Thursday, March 30, 2017

Renewing Once Enjoyed Traditions

Italian Still Life, 1981, Irving Penn

By Michel Harris, MS, RD, LDN, CDE

All through grammar and high schools, history was my least favorite subject. However, one piece of history I can never get enough of relates to my family. Of particular interest was my great-grandfather Sebastian, who immigrated to the United States from Italy as a teenager. He passed away before I was born, but he left behind a culinary footprint that was handed to my grandmother, then my mother, and me! One of his recipes, calzone, continues on as a Christmas tradition every year. Mind you, this is not the generic calzone sold in the frozen section of the grocery store or on the Americanized Italian restaurant menu. Think of a mixture of ground beef, green onions, chopped green olives, and slices of brick cheese, wrapped in a sheet-pan sized layer of dough on the top and bottom. We used to have a typical seafood dinner on Christmas Eve, and my grandmother would serve the calzone after midnight to start off Christmas Day. While the whole family cannot be together for logistical reasons, on Christmas, the calzone always gets made. Other memories of my great-grandfather have been shared by Great-Grandmother Rose, Grandmother Florence, and Great-Aunt Josephine.

My grandmother's recipe box also holds a lot of history. I never get tired of looking at each of the filed cards, even though nothing has changed since I first started reading recipes. The box is a plain wooden one with a hinged top and cards with tabs for each category. Each recipe in that box has special memories. There's the summer spaghetti recipe we always had at our annual barbecue in July. The numerous cookies that decorated the big silver platter every Christmas. And many others. Outside of the box, I can recall several rituals Grandma and I had on the weekends that were carried over from Great-Grandpa. Making homemade bread early in the morning, preparing for Saturday night family dinner, and mixing batter for any of the countless cookie recipes.

For many of my clients with eating disorders, food-related traditions are no longer enjoyed. The warm memories may be there, but they are over-ridden by thoughts of calories and how one bite can lead to a binge. At The Awakening Center, we are wrapping up our March theme of celebrating immigration stories. If you have any stories related to food, I challenge you to think about what they meant before the onset of your eating disorder. Just like the recovery process, enjoying these traditions again will probably be a slow, step-by-step journey. I consider it one of my responsibilities to carry on my great-grandfather's immigration story to my son. Wouldn't it be nice if your recovery plan included carrying on a culinary tradition from your family? Even better, partaking in these traditions without negative thoughts enhances this process!

Michel Harris a Registered and Licensed Dietitian and serves on the staff of The Awakening Center. She believes in the mindful approach to develop a peaceful relationship with food and exercise in the recovery process of eating disorders. To find out more or to set up an appointment with Michel, call 773.929.6262.

1 comment:

  1. When I was a child, one of my favorite foods was my mom's homemade macaroni & cheese! What a delightful dish - comforting and savory! She made up the recipe when she was a little girl, she was a latchkey kid way back in the 40's! When I was in the midst of my eating disorder, it was one of the many foods that were on the "forbidden bad foods" list. During my recovery I worked M&C back into my repertoire of legal foods again. Now it's again one of my favorite foods - I made it for my mom when she was in hospice - and I make it now in remembrance of her.