When Pete and I went to Mexico three years ago with our ministry team, we were inhaling tamales, atole, tacos arabes– eating everytime we turned a corner. One of the main purposes of the trip was to learn the culture, but we were doing so much eating that my husband coined the phrase “food is culture”.
When we were in Peru earlier this month, we got to try Ceviche for the first time. Ceviche is raw fish marinated in lemon juice till it “cooks”. It sounds strange, but actually tastes good. It’s often served with Yucca, which is very much like a potato in taste and texture.
Another culinary first for us in Peru. I can’t remember what these were called, but picture ground meat wrapped in mashed potatoes and deep fried. Yum. Also, deep fried donut thingies. Yep that’s technical.
On our way back from Peru, we spent a couple of days in Mexico, and were able to experience some more “culture”.
Tacos Arabes are made from meat cooked on an upright spit and then shaved off.
On the table.
And ready to eat.
That is the pinkest tamale I’ve ever seen in my life. It was also one of the best–sweet with a great flavor.
I’m fascinated thinking about what it takes to build a culture: tradition, ritual, expectations, norms, celebration, punishment. We are born into a culture and we adopt it or reject it, surrounded by others adopting and rejecting.
But, then, we reach a point when we become the culture shapers. We lay foundations and sculpt a family culture. We shape the culture of our churches, schools and organizations. We decide, “This is how we do it here. We will establish our traditions, rituals, expectations, norms, celebrations and punishments.”
And food is interwoven into it all. Some traditional foods are associated with celebration. In our church we eat tamales on Easter Sunday morning.
In our family, we have a few favorite recipes for special occasions. I’d like to be more intentional about preserving and passing on those recipes, those traditions, those memories. Because, essentially, we’re passing on culture. We are the culture shapers.
What culinary traditions do you have that shape your family culture?