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New food traditions?


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#1 mskerr

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 06:51 PM

I realized the other day that I don't have any food traditions. I can't really think of any family traditions either, aside from the usual Thanksgiving meal - though it was usually only semi-homemade, and a couple of years came from Boston Market. (No complaints, I loved it at the time.) And it was usually just my immediate family at holiday meals, big family dinners were rarer, and never at our house. Granted, my extended family probably has some traditions (especially the full on Irish-Americans) but I don't know the really extended family all that well and I live across the country. In any event, my upbringing was very "white bread" - mostly a blur of spaghetti, jarred marinara, frozen veggie mix, boxed taco mix, Campbell's tomato soup... You get the idea. My family, god bless 'em, always put a square meal on the table, but I am interested in more advanced and varied cooking from scratch now that I'm older... and, not having kids, I have all day to fiddle around in the kitchen.

I've been on a bit of a binge reading about all sorts of traditions from all over the world, and I am especially interested in how they travel to America. Pig roasts, harvests, Maori hangis, Swiss fondue, feijoada on the weekends, traditional Chinese holiday meals, Mardi Gras spreads - they all interest me!

Any tips on how to start some traditions?

For reference, again, I live across the country from my family, and at least a couple hours away from most of my friends -for now - so it's not as easy as just making Sunday a big social feasting day, and such. Most of my friends are 30-or-40 -something dudes whose idea of a tradition is a bunch of beers and a big piece of meat on the grill at the end of the night (though they love a good Sunday roast, from growing up). Some of my friends are definitely up for more adventurous/ethnic/more modern fare, but I tend to see them irregularly. I myself am way more interested in different sorts of ethnic traditions, and their Americanized forms after being brought here by immigrants, than in the usual turkey for Thanksgiving, ham on Christmas, lamb on Easter, unless these had some sort of interesting new twist on them. I'm also more interested in making a few really tasty, intriguing dishes than just getting stuffed silly on a massive feast. Others might disagree with me on that though!

When this hot weather breaks, Sunday roasts sound like a great way to start - but then what? I'm open to weekly traditions, seasonal ones, holiday ones, just-for-the-hell-of-it ones.

#2 nibor

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 07:28 PM

On our birthdays my mom would make our favorite foods, no matter whether they went together or not. Every kid had their favorites. I could count on mine: bbq spareribs and home-made french fries, followed by German sweet chocolate cake. My mom is long gone now and my husband takes me out on my birthday. Which is sweet but not the same.

#3 heidih

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 07:35 PM

I have a strong food tradition in my family. I was just discussing this with my sister yesterday and also noting that we have not carried it over in a coordinated way to our kids. I mentioned going to have Vietnamese pho with my 21 year old and how it brought me back to our tradition of Viennese style beef soup with the hand made noodles boiled in water separately so as not to cloud the broth just as the pho noodles are. She noted that she still boils hers separately for soups. Any yet our kids have no history of the Viennese soup. My son is more connected to pho and it is not always traditional - created from pantry ingredients and with a loose definition at times but it anchors him. His friends favor ramen houses and he has his heart with pho.

In terms of creating traditions, a good starting place is to ask family or friends if there is anything you make that they always associate with you and enjoy. Then build on it. My mom took a class on making baklava with a local Jordanian woman in the 70's and today I am the baklava at Christmas lady. I have even customized it to the point of using one friend's calamansi as the citrus instead of lemon for her batch.

You can try something fun for an occasion and if it clicks with the recipients repeat and see if they ask for it again. An example from my experience is my cole slaw with chewy noodles. Moms would tell me their kids talk about it and they never eat veggies voluntarily. I also have twists to my chocolate chip cookies and my pumpkin bread - I give them out as holiday or thank you gifts and they have become associated with me.-Heidi's "x"

#4 heidih

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 07:48 PM

Along more the lines of an occasion specific tradition - Carrot cake jumps to mind for Easter - I started making a killer one in my teens and it is still my gold standard. It is expected and appreciated by friends and family. Still the baklava mentioned above it the most significant thing I make that is expected and mourned if not given. My pans were stuck in storage and my food processor missing after a move - I told people it was just not going to happen. The collective disappointment moved me to locate the pans and use a brick and ziplock bag to crush/grind the nuts. Bakalava was distributed and serenity was restored to the earth.
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#5 mskerr

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 08:44 PM

On our birthdays my mom would make our favorite foods, no matter whether they went together or not. Every kid had their favorites. I could count on mine: bbq spareribs and home-made french fries, followed by German sweet chocolate cake. My mom is long gone now and my husband takes me out on my birthday. Which is sweet but not the same.


