What is it about food that gathers people together? What is it about coming together around the table that causes family dinners and parties and traditions to live on in our memory even longer and fonder?
When I was four years old and my sister six, we started a tradition with our mom, which has continued every year since. Every spring, right before Easter, we “bake bunnies with our honeys.” My mom found the recipe in a 1992 Good Housekeeping magazine, thought it was cute, and the rest is history. I still remember those first few years; the sun shining outside the kitchen window, the new blooms on the trees and flowers peeking out of the ground; the warm sun rays fighting the winter chill still clinging to the air. It was a bit chilly but we had the windows open anyway. After all, spring was in the air! As the breeze blew in, chilling our skinny little legs, we carefully measured ingredients, sprinkled the flour on the countertop, and rolled the spiced dough into little shapes which, once assembled, baked, and iced, would form sweet, warm bunny rabbit rolls.
Fast forward 29 years… We are still making those bunnies, but two new members have joined the tradition. My sister’s daughters have taken up the mixing spoons and joined baking bunnies with our honeys. Seeing these two girls’ excitement and childish wonder sparks my own memories and reignites my enthusiasm for this special time spent with my family.
Baking bunnies with my honeys is one of many traditions that tie my family together, but there seems to be something about food that strengthens the bond and memory retention even more.
While studying in Germany in 2011, our classes had a pitch in one day. We were asked to bring a dish from our home country to the dormitory lawn one Saturday, and any culturally-tied games or music as well as an afternoon of getting to know one another. This wasn’t exactly easy for an American… most of my favorite foods could be traced back to a different country, and I honestly don’t even remember what I cooked. I do remember the other foods though, especially the smells, as they simmered, baked, and fried around me in the dorm’s communal kitchen.
It was nearing time for the party to begin and I remember seeing Lema, a fellow student from Charsadda in Pakistan, walk into the kitchen, supplies in hand, and begin cooking preparations. “Lema!” I remember saying, “It’s almost time, and you’re just now starting?” Lema looked at me, confused “Yes… it begins at 17:00.” (5 pm) “I guess I am starting a little early.” Food and time had a different cultural meaning for Lema. More students would arrive at various times as well, depending on their own cultural understanding of time. That was one of many cultural differences I would learn that day. Students arrived with food from Pakistan, Venezuela, Italy, Poland, South Africa – all came together into a fragrant and beautiful collage of colors and flavors. Others brought objects used for playing sports I’d never seen nor heard of, and some donned fascinating musical instruments which made the strangest and most beautiful sounds. The diversity and variety of all these offerings were something to be enjoyed and celebrated. But at the center of all of this… was food.
These stories of friends and family coming together around food pepper my memory and speak to my interests, my values, and even my identity. There is something to be said for the power and timelessness of breaking bread together. EVPL’s Community Recipes & Stories BiblioBoard collection seeks to share those stories and recipes with the community and celebrate the different ways we come together and connect through food. There is so much we can learn from each others’ stories. How does food build community? How do our traditions with food relate to our health? How does food break down barriers and overcome stereotypes? How do our environments affect accessibility to and our relationship with food? This collection seeks to explore these questions and more. So let us break bread together, albeit virtually, and share our stories and recipes with one another throughout our community.
When not inquiring, Posey County native Katie Reineke loves spending time outdoors and in her home in New Harmony. She loves hiking, biking, kickboxing, and singing, but also loves to relax with a coffee and a good book.
200 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
Evansville, Indiana 47713