“Why?” I was asked this several times over the last several days. It was like they didn’t believe I had thought things through. And, I didn’t think I should have to explain myself. They did and persisted.
“Why are we using these ‘real’ plates?” I bought two 4-piece table settings in the after Christmas sales last year. I thought they would be festive. I liked them. And, contrary to many of the past 13 years experiences, I had the energy to entertain, cooking from scratch. I wanted the table to look as energetic and festive as I was trying to feel. I even told them I would do the dishes, if no one else wanted to (the normal “rule” in our house is: The cook doesn’t clean). “Doing the dishes” in our house means hand-washing everything; we do not have a dishwashing machine.
So, I understand that they may consider washing the dishes an arduous activity that interferes with socializing and/or “toy” playing, but without being asked to, my college-aged son, home for the holidays, got up as we finished eating, started clearing the table, ran water into the sink, and started doing the dishes. As the drainer became full, my daughter got up and started to dry and put away the dishes, pans, silverware, etc.
“Why are you making all these ‘extra’ food things?” They are right. We don’t need them. I wanted them, and I had a good reason, too. These food items, these “extra” food things were important to me. They brought back some of the happy childhood memories. And they had been the Tradition, the special once or twice a year treats. Ethnic treats, one of which I have not made in a long time because it was normally my sister’s contribution to the meal. She was unable to come this year . . . so I made the Spanakopita (Spinach Pie).
My normal contribution to the family get-togethers comes in the form of dessert. I used to make the pies – apple, cherry, pumpkin – but I taught my daughter well and she makes them now (by the way, did I mention she makes the crust dough from scratch, using a very good, no problem recipe that’s been handed down in our family). So, another dessert I usually make is Baklava. It was not the humongous pans of Christmases past, but it was enough to give everyone a taste of the tradition.
We usually have some kind of green salad with the meal, but my mom and/or dad would usually make a Greek salad with the feta cheese, peppers, and Kalamata olives. This year it was not convenient for my mom or dad to take on this task, with one living in a small apartment and the other watching us from heaven. So the generation of the grandchildren made the salad, with the feta cheese, peppers, and Kalamata olives. It was a way for them to feel connected to their grandparents.
That kind of sums up my answers to the “Why?” questions. It helps me feel connected to the people in my past that are no longer with us. Those loved-ones from my dad’s generation, the first-generation Greek Americans, are slowly but steadily leaving us with only our memories, traditions and a few heirlooms to mark their existence. So, why? So I can be connected to my heritage and my ancestors, so I can keep my memories alive, and so I can pass down to my children at least a little bit of the rich qualities of their heritage.