I do make my mate one of his favorites for his bday, and am happy to take requests. This usually means a ground beef, cheese, and onion pie, maybe some potatoes and peas and carrots. Nothing out of the ordinary, but always appreciated.

In terms of creating traditions, a good starting place is to ask family or friends if there is anything you make that they always associate with you and enjoy. Then build on it...

You can try something fun for an occasion and if it clicks with the recipients repeat and see if they ask for it again.


Good ideas, cheers. I'm a bit too shy to directly ask what people enjoy of mine, but from their compliments, my mate and our friends seem to especially enjoy my lamb and bean soup (big meaty fatty chunks left on the bone, and lots of marrow for body... Guys especially love it), burgers, amateur tacos, and chocolate whiskey cake. But I'm not quite seeing any traditions starting from this... Other than a good Mexican holiday party with lots of cheap beer and not-so-cheap tequila. I live in California, so this is not such a stretch from a lot of everyday meals or casual get-togethers. And I am totally intrigued by the Day of the Dead.

Sports are great for traditions too, huh? I don't have anything too set yet, but during rugby games, we do like mimosas, or else beer and "rugby toast" (open-faced broiled sandwiches with butter, vegemite, tomatoes, onions, and cheddar), and antipodean dishes. Simple things!

I've been fantasizing about winter cooking, anticipating hot, comforting meals on cold days. I would like to start doing fondue and hot pots, so maybe I will make that into a semi-regular tradition. Hot pot's probably good for the odds and ends in the fridge, huh?
And leftovers from Sunday roasts could be made into pasties or meat pies for the week a my favorites.

This is a very small start, but a start at least.

#6 haresfur

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 08:53 PM

To start a tradition, just do what you love, then repeat...

Some of the traditions for me and my siblings started by taking some of my father's dishes and assigning them to particular days, like German pancakes on Boxing Day.

You might think about Barbecue, from the description of your friends. And it would give you plenty to obsess over.
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#7 mskerr

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 10:03 PM

I also remembered that I like making King Cake for Mardi Gras - one of the few sweets I really like. I do like to make some jambalaya or another NOLA dish (total amateur attempts), though I haven't yet experienced much true Mardi Gras spirit, being so far removed from the action and not knowing any native Louisianians for inspiration. It is a goal though, and probably one of the easiest holidays to convince people to celebrate!

I also liked an idea I read on another thread, where the author had started a tradition of fondue for Christmas. (Yes, I am craving fondue like crazy so forgive its continually popping up. Only have had it once, need to make up for lost time.) I like the idea of a nice, simple holiday tradition. Spending two days or so preparing for a big holiday feast takes away from the simple pleasure of a holiday in my mind. Especially being an amateur cook prone to overambition and then confusion. But, a nice Christmas fondue with wine and a few simple vegetable side dishes, and maybe some meat and oil in another pot, sounds like a great way to really enjoy a holiday. (I should note, this would be for me and my mate, and possibly some friends, but not a huge family gathering or anything - I like to keep it simple.)

Please, keep the ideas coming!

#8 liuzhou

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 11:53 PM

I'm not sure you can deliberately start a tradition - they just sort of evolve and one day you realise "We've been doing that for years. Why?"

When my kids were little, we had a rule that on birthdays, the birthday boy, birthday girl, or birthday parent got to choose the type of food for dinner and no matter how ridiculous, we all went along with it. On various birthdays, we went to posh French places, followed by KFC, then a nice Italian, then Indian or Chinese, then McDonalds, then Mrs Smith's Greasy Spoon.

