As I mentioned in my last January Savor The Season, I am a recently retired high school culinary teacher. Can you believe that I have had the pleasure of teaching almost every adolescent in the school district during those 35 years! I was blessed with learning about their family customs and ethnic food traditions
Because I was beginning my own family, it became fun to adopt many of these traditional foods and start our own family traditions. It all began right before Easter when Joseph, a 7th grader, brought me a beautiful big cookie wrapped in cellophane with a seasonal bow. He said it was something his family made every Easter and he wanted to share it with me. It was a buttery cookie wrapped around painted hard-boiled eggs. Of course, I sampled some of the treasure with a hot cup of coffee.
As I was a newlywed I unselfishly took the rest home for my husband. He proceeded to devour the remaining cookie and asked me, “What was that crunchy stuff around the egg?” Needless to say, he was surprised to find out that he ate the egg shell.
I think it is important to mention that my husband is of Italian/Russian decent. His father who was of Italian heritage passed away when my husband was young, so he was raised with the Russian holiday traditions and therefore NO Italian Easter cookies for him!
Fast forward 33 years later—I now have three sons and one beautiful daughter-in law. I’m happy to say our family celebrates many traditions, and of course, all of them include food. Just to name a few: the seven fish dinner on Christmas Eve, Saint Patrick’s day with scones and Irish soda bread, Faschnaut day with homemade doughnuts. And on Easter we celebrate the Russian traditions with Uncle George’s paska (Easter Bread) and Saint Nicolas Church’s homemade pierogies. The pierogies are delicious and made by hand by the church parishioners (see photos below). You name a holiday and we’ll cook some food to celebrate it!
I hope throughout the years of teaching I’ve inspired my students to start their own family traditions. I always told them “you have no control over the family you were born into but you DO have control over the family that you one day create.” So, start you own family traditions, celebrate your culture and cook up some great memories!