Food Traditions: Pierogis, Kolachis, and Front-Yard Barbeques

“See, okay, the thing is, you better know that in this country nobody eats in the front yard. Really. Nobody” –Diana Abu-Jaber, “A House and a Yard”


Food traditions surround every culture. Whether this means barbequing in your front yard to the dismay of your neighbors, like Diana Abu-Jaber explains in “A House and a Yard,” or gathering around the table for turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving, or cracking crawfish with your hands at a backyard crawfish boil, we all grew up with our own sense of “normal” when it comes to food. As explained in “A House and a Yard,” Abu-Jaber felt ashamed of her traditional Middle Eastern fare when she realized that it wasn’t the norm in her American suburb. Her family’s grilled meats, tabbouleh salad, and skewers of veggies weren’t typical American cuisine, which thus segregated her family from the rest of the neighborhood and caused her great distress.

Have you ever had a moment where you realized what you thought was so normal and traditional, in fact, wasn’t? Maybe you haven’t barbequed in your front yard like Abu-Jaber, but I can guarantee you have had at least a split second when your sense of culinary normalcy was shattered. Continue reading

A Taste of Nostalgia

IMG_8343Audre Lorde, in her excerpt “Spices” from her titled work Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, recreates the sense of child-like wonder of watching and helping her mother work in the kitchen through her now nostalgic, adult eyes.  This is a retrospective activity we participate in over and over again throughout our mature lives, knowing that, as Lorde so indisputably put it, “Whatever came from home was bound to be special.”

Lorde’s focus in her memory of the processes her mother used while in the kitchen instead of simply looking at the food.  I think that’s part of the reason why I connected so closely to her writing.  The actions around the food make the memory.

A memory I often have is one of watching my mother bake peanut butter chocolate chip cookies in our kitchen, and then later on, when she was certain I wouldn’t burn myself on the stove (though I proved her wrong many times), taking over the household bakery.

It’s a sweet flashback, and one that speaks out to Lorde’s reminiscence to her and her mother’s time in the kitchen together.  It’s a memory I go back to when I feel like I’ve lost myself in the mess of trying to become a fully functioning adult.

My memory always begins with the end of the first batch of cookies… Continue reading

Boorish Bread

“He’s the best at what he does, after all. The finest bread I’ve ever had. And the most expensive: in human cost, aggravation, and worry. Hiring Adam Real-Last-Name-Unknown was always a trade-off—with God or Satan, I don’t know—but it was usually worth it. Bread is the staff of life. And Adam, the unlikely source” (242).

Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

Boorish Bread

If you could eat one food for the rest of your life and nothing else, what would it be? Your grandmother’s roast beef and gravy? Your mother’s meatloaf? Greasy pepperoni pizza from that pizza joint down the street that stays open until 2 a.m.?

If I had to choose, I would choose bread. But not just any bread. The heavenly, doughy goodness that is Texas Roadhouse rolls. Continue reading

Nana Never Says No Cake


Nana Never Says No Cake

I am one of the few fortunate children that get to live fifteen minutes from their grandparents. The distance was perfect: too far to walk by myself, but close enough I could go every weekend. My grandfather was a special man, but my grandmother is my Nana. A short woman, not more than 5” 1’, she is perfectly huggable. She is a beautiful, kind, stubborn woman that can make anyone do anything she wants by simply asking. Her favorite vacation is the guilt trip, and she has been in retirement for 40 years. Nana has been seemingly preserved in time—with the exception of a few smile lines and about ten grey hairs, she never aged a day over 57. The only hint of her age, a number I am sure to never know for certain, is in her eyes; their deep chocolate glow seems to only grow stronger with every great- grandchild. She lives in a very small house that her father built in a quickly dilapidating town with no stoplights. A twenty-four-hour chicken-processing plant took residence at the end of the adjacent street, but despite the shape of the community, Nana loves her little house. Frankford, Delaware is her town and she isn’t going to let it go without a fight. To this day she sits in the same pew she sat in with her parents as a little girl. Needless to say, Nana is a woman of habit and tradition. Continue reading