Its Thanksgiving, arguably one of the most family oriented holidays – certainly one where family and friends gather and share food, wine, stories and laughter around the table. At my house this year we had three generations cooking, singing, playing music, telling stories, laughing and eating and eating and eating – sharing food, family, history and future.
But this “bucolic” scene seems to be the anomaly as opposed to the norm in our society. Alice Waters says that 85% of American children don’t sit down to a family meal on a regular basis, a fact that I find frightening as well as personally disheartening. So much of culturalization comes from the lessons we learn around the table. Listening to the stories, hearing the laughter, children asking why why why – but throughout we learn to be social – perhaps learning manners, intellect, a sense of humor and a sense of shared history.
And what brings us all together at the table – food. The smells, flavors, memories, textures and colors – no matter the ethnicity, no matter the “palate” – around the kitchen and around the table is the aura of the flavors. For the most part we grew up (the authors and our contemporaries) eating meals with our families, sharing food and flavors, cherishing the memories. My recipe contribution to this book is my grandmother’s Matzo Cake, unbeknownst to me, its what my mother brought to Thanksgiving this year – and when we all starting eating it (its our favorite family dessert), we instantly started talking about my grandmother and then I told everyone I had included the recipe in the book – my Mom said that both my grandparent’s would have been so proud – but especially my grandfather. I can close my eyes and see my grandfather at the family table with an old-fashioned grinder – fastening it to the table – for his part of the Matzo Cake process – grinding all the nuts and chocolate and tasting the Manichvitz (wine) that was a part of the original recipe.
One of the challenges I’ve come to realize in today’s society, is that we’ve lost many of these cherished moments. We’ve grown a generation of children that believe that sharing a meal means driving by the golden arches – reaching into a white paper bag and trying not to mess up the car seats as the “food” is consumed to the smell of exhaust and the blare of whatever’s on the stereo. It’s sad to imagine what these types of lessons will form our children – and the lessons that they’ll go on to teach their own children in the years and decades to come. In fact we see some of the results of these lessons today, obesity among children has become a pandemic, literacy in many schools borders on horrifyingly low levels and our “fast food” culture continues to pollute the planet, our water and our food.
One of our hopes in writing this book is to share the stories of the 60 plus women cooks and chefs who shared their stories with us – for women have fed the planet for the past 10,000 years – as they continue to do today. These women, whose professions and lives are surrounded by foods, flavors and sharing around the table – have all been either touched by cooking with their mothers and or their children. We hope that their stories are a model for sharing and nuturing around food, around tables, around the relationships that life is built on – for our children and all mothers and children for generations to come.
We believe that through food, families, friends, laughter and stories around the table and around the hearth, that our future and the future of all families and even our planet for all eternity can and will be a better place. “Our planet was not given to us by our parents, but loaned to us by our children,” and perhaps through these stories you’ll be motivated to continue and or begin your own stories around the table that will be your children’s future.