Take this as a public service announcement: pass on your family food traditions now. Don't wait. I say this because my mother was this close
to giving away our family's long-held tradition of making apple butter
, including my great-grandmother's battered enamel pans, my grandmother's trusty food mill, and the family recipe itself. Her response when I squawked in protest: "I didn't think you were interested!"
The fault was really mine. I had just assumed that when my mother grew tired of hosting the annual apple butter production, she would pass on the tradition and its related equipment to either me or my brother. Just as my grandmother did in her day.
For my mother's part, she assumed that because neither my brother or I spoke up, we weren't interested. It was a classic case of all of us making our own assumptions and never talking about it with each other.
It's not so much that the recipe is secret or that I feel like this tradition has to stay in the family. It's that this is one of the few physical connections that I have with my family's history. It's that the smell of apple butter cooking always triggers feelings of warmth, love, and happy anticipation. And it's that I remember how much I yearned to be a part of this group of mothers, aunts, and grandmothers when I was too young to hold a knife, and how proud I was when I was finally handed one.
I never realized that my mother didn't know how much this meant to me. And I'm so glad that she knows now.
The moral of the story is that if you have a tradition like this in your family, don't wait for a young family member to speak up or for an older family member to ask you to take it on. Whichever side of the scenario you are on, start talking now.
Do you have a food tradition in your family?
Related: Homemade Sauerkraut: A Century-Old Family Tradition
(Images: Emma Christensen)