We were a traditional family—mom, dad, two kids, an ever-changing bevy of pets in a small house in the suburbs—but we were not a tradition family. Not really, anyway. Sure, we did ordinary things. We had turkey on Thanksgiving. Our First Communions, and later, Confirmations merited a family party and a half sheet cake. For a few years we returned to the same Delaware Beach in August, just an average family unaccustomed to closeness, crammed into a Subaru wagon.
Tradition is a big word. It conjures images of austerity and important things like rituals, ceremonies, and legacies. That may be true for some. Given my perspective, one without family heirlooms laden with meaning, or time-honored rites of passage, I see tradition a bit more simply.
I have come to think of tradition as a bridge from the old to the new. More importantly, tradition doesn’t have to look or feel the same to everyone.
When we grow up without something, it’s not unusual to find ourselves drawn toward it. I remain incessantly curious about familial dynamics and connections, and in the stories, secrets, practices, and recipes of others.
Prompted by the turn of the season, we dedicate this issue to the theme of Tradition, where we look closely at the connectivity of past and present, and the customs that reside at the intersection of food, family, and culture.
After attending Cleveland’s Dia de Muertos celebration last year, I became interested in the Mexican bread known as pan de muerto and how it provides sustenance to both the living and the dead. Writing this story reignited my own interest in the bridge between our temporal and spiritual lives and the religious traditions of my youth.
Families look and feel different nowadays, and so do the gatherings around holiday meals. There is truth in the saying “Friends are the family you choose.” Our In Season department features some “must-have” Thanksgiving recipes, including the cranberries, homemade gravy, and Jell-O, from Edible Cleveland food stylist Melissa McClelland’s friends and contributors.
And speaking of continuing traditions, we’re so pleased that Debbi Snook, a Plain Dealer writer for more than 20 years, has joined the Edible family of contributors. Debbi’s unfiltered telling of Lindsey Mayerfeld’s sought-after kosher poultry shows us a process that blends modern ingenuity, timeless values, and religious doctrine. It is a reminder that our food deserves some measure of sanctity because it is most certainly not without sacrifice.
As I get older, and presumably a little wiser, I notice myself thinking more about traditions—the role they play and the practices and connections that give them their weight. I appreciate that we arrive from very different places with histories and traditions that are different, beautiful, and maybe even confusing, but that is what makes this life so interesting, don’t you think?
Lisa Sands, Publisher