Big Mama was a master at making little feel like much. Growing up, her family had little and they were frugal. A highlight of the year was Christmas, and the highlight of the Christmas dinner was the ham. As Big Mama prepared the many dishes for the dinner, the three girls in the family watched, learned and helped. When the ham was brought in, Big Mama would ceremoniously sharpen her big knife, cut the ends off the ham, and place the ham in the pan. It always turned out perfect and Christmas dinner was full of good food, laughs and love.
The three daughters grew up and went on their own ways. They excelled in school, had busy lives and careers. Their lives were far from frugal, yet the daughters held onto the tradition of Big Mama’s Christmas dinner and passed it along to their daughters. The year after Big Mama’s passing, the family decided to get together for Christmas. They rented a vacation home large enough for everyone and made preparations. It was hard finding a real ham in the resort town, but they did and the grand-daughters argued over who would get prepare the ham. Watching the good natured fight over the big knife, Melvin, (newly married into the family), asked why everyone wanted the knife. “To cut the ends off the ham.” Someone replied. Melvin asked “Why do you cut the ends off the ham?” “It allows steam to get out.” One grand-daughter replied. “No, it allows the heat in so it cooks thru” another said. Realizing they were making the reasons up, they asked their mothers. “Why do we cut the ends off the ham”. “Because Big Mama always did – that’s what made it taste so good.” Was the reply. Wanting a definitive answer, the granddaughters went to their grandfather, who was rocking in a chair by the fire and asked “Paw-Paw, do you know why Big Mama cut the ends off the ham?” “Of course”, he replied “Because her pan was too small.”
Story modified from A Tale of the Tail, Daughters and Mothers: Taking the Next Step By Dorothy Firman, Julie Firman
|Our holiday food|
How often do we follow tradition blindly, without looking at why our ancestors did it, and if it helps or harms us to do the same?
My parents were born in the 20s and 30s in McComb and Liberty, Mississippi. I was born in late 60s Chicago, but bred on down home, old fashioned southern values…and cooking. I thank God for my upbringing. The standards, experiences and memories laid a fantastic foundation my husband and I gratefully share with our children.
There is value in history and things of old – and we honor history when we look at the why of tradition and examine how it is best applied in our lives today. As this applies to food; I enjoy the tastes, textures and memories of good soul food, but the strong pattern of hypertension and diabetes in my family health tree, as well as the overweight and heart condition in my life called for a closer look at the food I had given a hallowed place. It was easy to see that a diet full of things fried, smothered, candied or porked was good to me, but not good for me. Knowing better, I have to do better to care for my God given temple.
|Our everyday food|
My food focus has shifted from blindly following tradition to mindfully exploring the tradition of our cooking.
God has blessed with an abundance of foods for our nourishment and enjoyment. I love trying new foods and exploring new preparations for soul food standards. We continue to enjoy traditional foods, but not everyday. Those meals are reserved for holidays and many of the recipes have been adjusted for better nutrition. (I make a mean lean gumbo!)
What shaped your relationship with food?
Has it changed over time?
Does it need to change to improve your health and wellness?
Contact me if you need help.