I was happily reminded about how the traditions surrounding food are such gifts in our lives. Yesterday a dear friend and pie baker extraordinaire invited several people over to partake in her yearly cherry pie celebration. It takes a couple of days for her to pick, pit and then actually make the pies. A labor of love and a beautiful gift to us. She even left one pie unprepared so that she could demonstrate how she does it so well. How generous of her to pass along her mother's recipe and art for pie baking.
My thoughts then went to how my father had a knack for making certain foods a "happening". During the summer he would bring home a big watermelon and tell us this watermelon's particular qualities that led him to choose it. Then it had to be chilled properly before, with great flourish, it was finally cut. The cutting was usually done outdoors so we could drip and spit seeds to our hearts desire.
And there was his Root Beer Float Extravaganza. We never knew when this was going to happen but out of the blue Dad would come home with the makings for the floats. Then the anticipation built as he carefully added the root beer to the chilled glasses filled midway with the ice cream. The pouring was a slow process, so as not to over flow the glass, while 5 salivating children looked on. And finally the joy of that first taste...mmmm!
Pumpkins and the pomegranates have a special spot in my heart. All of us would be rounded up and seated in a semi-circle on newspapers with Dad making up most of the other half of the circle, his legs stretched into a giant V. Before Halloween it was pumpkin carving. We each drew with pencil the face we wanted on our Jack-o-Lantern, Dad made the initial cuts, we gutted the pumpkins and under his tutelage we carved when we were deemed old enough to wield a knife. Until that time Dad did the carving and did it beautifully. We always had the best looking and nearly perfectly carved Jack-o-Lanterns. We gathered in the same formation for the pomegranates. Dad carefully cut and doled out chunks of the luscious fruit while we were warned repeatedly about the possibility of staining our clothes if we were not very careful. There was a bit for everyone but it always left you longing for more.
Popcorn and blueberry muffins were his specialties on weekend evenings in front of the TV. We would be settling in for "Perry Mason-nite" and he would appear with freshly made, buttery popcorn or hot from the oven muffins. This may have only happened a hand full of times but enough that it made an impression on me. Perhaps because it was not the norm and it felt very special.
Speaking of the norm brings me to what my mother gave to us growing up. It was certainly special and because we could always count on it happening I guess it qualifies as traditional. She always served breakfast on a particular schedule. Monday was French Toast, Tuesday was hot cereal, Wednesday was bacon and eggs and so on. Amazingly she made a full-on breakfast everyday before school and a well-balanced, tasty dinner every night. Now that's tradition!!
So thank you all for your gifts of Food Traditions. I will keep up my end with roasted pumpkin seeds on Halloween, killer Red Rooster punch at Christmas, deviled eggs at Easter and take out pizza every third Thursday.