Dinner table conversations: The heritage of our food

How has a month passed without a new post?

Driving though the national forests of Arizona
Driving though the national forests of Arizona

This month, I can tell you exactly how.

7,000 driven miles, at least 8 audio-books completed, (Our favorite activity during long drives), surprise visits and long-awaited reunions, farewells and see-you-laters, meeting new friends (and new family members!), and lots and lots of food.

Most recently, we have found ourselves connecting with Ryan’s family (and now mine!) in West Texas.

I’ve been asked a question several times, that I have never been asked before.

“What did you grow up eating?”

It has been often surrounded by stories of visiting the West Coast and finding a disturbing lack of fried options, or a particular presence of sea-food.

Initially, I was stuck. I couldn’t remember anything that I ate in particular…

Except split-pea soup. It was probably only a few weeks, but I remember it more than any other meal. My mom taught me the value of a dollar, and would make whatever was on sale into many meals to fill and to last. One month, it was split-pea soup. The texture, the flavor, which I may enjoy now, went wasted on my fast-food seeking palate.

Then there were the Mexican dishes. Every Christmas was tamale-making with Grandma. Taking the corn husks, spreading the masa and loading the red-sauce-covered meat that she had already prepared. I wish I had been old enough to ask her to write it all down.

Chicken taquitos, leftover spanish rice, and my families version of guacamole (avocado mixed with cottage cheese and seasoning) were afternoon snack staples.

These are the tastes of my childhood. 

As we share in the meals prepared in different homes, we get to tastefully take part in the heritage of each family. With each recipe comes a story about who it came from – how it has come to represent so much in the palate of generations.

Often, even the ingredients have a story. A connection to a hard year, and the lack of, or surplus of, a particular food. With each bite, a sensory participation in the stories that have been passed down. The flavors reminding us of a basic need around the world, and how our culture has so enjoyed making it… enjoyable!

For many of our Kenyan neighbors, the flavors of childhood are often strikingly similar to the tastes of adult-hood. Variety is not a value when there is often not enough to go around. Still, the strong flavor of beans and maize cooked into a thick mixture is what many share as a “favorite.” Each tribe differs in the animal that is of choice to serve to visitors. For some, it is goat or beef, for others chicken. For those by the lake, there is no doubt that it is fish. And these flavors come to shape the way they are known. The images that go along with their tribe. Their larger story.

Some tastes are familiar and enjoyed easily, and others need to be acquired. But we eat and receive just the same.

The gift of provision to survive and to prosper.

My journal bulges with papers and notecards of recipes that will surely be adapted and re-made in our home, accompanied by stories of those we love, and who have shaped us, supported us and invited us continually to be a part of their table.

2 thoughts on “Dinner table conversations: The heritage of our food

  1. I love this! “The gift of provision to survive and to prosper.” Any good books within those 8 audiobooks lately?? Let me know so I can read ’em! Blessings to you both!

    1. Thanks, Ana! Hmm… we loved a lot of them – but they are about a variety of topics – two in particular that we enjoyed were “Surprise by Joy” by C.S. Lewis, and “Washed and Waiting” by Wesley Hill. Another that you may like which I recently read is called “In the land of Blue Burqas” by Kate McCord. It is not an audio book, but was such a wonderful read. Let me know if you read any of them!

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