Monday, November 19, 2007

Successful Recipe for Success

Everyone has traditions. This can be a good thing. Or not.

When it's a good tradition it will be supportive and fun. When it's strict, inflexible, rigid-then it's another straitjacket for the spirit. Especially creative spirits.

Today, as an example, I'm thinking of food. More specifically, holiday eating. Tradition dictates that the only way to make a holiday meal is fill in the blank with your mother's/grandmother's/great-grandmother's recipes here. No variations. No substitutions (even if you have food allergies). Or else.

Or else the holiday meal is ruined. A disaster. A catastrophe.

Why? Now a favorite recipe can be a joy and a pleasure if we aren't strict about it. Our eating habits have changed. People have food allergies. Foods that were not available to to our great-grandmothers are plentiful for us (lucky, fortunate us).

So, why are we so inflexible about holiday food? Because it's food? And food evokes such an emotional response? Or because of that rigid word "tradition"? Or because it is "holiday food"?

What do you think, readers?

Tomorrow, a fun recipe that will demonstrate how being creative with food can spark creativity. After all, Thursday is Thanksgiving.


Jim Murdoch said...

Again the outsider here but isn't the whole point of tradition to keep touch with our pasts? We want to experience the past in the present. It's like the kid who wants their bedtime story read just so – "No, you're not reading it right!" – because they want to relive the exact experience. They don't know about the law of diminishing returns yet.

Tradition has also a lot to do with identity – who we are – and by allowing change, albeit small changes in a menu, when new people are welcomed into the fray-that-is-Thanksgiving we feel they are not getting the authentic experience of everything-that-has-made-your-family-what-it-is; you have allowed the past to become diminished, you're a bad person, you're not remembering it right.

From my point of view, when I remarried, I found myself surprisingly keen to establish new family traditions, albeit arbitrary ones, because that's all any of them are. Traditions, it appears, are every bit as essential a part of occasions like Thanksgiving and Xmas as are nostalgia and sentimentalism, or turkeys and mistletoe.

Conda Douglas said...

You're not the outsider, Jim, you're a fellow writer. In my blog, that makes you an insider.

Diminishing returns, so true, Jim. And tradition having a lot to do with identity, both personal and family. Your comment reminded me a lot of Sam Keen's work with family stories and how we're all characters playing a part in a "scripted" play.

Of course, I have a bit easier, for as a Buddhist, I believe the past has no reality and neither does the future. It's only the moment. Or at least I make serious attempts to not get caught in nostalgia or future possibilities...