I now have four grandchildren and the tradition continues into that generation, but I have no conscious memory of ever starting the tradition. I never happened with my parents. It just happened.

Edited by liuzhou, 15 September 2012 - 11:54 PM.


#9 ScoopKW

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 02:40 AM

I make Buffalo wings for Monday Night Football. Always have. Always will. I'm thinking about adding onion rings to the mix, seeing as the oil is already hot. Buffalo wings and shoe-string onion rings. Works for me. I might just do the onion rings tomorrow.

Just get into a habit of making something for a particular event, date, whatever. It will evolve into a tradition soon enough. And if you're smart, the "traditional dish" will be dead simple. For instance, my Buffalo wings, I've made them so many damned times that I can do it sleepwalking.

What I can't understand is traditional dishes like Christmas Pudding. There's two months of your life you'll never get back. I did it once. And on Christmas Day, after the goose and trimmings, we had the pudding and I thought, "All that work, for THIS??!?!?"
Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

#10 HungryC

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 05:30 AM

Repetition is key...but this can be frustrating for the cook who likes to experiment. Is your goal to get really good at a dish, or to create a sense of belonging through food? You can start with your workplace....be the person who brings in X every Wednesday morning, be it fresh homemade cinnamon rolls or muffins or homemade crackers. And cook what you like--those friends making hunks of meat on the grill will probably jump at the chance to eat something different. Or, learn to bake bread; it will keep you occupied for a lifetime of kitchen experiments and tap into a tradition stretching back millennia. Plus the finished product is easy to share.

#11 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 05:53 AM

I am totally intrigued by the Day of the Dead.


I can't help you with the Mexican tradition for this, but the Ecuadorian one is pretty neat. The two key dishes are something you should actually be able to cook up fairly authentically in California, as that's the only state I can think of where Babaco is grown. Ecuadorians make Colada Morada (a massively complex atole-type drink/pudding) and eat it with guava- or chocolate-stuffed guagas de pan (literally "bread babies"), at the graves of their ancestors, in order to share and reconnect with them. It's also a time to share the same with the living members of your family and all of your friends - recipes for Colada make several gallons, as it's meant to be shared with everybody you know. I blogged here last year during Dia de los Difuntos, and recipes and methods for both things as well as a more in-depth explanation of the holiday, are on about page 2 I think.
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#12 Darienne

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 07:17 AM

For me, the way to start a tradition is simply to begin 'doing it'.

Both sets of our parents married across ethnic/religious backgrounds which meant, more or less, a breakaway from their growing-up family traditions. My in-laws had Sunday dinner, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter. My parents, nothing.DH and I are again a breakaway from our already mixed backgrounds. No traditions to be upheld whatsoever. Rejected pretty much by all ethnic/religious backgrounds. Our own family is very scattered and we have no grand-kids, just dogs. Perhaps more than you wanted to know. :raz:

Since moving to the farm 17 years ago, and taking on cooking as an avocation about 5 years ago, I have instituted some traditions. We still do Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays which we have since Day 1.

We have started Solstice Meals with as suitable a menu as possible at the time. For years we held a local GourdFest at the farm with a...oh, no...Potluck meal. I wrote on the bottom of the newsletter: This is not a cooking contest...just buy something and bring it." Then there is the Annual Dog Weekend at the farm. Saturday is always Mexican for lunch and hamburgers and corn for supper. Not to mention the home-made ice cream bonanza. It's all expected yearly now.

In Utah we put on a Chinese Feast at a friend's house. This year it will be at our condo. Four folks cook for this. We'll bring Chinese dishes for the meal. Plus ingredients. Our town of choice is not a culinary mecca.

