I follow a bunch of blogs. One is from Molly Wizenberg of Orangette and in her latest post for Bon Appetit she talks about Sauerkraut at her Thanksgiving table. This got me thinking about family food. Isn't it awesome the things we come to love simply because we grew up eating it?
At the top of my list is pickled beets. My Grandmother, Gretchen Marie Kushman, my Dad's mother, was at the helm of this operation. I remember as a child this whole "project" taking place in her basement (which to me always smelled of a good kind of mustiness tinged with the smell of gas....but really, I can smell it right now as I walk in the back door and see her old-school white Keds with cuts made in the side to make more room for her bunions.........and it smells so good. It just smells like my childhood.)
This project included "all hands on deck" and if my memory serves correctly, I believe she had another stove in the basement for all canning projects. It involved metal wash bins and hoses and kids hiding in the usually "off limits" secret space of the basement. It was dark and weird but oddly comforting. I remember my Dad and his sister (my Aunt) Sue at the sink in the basement laughing or my Mom making us go outside so she could help more.
After she died I remember looking at the number of jars left of her pickled beets in the pantry in my family basement, knowing that when the last jar was gone....well, that was it. To this day, my entire family takes pickled beets very seriously. Anywhere we can eat them, we critique them. And really, there will never be any that taste like Grandma's. But we try. And hope. Too sweet, not sweet enough, too mushy, too many cloves, whole vs. sliced, etc. My sister even eats them and if you knew my sister and her eating picky-ness, you'd understand that some things you eat are simply (and only) because you grew up eating them. (But to her defense, she's come A LONG way but she still isn't budging on tomatoes!)
I also grew up eating sauerkraut and I adore it. I also love a good pickle. Bread and Butter or dill.....Grandma Kushman did them both. (same process as with beets! Lots of time spent in that basement!)
My husband grew up eating pickled herring. I have tried and tried and tried to like it. For him. For the kids. It just isn't happening. (and there is a VERY small list on what I won't eat or don't like!) Something clicked with Lauren when she turned 2 or so and now she adores pickled herring. If she sees the big jar of it in the fridge she will ask for a bite. It makes my husband very happy. He's working on Evan now, but it takes a little longer! It is these types of food traditions that makes a family a family. It warms my heart when Lauren wants to eat pickled herring straight from the jar with her Dad.
Then there is the whole list of regional family traditions........like a Friday fish fry and brats and smoked fish. This list is separate from all the family comfort foods. But it seems to me, no matter how old you are, there is nothing like these family foods and traditions to make you feel complete.
What are your family foods and traditions? Anything "weird" at your Thanksgiving table?