My husband is Australian. His family is still in Australia, but he’s lived in the States for 25 years. We visit Oz every second year, but we also do everything possible to keep that natural “Australianness” very much alive in our family everyday. And food is a primary connector to loved ones unseen.
Special occasions find us dining on lamb chops and chewy, creamy pavlova topped with passion fruit. Hot weather means stubbies of Bundaberg ginger beer and fish and chips wrapped in newsprint; cold weather means hand-held meat pies piped with mashed potatoes. Certainly, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without ham sandwiches, custard and honeycomb candy, and we love knowing that our dear family on the other side of the world is enjoying the very same delights.
Food is a perfect way to connect to your culture and heritage – your ancestral homeland – and, because food provides such powerful memories, it seems to be part of some sort of genetic memory, as well. (If your father loved Vegemite, perhaps you’re more likely to. It’s literally in your blood!)
Perhaps you recall your grandmother’s fluffy yeast rolls on the Sundays of your childhood, or can still taste the soft, giving sweetness of your Aunt Maudie’s graham and marshmallow slices. Maybe you’d pay real money for a handwritten copy of your mother’s artichoke soup recipe, or are thrilled to have been long ago entrusted with the secret ingredient in your dad’s chili.
Food is memory and comfort. It’s personal. Food is identity.
If you’re in possession of beloved or long-forgotten family recipes, I encourage you to make good use of them this holiday season. Don’t let them be lost forever; keep them alive and every bit as current as they ever were by making them a part of your modern celebrations. And if you’re at a loss for the holiday foods of your cultural heritage and homeland, do a quick search online and make it happen in your own kitchen, for your own people past and present.
Their foods are your foods, because you are part of them as surely as they are part of you. Fill your home with the smells of Christmas – because food is family history.