The main traditions concern the making and giving away of ice cream, baking, chocolate and confections. Pretty early in my newly-found 'career', I began making stuff we couldn't begin to eat. So I feed the men and women who have worked on the house and land, in one manner or other. They don't charge you any less, but they sure are happy. :smile:I make things for fund raising for the local and also Utah libraries, dog rescue groups, turtle trauma centers, etc. And gifts for friends, neighbors, veterinarians, butcher, dentists...you name it...they receive my output. Christmas edibles to all, of course. If you need or want positive feedback in your life, just try doing this. Last year in Utah, I made all the Christmas gifts that the local lodging center and the Humane Society gave to its volunteers, employees, etc. This year so far, I am making lollipops for the Humane Society to sell at the Annual Pumpkin Chuckin' Event and Saturday adoption days.

There can be no end to this if you invite/allow it. Good luck with your own traditions!

Edited by Darienne, 16 September 2012 - 07:21 AM.

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#13 Jaymes

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 10:08 AM

Of course, the main thing about a tradition is that it really needs others. I mean, it can be your tradition to scarf down a half-pound of brie every Saturday night that you don't have a date or anything else to do and you're stuck by yourself, but that doesn't really capture the special magic of a beloved tradition.

You say several times that you have a circle of friends that get together. If I were you, I'd start by asking them if they have any traditions from home that they miss. Maybe that would be something you could start, and even eventually incorporate as your own by adding a few updates or twists. Even if that doesn't happen, I'm sure the friend would appreciate the effort. I know pot lucks don't get a lot of love around here, but I think it might be fun for you to invite your mates over for a pot luck on a Sunday afternoon and tell them that they need to bring one dish that was traditional in the home where they grew up. These "beer and barbecue" guys will probably have to get on the phone with dear old mum and come up with recipes and try to recreate them. I have no doubt that the quality of the food might likely be, um, well, "uneven," but it could make for high merriment and much laughter and a discussion of traditions, some remembered with fondness and some better left behind, that could help you get a start.

Traditions were critically important to me when I was raising my three kids. Due to my husband's job, we moved around a lot, and I mean a whole lot, like every two years or so, we were off to a new locale. I knew my kids would never have the kinds of childhood memories that ground kids that stay in one place... No "hometown," no "house we grew up in," no "that's where my best friend lived." None of that at all. So I tried to come up with strong family traditions and stick to them slavishly, so at least they'd have some constants in their lives.

When I was a child, my own family had lots of strong traditions, most of which I tried to continue. But when I think back to any traditions I was a part of in my single life, I can only come up with one.

I lived for a time in Omaha, during the folk music craze (and my "folk chick" phase). I waited tables at a coffee house that featured live folk music, and it was kind of the social center for folk musicians passing through. Lots of unknowns performed there before they became famous, like Mama Cass, among many others. And when the famous ones, like Peter, Paul & Mary, gave big concerts at the downtown auditorium, they'd always stop by our coffee house and do a few sets afterwards.

One folk music producer/agent and his wife lived in a big old house on Martha Street. Because Omaha is in the middle of the country, many touring musicians would stop for the night, or even a few days, and stay at that house. (In fact, I remember a standing joke from those days: "No matter where your next gig is, you go to Omaha and turn left.") There was always a jam session going on in the front room, and people crashing all over the house. The doors were never locked, and there were always extra blankets and pillows in the front closet, so regardless as to what time you arrived, if there wasn't a bed available, you could make yourself a pallet on the floor. The place began to be known as the Martha Street Mission.

I lived there for a while during some of the wildest/craziest/happiest days of my young life and some of the best memories were of Sunday Soup. The fellow that owned the Martha Street Mission had a big, industrial-sized stew pot. Every Sunday, he'd get up and put some sort of meat into that pot. He'd saute hamburger, or ground pork, or cut up some kielbasas, or throw in a couple pounds of pork chops, or start a chuck roast or some chickens to simmering, or something. The deal was anybody could come to Sunday Soup, but you had to bring in something to put into the pot. It could be a can of mixed vegetables, or stewed tomatoes, or a fresh onion or celery or green pepper or a few ears of corn, but something. And something to drink - beer, wine, Sangria, sodas, whatever. His wife made wonderful bread, so she'd make biscuits and rolls and loaves of bread, enough to feed the 20-60 people that would arrive. Sometimes the resulting soup was pretty bad, but mostly it was pretty good and sometimes it rose to fabulous. The only real rule for the guests, other than bringing something, was that you could not bitch or moan if it was bad, and especially not if you just didn't like the green peppers or mushrooms or onions or whatever else just happened to be in the soup that Sunday. You could eat or not, but no bitching or whining was allowed.

