Family Traditions & Heritage Through Recipes

October 27, 2021

By: Donna Ryan

A few years ago, I found myself back in my hometown of Santa Fe, NM, sitting down to a meal at my family’s favorite restaurant, The Shed. As they placed my plate in front of me, I found myself weeping. Yes, I cried over this meal! My children love to tell this story. So many emotions were tied up in eating there – and eating this exact food. It never tasted so good!


Smells (and perhaps tastes?) can take us back in time. We often tie experiences and memories to the food we ate when we were growing up. I have another experience I’d like to share. My mom grew up making and eating “catsup” with her grandma. She has been talking to me about it for the last 20 years, but to this day, I’m still on the search for something that tastes like she remembers. The ingredients are not at all like the “ketchup” we think of today. It’s actually very similar to Chow Chow – cabbage, onions, peppers, green tomatoes, vinegar, and hot peppers. I even found bottled “catsup” at an Amish farm in KY, across the Ohio River from Southern Illinois (where my mom grew up). I thought for sure this recipe would be very close. Nope. Still too sweet. Sigh…


Why am I relaying this story? Because it matters! Recipes are one of the most special things we can pass down from generation to generation. I can’t tell you how I’ve wished for this recipe from my great grandmother over the years. I’ve asked other family members, too, and they all remember it, but no one has the recipe!


A couple of years ago, this got me thinking about recipes my own children have grown up with. Could a day come when they find themselves in the same situation, looking for recipes they used to eat but they don’t know where to find them? That year for Christmas, I gave them each a beautiful hardbound cookbook full of family recipes and photos – even handwritten recipes from their grandparents and great-grandparents. While none of them seemed all that excited at the time, I like to think that, as they get older, they will treasure that book more than any other gift they received over the years.


At Birth Boot Camp, we place a high value on the childbirth experience. We believe it can be an amazing event in the lives of families. We also believe that getting off to a good start can help families connect. We believe attachment parenting and breastfeeding support a healthy bond between parents and children.


Fortunately/unfortunately, our children become adults who eventually leave home and take with them their memories, traditions, and their heritage. Recipes can be shared surrounding those memories. Even if it is a recipe you never made but was made by others in your family, share it! And tell the stories about when or why it was made.


Family traditions and our heritage matter and are often reflected in the foods we eat. Collecting recipes is a great way to do a little family history. Ask for special recipes from your family members and put it together in a book. I gave that cookbook to all of my family members, not just my children. Tears were shed by several people and I was told I really hit it out of the park on that Christmas gift. Yay!


The website I used was Create My Cookbook, but if I were to do it again, I would totally use Mixbook! Don’t rush this project though. Take your time and enjoy the journey of learning about your family and hearing the stories – and then include them in the cookbook.

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