out what’s left of the food into containers to feed us in the coming days. I even bring my own tupperware.
Tradition gives us something to anchor ourselves to, and another piece of life that we can begin to identify with. For that, and for the people who are a part of my traditions, I am thankful. Because each piece becomes a building block in my life, both to build from and to build toward.
What traditions do you look forward to? And how do they help shape your life?
September 27, 2010 § 8 Comments
Then I started thinking about how many wonderful memories are associated with food.
Amongst my earliest recollections as an adult was the Sunday fare when I boarded with the Hunter family in Richmond, B.C. while attending college. What particularly stands out is the Yorkshire pudding that accompanied the roast beef and gravy.
Of course, that was just a precursor to the pecan pie! I’ve had a weakness for that sweet pastry delight ever since.
I boarded with the Hunters for three years and we’ve remained close friends – more like family – over the years. In fact, I just celebrated my 50th birthday with them.
It is 27 years this fall since Joyce and I started dating. At one of our first outings, I made a small wager for dinner. I won. Joyce made me Chinese food. I reciprocated with a spaghetti meal shortly after. Very nice memories of our first weeks of dating!
Over our 20 years in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, nearly every Christmas dinner was shared with Jeni and Jim Rice and their daughters in alternating years. Our kids are grown now and dispersed. We live three provinces away, but I can almost smell Jim’s rhubarb-strawberry pie baking as I type.
It was wonderful to share these many special occasions with another family when neither of us had relatives in the Sault.
Speaking of food and family/friends could not be complete without mentioning my sister-in-law, Louise, and the sumptuous carrot cake recipe she shared with me many years ago. It’s been the highlight of many gatherings in our home and in the workplaces Joyce and I have had over the years.
When I mentioned my idea for this blog, many friends ate up the idea of sharing their memories.
Here are a few:
Jackie Ostashek, Parkland County Communications Co-ordinator
My Baba (Grandmother) has mastered the art of making cabbage rolls. She makes them so tiny, they are barely the size of the end of your thumb – and sooooo delicious. She always makes them in this ceramic dish that is probably 50+ years old. I swear that is the magic behind the most spectacular cabbage rolls.
I was nervous about telling her I’d become a vegetarian. But my Baba, being the amazing lady she is, took it in stride. Knowing how much I love my cabbage rolls, she makes a point of making them, bacon-free, every time I visit.
This amazing and spectacular woman turns 98 October 1st. For a woman of her age, she is shockingly spry and modern in her thinking. I can only aspire to be half as amazing as she is. But no matter how much I try, I will never come near her talent in making her tiny, tender and amazing cabbage rolls – even if I inherit the old ceramic dish.
Alina Popescu, Principal, Mirror Communications, Bucharest, Romania
They don’t make bread like they used to!
I might sound like an old lady, but the statement is nevertheless true. The best bread I’ve ever had was while visiting my grandparents (from my dad’s side of the family) in a small village near the town of Ramnicu Sarat.
Getting the bread was quite an adventure. I’d take my tiny bike and ride it to the bakery, a trip that seemed to take ages, when it was actually a 10-15 minute bike ride, but time always flows a lot slower when you’re young.
I’d buy this huge, round bread, put it in my bag and go back home. I would just walk along the bike because the bread was way too heavy for me to be able to ride. I’d get home to an extremely warm and lively kitchen where my grandfather would wait for me with stories and smiles while grandma would bicker about the meal being ready for quite a while.
We’d place this huge, wonderfully smelling bread in the middle of the table and break steamy pieces out of it as it was too fresh to cut it.
Whenever I sense the smell of bread resembling that special type that I cannot find no matter how long I look for it, I am taken back to a place of extremely long days filled with wonder, where I never asked for any given day to be longer than 24 hours.
Grande Prairie businessman Brooks Hoffos
Shauna and I were in Cinque Terre, Italy. We hopped off a train and grabbing a lunch break in a quaint little restaurant.
We had a local Chianti wine and spaghetti and local fresh clams. Now, whenever we cook spaghetti and clams, it takes me back to that time and place. We shared a table with an Aussie and an American. We laughed. We drank. We ate. We bonded. It was a great experience. Italy also made us the cooks we are today. It was a life changing experience! Forever!
Debra Ward, Edmonton Communications and Professional writer
I can’t remember what we even ate but my family and I were in Christchurch, New Zealand having dinner at this really nice restaurant when we all had an attack of the “sillies”. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, made us laugh uproariously. …It was a memory moment.
The first Christmas back in Canada was the best turkey dinner with all the trimmings dinner I have ever had. It was special because it was our first “in Canada” Christmas meal after living overseas for so long and because it would turn out to be my mom’s last.
Dale Tiedemann, Youth Facilitator, City of Grande Prairie
Family Dinners at Grandma’s place were the best! Always delicious with home-grown vegetables (she had a market garden)! It’s always amazing watching her cook…no need for a recipe, just add a little of this and a little of that! Plus, you can’t forget about the home-baked goodies for dessert…chocolate pie with whipped cream! Yum! 🙂
Grandma doesn’t cook as often as when I was younger, but when she does … bliss!
So, what stories do you have where you and family and/or friends partook in some great food while forging wonderful memories? Want to share any special recipes?