Ah yes, the Martha Street Mission. And my youth.

Both long gone now.

But so many memories.

:cool:


.

Edited by Jaymes, 16 September 2012 - 11:06 AM.

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#14 Darienne

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 11:21 AM

But so many memories.
:cool:


Great story, Jaymes. Great tradition!
.

Edited by heidih, 16 September 2012 - 12:07 PM.
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#15 lesliec

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 06:05 PM

For me, the way to start a tradition is simply to begin 'doing it'.


Absolutely - the Nike approach!

One of the advantages of living at this end of the world is Christmas being in summer. This leaves the way clear for a second, midwinter, Christmas dinner in the middle of the year, and we've been doing that for maybe 30 years. It started spontaneously one year, as I recall; we and some neighbours used to get together for dinner every few weeks and it just seemed a logical thing one June to have a 'pretend' Christmas dinner - roaring fire, far too much food, the lot. Which is, with the exception of the fire, how I like my 25 December Christmas too (there are those who claim you can't enjoy Christmas pud in summer. I disagree). Then we just kept doing it.

In your part of the world you don't quite have this option, but who's to say you can't suddenly start having a pavlova party in the month of your choice? Pavs would go well after the grilled hunk of meat.

Edited by lesliec, 16 September 2012 - 06:06 PM.

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#16 Jaymes

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 08:47 AM

I've noticed throughout the years that a great many people select a holiday or event that they particularly like, or have some sort of affinity for or connection to, and make it theirs. Several friends have latched on to Halloween. One friend loved July 4th and had a big blowout every year. Lots of folks have St. Patty's Day parties. One couple from Kentucky went all out at Derby Day, complete with a parimutuel betting board.

An advantage to this is that you can add various decorative items and accessories throughout the year and really do it up spectacularly if you're only buying/planning/storing party stuff for one event. Not only did the Derby Day couple make a large betting board for everyone to place their bets, they also had a life-size poster showing the winning circle from a previous race, where the guests could go stand and take a photo. The mint juleps were served in traditional silver glasses, and there was even a selection of appropriate attire if you forgot yours (floppy hats for the ladies; wild spring plaid jackets and bow ties for the men) that they had picked up at second-hand shops and thrift stores through the years.

Edited by Jaymes, 17 September 2012 - 08:51 AM.


#17 Beebs

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 10:43 AM

My favourite food tradition is our "Cousins Dinner" around the Christmas holidays. The "Cousins" - me, my two siblings, two cousins + spouses - started this about 5-6 yrs ago when we all decided to cut the gift exchange tradition. We were all old enough to buy what we needed, nobody liked gift shopping, and we all preferred eating & food to presents anyway. So we decided to just cook a big meal together, everyone being responsible for either a course or a couple dishes. We'd originally talked about contributing over-the-top dishes, but that fell by the wayside for various reasons, so we've used it as an opportunity to experiment on each other with new recipes & dishes. We picked Christmas to do this, since that was when everyone was usually in town. But we've also had it around Thanksgiving, and also other times throughout the year, depending on whenever we could get everyone together. We've also picked up "honourary cousins" - random friends - to participate.

#18 Darienne

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 11:14 AM

My favourite food tradition is our "Cousins Dinner" around the Christmas holidays. The "Cousins" - me, my two siblings, two cousins + spouses - started this about 5-6 yrs ago when we all decided to cut the gift exchange tradition. We were all old enough to buy what we needed, nobody liked gift shopping, and we all preferred eating & food to presents anyway. So we decided to just cook a big meal together, everyone being responsible for either a course or a couple dishes. We'd originally talked about contributing over-the-top dishes, but that fell by the wayside for various reasons, so we've used it as an opportunity to experiment on each other with new recipes & dishes. We picked Christmas to do this, since that was when everyone was usually in town. But we've also had it around Thanksgiving, and also other times throughout the year, depending on whenever we could get everyone together. We've also picked up "honourary cousins" - random friends - to participate.

