I believe that through cooking generations can be connected to one another both spiritually and physically; sustaining the family heritage through gatherings to honor cooking, teaching one another cooking techniques and recipes, and simply enjoying dishes that have become tradition. I cannot think of a better way to connect to your family than cooking, after all, it is what allows people to unite in the traditional social event of eating.
Family gatherings have been portrayed as an annual event where family members bring home their new romantic partners, older generations squeeze the cheeks of the younger ones emphasizing how much they have grown and all together chaos as family members are forced to act as if they actually want to be there. My family is a little bit different; although we do have family members bring their romantic partners, it is not nearly awkward enough to make a movie of it, there is no cheek squeezing and if you do not want to come you are not expected to. At every gathering my mother is the head cook and everyone else acts as assistant chefs making it a social event in itself.
As everyone prepares their dish they act as a teacher to other family members particularly to the younger generations. However when you learn to cook in my family, you are not just learning how to make something which you will later shove down your throat in hunger after being around food all day but unable to eat any of it; you are learning about family history and tradition. With each dish comes a different story; when you learn how to cook mashed potatoes you learned the concept of cooking without measuring ingredients and how my mom just like myself and others before her anxiously tried to cook this way before they were ready. Each time the one teaching how to cook mashed potatoes would laugh and explain that you have to learn how to cook as if it were a science before you can cook as if it were art.
It has become well accepted that smells trigger memories better than any other sense. This forces us to connect to other generations in our family outside of family occasions each time you sit down to enjoy a meal. Each time I smell turkey, mashed potatoes, greens, and many other dishes I’m immediately bombarded with memories of my childhood and teenaged years cooking with my family which leads me to the memories of my grandmother and the stories I have now memorized.
It is comforting to know that I enjoy the same things many generations before me has and that I use the same techniques in cooking that they have. I have been able to grow closer to my immediate family along with extended family through cooking by sharing techniques, stories, and simply through creating a social event. This is why I believe cooking can sustain a family’s culture and connect each generation to each other spiritually and physically.