Tradition, even those involving food, eluded my family of origin. Our religious community shunned rituals, holidays and feast days. My family abandoned the most benign practices—although their absence may be best explained by busyness rather than piety. One notable exception, limiting food consumption to instances wherein no more than two of five family members occupied the same room, became a de facto tradition.
As tradition in the “traditional” sense infrequently occurred but repetition and food abounded, I always ate cereal for afternoon snack, and I “cooked” off-brand Spaghetti-O’s or mac & cheese on Tuesday and Thursday nights for dinner. My father would make hot dogs most of the Saturdays in my youth. He boiled them and dose them with mustard and relish. But why? I guess if tradition is merely repetition, then we had one. But when does repeating happenstance become tradition instead of a mindless, default behavior?
I hold, at best, an indifference towards hot dogs. But I have similar random repetitions, like cooking eggs on Sunday morning. Omelets, scrambled, poached all make an appearance. But most often I fry them over-easy. The origin to this tradition falls back to my previous life as a bachelor. After I married, I added two more eggs—presto, breakfast for two. Or so I thought.
I would make them when I woke up. But the eggs would get cold in the latency between my early morning clock to her leisurely morning routine. Cold fried eggs do not go over well, nor do simple eggs satisfy her breakfast requirements. She needed coffee to wake from the slumber, and she asked for a carbohydrate. So the meals elaborated slightly.
I began the practice of waiting five minutes before her expected wake time to cook (quite the sacrifice) so that we ate at the same time. We started having conversations and at first they were more like me trying to interpret incoherent mumbles. But across several attempts, we opened up about our hopes, dreams and relationship. The Sunday morning eggs became a shared time as a couple.
Now we practice this meal on a weekly loop as a ritual. Breakfast on Sunday has become increasingly meaningful to us. This arguably is a start of a tradition, which emerged from my past and transformed into something bigger.
Comparing Sunday Breakfast (now capitalized for tradition sake) to other “traditional feasts” illuminates the humanness and humility of other holiday origins. Lincoln established a National Day of Thanksgiving for communal day of “solemnly, reverently and gratefully” expressing the “blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” This declaration sought to inspire hope in the midst of an escalating civil war after the Gettysburg address. Across time, Thanksgiving Day evolved into an elaborate celebration marking the second beginning of the larger holiday season (well, until Starbucks started distributing its Holiday Cups in early November.)
With repetition new elements become meaningful and come with expectations. Thanksgiving 1.0 staring the Wampanoag and the Anglo-European Immigrants menu likely featured pumpkin and a type of fowl. Turkey may not have been the bird in question, however. In 2015, unless you are a vegetarian, an absence of turkey at Thanksgiving violates every form of human decency.
Personal preferences can also become “traditions.” Once I attended a thanksgiving meal without sage cornbread stuffing. Sure, a carbohydrate saturated filling made of white bread inhabited the bird, but this blasphemous concoction was not “stuffing.” I had to make a batch of “real stuffing” later at home before it felt like Thanksgiving.
From a rational perspective, nothing inherent to Thanksgiving requires cornbread stuffing or turkey. But from my frame of experience, those items must be on the table for Thanksgiving to occur. The memory of the experience guides the expectations for how the feast may be held and felt. Arbitrary things become essential in order for the experience to feel like tradition.
Through repetition and time a mere happenstance may become a tradition. Perhaps, over time, Sunday Breakfast will require Smoked Salmon Crème Fraîche Tart or a Scrambled Eggs With Truffles in order for it to feel like Sunday Breakfast. For right now, a couple fried eggs and an amazing conversation partner makes Sunday Breakfast my family tradition.
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp of coconut oil
- Heat pan to medium setting.
- Put oil in pan.
- Wait until oil is sizzling.
- Gingerly crack egg into pan.
- Wait to flip until edges of whites begin to separate from pan (convex).
- Flip quickly.
- Wait about two seconds and take off pan.
- Boom. Fried eggs explained.
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