I really like this idea. Especially the no presents part. We could use a no presents concept at birthday parties also. Or at least a maximum $ layout for said present.

Just went to a birthday party for a friend, for which the hostess would not even discuss the presents problem, and there must have been about 30 people present. The pile of gifts was what? embarrassing? horrendous? would have gifted a small country? I have no idea of the value spread of the gifts...the dinner went on so long that unfortunately we had to leave before the gifts were opened.
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#19 Jaymes

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 01:15 PM

Just went to a birthday party for a friend, for which the hostess would not even discuss the presents problem, and there must have been about 30 people present. The pile of gifts was what? embarrassing? horrendous? would have gifted a small country? I have no idea of the value spread of the gifts...the dinner went on so long that unfortunately we had to leave before the gifts were opened.


I've belonged to several "birthday clubs" for grownups at various locales where I've lived. I think the best one had about 20 or so members, most of them couples, but a few singles as well. We went out for dinner once every month during which a member had a birthday. The birthday boy or girl got to select the restaurant. If there was more than one birthday celebrant that month, they either drew straws to decide who got to pick, or they'd take turns, as in, "You got to pick last year." No presents were allowed, but funny cards were mandatory. The birthday boy/girl read the cards out loud, with much hooting and hollering and assorted other input from the peanut gallery. It was really great, great fun.

Another birthday club requested gag gifts for the celebrants, but it had to be cheap. That was so much fun, as well.

I haven't been to an adult birthday party in a very long while wherein the grownup birthday man/woman actually expected, or received, any gifts. Seems in pretty bad taste. Unless it's some sort of landmark birthday. We had quite a celebration when my dad turned 90. And everybody managed to come up with some sort of appropriate present, but they ran toward the sentimental - photo albums, favorite WWII music cd's - that sort of thing.

#20 Darienne

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 02:11 PM

This party was a 60th and not part of a club. I think the birthday girl was probably embarrassed by the fuss and pile of gifts. I had no idea the group invited was so large.

Your post put me in mind of a group I belonged to some years ago...the Laughing Ladies who Love to Lunch. The once a month luncheon...a Pot Luck...was always somebody's birthday and gifts were the order of the day: small, funny and inexpensive. Great laughter and ribbing. The not quite so funny part for me was that I was known as a chocoholic (which I am not) and so I received endless amounts of really dreadful chocolate dreck. And smiled sweetly. Lots of good memories.
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#21 teagal

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 03:59 PM

I agree with the others when they say just start and make it a tradition. I grew up having Christmas brunch, so as I started hosting Christmas with mostly my husband's family, I did brunch also to keep something from my family. A number of years I made dishes to reflect my ethnicity too-baklava to remind me of my father and brie for my mother. Years later I wanted to be more creative and don't incorporate them anymore. So, as with life, traditions can evolve and change.
I so agree with the post to do one large bash each year and pretty soon you'll be known for that. I do a pumpkin carving party with lots of homemade soup and fall desserts and have it down to a science. Over the years you realize what works and what doesn't. I'm always surprised at the people who look forward to it every year.
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#22 mskerr

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Posted 19 September 2012 - 10:04 PM

All these ideas are great and are getting the old brain wheels spinning for me... cheers, and keep them coming!

#23 tug

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 04:52 PM

It has occurred to my that while my family has always enjoyed a strong culinary presence .. I don't particularly have a significant dish as a celebration or landmark meal.  In fact, my husband and I were just discussing the English Sunday Roast and I have no tradition like that.

 

My daughter, on the other hand, has enjoyed an annual Beef Wellington for Christmas.  We have special meals when family comes over and Brooklyn Style Lasagna will always be one of her favorite birthday requests.

 

So my question is:  What was your family "traditional" meal for celebrations and holidays as you grew up AND is it the same for your life now (with or w/o children)?  DIscuss.


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