Made With Love: Passing On The Traditions

December 22, 2010 at 11:52 am , by

717694202_09_15oprah-monicabhide_081_fullThree things the holiday season has us thinking about: family, traditions and food. Guest blogger Monica Bhide, columnist, blogger, foodie and author of Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen, shares her thoughts on the close ties between love, cooking and recipes passed down through the years.

This morning I was making a lentil soup for my family, almost exactly the way my grandmother in India taught me decades ago. Or so I first thought. Her recipe used six tablespoons of butter, onions, garlic, red lentils, about eight different spices, loads of cilantro and a touch of salt. I recall my mom making this but with much less butter, baby peas for us kids and no salt as Dad was watching his sodium. As I smelled the aroma of garlic from the soup that I was stirring, it occurred to me that my soup today was in truth a reflection of my life here in the states, far away from India: butternut squash, chicken stock instead of water and no cilantro as my hubby thinks it tastes soapy.

The changes to the recipe had occurred so slowly, so gradually, that I never really noticed that I had changed it. I have to admit I felt guilty at first, almost as if changing the recipe meant I was changing the memory of a childhood taste. Familiar childhood tastes give us a place to belong: They bear witness to our lives. Changing them seemed sacrilegious. Read more

Wedding Traditions: Out With the Old

September 17, 2010 at 4:47 pm , by

I’ve been to lots of weddings in my time – church weddings, beach weddings, a traditional Indian wedding and even an Armenian one – and I’m always fascinated by all the cool traditions that brides (and grooms, from time to time) choose to work into their special day. But according to a report in the U.K.’s Daily Mail, the times are a changin’. Formerly standard procedures like asking the bride’s father for her hand in marriage, decking out the wedding-mobile with “Just Married” and heading off on that fairytale honeymoon right after the wedding are dying out. Researchers found that couples find them too cheesy or impractical to do today. In the ’60s, half of all brides changed into a “going-away suit,” and today just 7 percent do. (I’m surprised it’s even that many – where do they go?) About half as many brides wear something old, new, borrowed and blue now as they did 50 years ago. And forget about schlepping over the threshold: Only 13 percent of grooms today sweep their new wife off her feet, compared with 68 percent that did the symbolic move in the ’60s.

But other, more modern traditions have taken off: best-man speeches (done at 78 percent of weddings, hopefully before the speaker has had a chance to hit the bar), favors for guests (48 percent) and signing of guest books (43 percent). And the down-on-one-knee proposal has gained popularity, too.

What was your favorite wedding tradition you had on your own big day? Do you regret skipping out on any? Or did you do all the traditional things and end up regretting it? (Garters, anyone?)
Photo courtesy of aleske.

Holiday Traditions: Sometimes Simplicity Is Best

December 3, 2009 at 6:10 pm , by

l_R094572Over Thanksgiving, I was reminded that family traditions don’t have to be anything complicated. For our holiday meal, I made the same simple menu that was featured at my grandmother’s house since I was old enough to eat solid food. Turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce and gravy, green beans and creamed mushrooms.  Since I had bronchitis and was feeling crummy, I skipped the more time-intensive Southern treat, Sally Lunn, the bread they probably serve in heaven. Still, it was a happy reminder of the days that Thanksgiving was an extended-family celebration of my grandfather’s birthday, which was the 26th of November.

But for my 3-year-old son, Thanksgiving was just another turkey dinner. The real excitement for him was the mini-tradition that established itself over the long weekend. Unfolding Grandmummy’s sofabed every night, and folding it back up in the morning.  He’s still talking about it. And when I think about it, some of the traditions I treasure are equally mundane. Like how, at my mom’s house, she serves wine with dinner, and then for dessert we have ice cream in our wine glasses. I don’t even like ice cream that much, but I love the ritual.

Do you have any super-simple family traditions you’d like to share?