Last Spring when I went to a u-pick farm to pick strawberries, a friend went with me. We talked about how food can often be the means to build a family feeling with others -- whether by u-picking together, cooking together, canning together or just eating together. She had grown up in a family that was influenced by many cultures of the world and she has a wonderful perspective on that subject. I asked her to write a guest post for my blog and this is what she wrote:
Many of my most cherished memories of my childhood were created in the kitchen. Growing up, my mom cooked and baked most things from scratch, either from ethnic recipes passed on by her mother and mother-in-law, or recipes that she had learned when she moved to North America.
As a child, I especially enjoyed baking with her - she'd usually let me lick the spoon and bowl when she was finished with them!
My mother is Cypriot (from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, which has a heavy Greek influence), and my father is Lebanese (from Lebanon in the Middle East), so if you've seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the story line isn't too far off! My mom did a great job of incorporating both worlds into our weekly menu, but in general, we had more Cypriot-influenced foods, although there is some overlap between the two. A few of my family’s favorites include stuffed grape-vine leaves (kind of like a cabbage roll), moussaka (like a lasagna with eggplant and potatoes instead of noodles), chicken-lemon stew, egg soup, and tabouleh (a salad made mainly with parsley, onion, tomatoes and cracked wheat).
Nowadays, when my husband and I plan to go visit my family in Ontario, Canada, one of the first questions my mom usually asks is related to what meals we'd like to have during our stay. You have to understand, in my family’s world, food equals family time, and preparing food is a way my mom shows her love to the family. It's a trait that she inherited from her mother, and I'm hoping I've acquired it too!
In both of those countries, meals are opportunities when families come together to spend time with and enjoy one another's company; so it was a pretty rare occasion when we did not all sit down together at supper time. This was my world growing up; and I thought everyone else's family was just like mine. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that not every family chose to eat meals together, and some didn’t have the luxury of eating supper at the same time! It was just different to the world that was familiar to me.
But, I’m now very familiar with odd work schedules that conflict with the typical meal times. I currently work as a Registered Nurse in a local hospital and work 12 hour shifts, and often times I don’t get home until after 7pm. Thankfully, my husband is gracious enough to wait for me and sometimes even has started prepping supper by the time I get home.
Although I love hosting and cooking for people, one thing that I really enjoy is cooking the meal with them. Whether it was with roommates, now with my husband, or with friends we invite over, I love the process of making the meal and trying new recipes. I think this is my way of re-living cherished memories and creating new ones with the people I love.