Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Creating Traditions

Because taste testing is a critical
part of making any dish
Traditions.  Countries and cultures have them as do families and individuals.  Traditions may focus on a holiday or annual celebration and they may include arts, music, dance or food.  They may be elaborate and over the top or simple and discrete.   They are something we can look forward to when the we need that little boost or events we remember fondly.  Traditions are what unite us as families, communities, and countries.  For me, traditions are the one thing I can hold onto regardless of where I am living at any given time.  And for those of us living nomadic lifestyles, family traditions are even more important since we are rarely in the same place for long. Whether in the United States, Albania, or soon to be Belgium, my traditions are what ground me and define who I am.

So what are my traditions?  Some revolve around holidays and I'm quickly realizing, most involve food.  Ever since I was a little girl I've always loved the entire festive season between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Growing up, Thanksgiving was about spending time with family and friends who were like family (and of course eating copious amounts of food).  You never knew who would be sitting around our Thanksgiving table (or tables as has been the case in some years), but that was a part of the fun.  Early in our marriage Glenn and I were a part of the collective group of family and friends who gathered around my mother's table on that last Thursday in November.  But since we've been in Albania and have been unable to join the masses, we've replicated the big "family" dinner by inviting friends to join us in this most American of all traditions.  Following closely on the heels of Thanksgiving, Christmas is another time to celebrate and we have annually held a large holiday gathering at our house--where ever that may be-- for friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors.  The location and guest list may change but the decorations and the food remain the one constant with this tradition being the single party I look forward to hosting all year.

These are all "big" events but on a daily basis, we have developed other traditions involving just the three of us that are just as treasured.  Since we've been in Albania, Sunday mornings are all about leisurely breakfasts at home.  This is the one morning during the week when we don't have any place to go and we fully take advantage of that.  Whether it be waffles and bacon, French toast and sausages, or a variety of other breakfast goodies, we all look forward to these weekend treats.  Sidney is so attuned to our family tradition that the first thing he does upon waking is sniff the air to try to determine what the morning's menu holds in store for him.

And because we are a family who adores their food, we've recently developed another culinary related family tradition.  My boys love their pizza and as such, we've started including home made pizza as a part of our weekly menu.  I don't love it as much as they do, but I love what family pizza night means.  It is the one time I put away my desire to be alone in my clean kitchen. On this night we are all in the kitchen together working in tandem to achieve a single goal.  And we all have our assigned roles.  I'm in charge of making the dough and prepping the toppings.  With his endless level of patience, Glenn is the one who rolls, and much to Sidney's delight, tosses, the pizza dough to prepare it for the next step. And Sidney is in charge of decorating each pizza.  Standing on his stool he anxiously supervises the previous steps waiting for his turn in this whole process.  Of course a lot of taste testing is involved, and the spreading of the sauce and sprinkling of the cheese can get quite messy, but this is all a part of the fun.  Sidney's excitement is contagious as we wait for the pizza to bake and that is why I look forward to this weekly family tradition.  Exotic vacations may be nice but our best memories are being created right here.

Traditions don't have to be fancy; they just have to be meaningful to those involved.   Tonight is another family pizza night and already the excitement is building.  And that is what my traditions are really all about.

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