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Why I Write of Food and Family: The Traditions That Bind Us

Updated on August 9, 2017
Carb Diva profile image

Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture.

— Mark Kurlansky, 'Choice Cuts' (2002)



It is said that no two people are alike.

Billions of souls have inhabited our planet, each one possessing their own unique beliefs and viewpoints, loves and desires.

But despite our differences, there are two activities shared by all of us which are central, actually vital to our being—our first action when taken from the womb is to breath...

...the next is to eat.

Food is our common ground, a universal experience.

— James Beard

But, Eating is Far More Than Simple Sustenance

Food is how we connect with others. At a shared table, families connect—events of the day are exchanged, children learn, relationships are nurtured, and dreams blossom. Food is present when we celebrate milestones; it is shared when we assist those in need and is commonly provided as comfort to the bereaved.

My fascination with the importance, the heritage, and the folklore of food began years ago in my mother’s kitchen. It started with curiosity—watching my mother at work. Cookbooks sat on the shelf but I never saw them being used. It seemed that every measurement, every action was known, memorized, and almost involuntary.

Our meals were simple, but they were nourishing, comforting, and I knew instinctively that they were handed down from the previous generation to our own. I knew that the food my mother made for us was a piece of her childhood, and of the children before her, and so on, and so on.

When we share our recipes, we share not only our traditions and backgrounds—we share the memories that formed us and make us who we are.

When prepared with care and conscience food can be magic—a true case of the whole exceeding the sum of its parts. Food is an art form, an amalgam of tastes and textures spanning centuries of time.

Eating is the common denominator of mankind, the one activity in which we share a mutual bond.

We may be separated by culture and continent, but food is the language that unites. Food is a part of who we are and what we have been; it is our history. Food has a story to tell.

© 2017 Linda Lum

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    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you Shauna - Long after the food is gone and the dishes are washed and put away, the memories are still there.

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      Shauna L Bowling 5 months ago from Central Florida

      Beautiful article, Diva! I think our "comfort foods" are so because of the memories of family times they invoke. Sharing a meal with family and/or friends is a wonderful to pass the time and open up to each other. Many stories are told that result in laughter and revelation, many of which are passed on down the genealogical line.

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      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lawrence - I've not heard from you in quite some time. What a nice surprise to find your words here this evening. The kitchen table was an important part of our home as well, but mom being German it was always a cup of coffee offered (and something to bite). Blessings to you.

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      Lawrence Hebb 6 months ago

      Linda

      When I was growing up, everything of importance happened around the kitchen table, usually with a cup of tea!

      You can tell with an English family, if you're a good friend, almost family, then you get to sit at the kitchen table. This hub reminded me of that, thank you.

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Manatita - Two days ago we celebrated "Mothers Day." We learn so much from our mothers, not just their words but from their actions as well. Thank you for your kind words.

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      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Venkatachari - I knew that you would understand and appreciate this. Yes, the sharing of food from other cultures is very important. When my daughters were growing up we would go to the library each Saturday and select a cookbook from which to prepare our special Saturday meal. We explored so many different ethnic tastes. It was wonderful, good memories.

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      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Rachel - Thank you. I love the tradition of once a week dinner together, everyone turn off their personal devices and sit down to a meal made with love, and share love with one another.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 6 months ago from london

      A story to tell indeed and a great and worthy I you've told here. Kudos to you and the talent given by the Unseen; blessed it would seem, by a mother's love. Some key points covered. Thanks.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 6 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Exactly true, Linda. Food is not simply a physical substance that is needed for our existence. It binds our family traditions and relationships. It unites people of your own family as well as people from different cultures at family gatherings or at widespread functions and celebrations.

      You have pointed out a very nice underlying message through this hub.

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 7 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Hi Linda, What a simple yet lovely hub this is. You are so right, food is the one thing we all have in common. It's the one thing that connects all beings, not just humans, but animals and plants also. Many of my recipes are from my mother or grandmother or mother in law and my girls watched me make them and now one or two of my granddaughters are making the same foods. Every Saturday my family come over and we all have a dinner together. Thank you for sharing you thoughts on this subject.

      Blessings to you.

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      Demas W Jasper 7 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      A good statement of fact well illustrated.

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 7 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you John. Our mutual HP friend (Eric) writes "Sunday Sermons" and each week the bottom line is always love--for me creating wonderful food is another way of showing love to my friends and family.

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      John Hansen 7 months ago from Queensland Australia

      This was a beautiful and well-written hub, Linda. I love food (ask my wife) and as your article says it is much more important to our lives than just mere sustenance.

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      Linda Lum 7 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish - Your kind words mean so very much to me. Mothers Day is always difficult--hard for me to focus on the mom I had growing up vs. the one who left me in the throws of Alzheimers. What a dreadful disease. It caused her to say things to me that I know my "real" mom would not have said. It is difficult to erase those words from my memory.

      With your comments I will try to focus on the sweet times of years ago.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 7 months ago from USA

      You are a beautiful writer who commands the written word as she does the tools in her kitchen. It is a fitting tribute to your mother.

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 7 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill - You have probably heard a few of my stories about my own mother's cooking. She did a few things and did them well, but we were far from adventuresome. It wasn't until I moved out on my own that I learned about mushrooms, asparagus, herbs and spices (other than salt and pepper), and glorious seafood! BTW, I wonder if the HP gods will blast this article off the the face of the earth because it is "too promotional."

      Eric - How wonderful that you had exposure at an early age eating a variety of foods. Your story about your father inlaw made me laugh out loud. I think I would MUCH prefer the Vietnamese table. AND, your words of kindness give me immeasurable joy. I believe we're even.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 7 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I so much like this. While my mom taught us to love getting together and each of us six kids having rolls to play in preparation including setting a proper table perhaps more important she taught us to try and enjoy different foods. If a child said something so rude as "I don't like peas" there was hell to pay.

      All of her children have traveled the globe and been so fortunate in trying and enjoying different cuisines. Many of which she first prepared for us at home.

      How ever she bordered on tyrannical regarding sitting down at exactly 7pm and many other matters.

      So I have rebelled, we eat together and laugh and play for dinner. The only rule is to enjoy.

      Here is a fun one. In Vietnam I first ate with napkin in lap, left hand in lap and sitting upright. Finally my father-in-law asked me if I was playing with myself ;-) Napkin on table arms leaning on table and shoveling food is more appropriate. And in France learning how to eschew the fork and spoon for sopping up with bread was different.

      Linda you have brought me so much joy in your wonderful work, I can never repay it.

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      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I totally agree...traditions like family gatherings around the dinner table are priceless and the source of some of my greatest memories growing up...and my mother was a horrible cook. LOL

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 7 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Louise - I am so glad that you said that. I have been to Italy several times (my sister lived there), and the one thing that brings back memories is the taste of the food. If I make one of those dishes in my kitchen, all of the sights and sounds come flooding back. It's as though the tastes are little time capsules that hold all of the memories.

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      Louise Powles 7 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Yes, I agree. Food is what unites us. I've travelled a lot, and I love trying foods from different countries and cultures.