Food is Family History

December 11, 2014  - by 

My husband is Australian. His family is still in Australia, but he’s lived in the States for 25 years. We visit Oz every second year, but we also do everything possible to keep that natural “Australianness” very much alive in our family everyday. And food is a primary connector to loved ones unseen.

Special occasions find us dining on lamb chops and chewy, creamy pavlova topped with passion fruit. Hot weather means stubbies of Bundaberg ginger beer and fish and chips wrapped in newsprint; cold weather means hand-held meat pies piped with mashed potatoes. Certainly, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without ham sandwiches, custard and honeycomb candy, and we love knowing that our dear family on the other side of the world is enjoying the very same delights.

Food is a perfect way to connect to your culture and heritage – your ancestral homeland – and, because food provides such powerful memories, it seems to be part of some sort of genetic memory, as well. (If your father loved Vegemite, perhaps you’re more likely to. It’s literally in your blood!)

Perhaps you recall your grandmother’s fluffy yeast rolls on the Sundays of your childhood, or can still taste the soft, giving sweetness of your Aunt Maudie’s graham and marshmallow slices. Maybe you’d pay real money for a handwritten copy of your mother’s artichoke soup recipe, or are thrilled to have been long ago entrusted with the secret ingredient in your dad’s chili.

Food is memory and comfort. It’s personal. Food is identity.

If you’re in possession of beloved or long-forgotten family recipes, I encourage you to make good use of them this holiday season. Don’t let them be lost forever; keep them alive and every bit as current as they ever were by making them a part of your modern celebrations. And if you’re at a loss for the holiday foods of your cultural heritage and homeland, do a quick search online and make it happen in your own kitchen, for your own people past and present.

Their foods are your foods, because you are part of them as surely as they are part of you. Fill your home with the smells of Christmas – because food is family history.


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  1. You Betcha we will be having our traditional Christmas Dinner on the banks of our Mighty Murray River where our property ends. Ginger Beer won’t be on the agenda, there will be the other Aussie beers though. There will be the roasts of ie; Duck, Pork, Beef, Chicken plus cold meats of proper cured Ham etc; for those that don’t want the hot meal, all this starts preparation the day before in very large 44gallon drums cut to size so that it all cooks to perfection.On the day we usually have around a hundred people turn up through the course of the day for lunch and the evening meal.
    Yes Christmas in our family is the day of all days for the whole family and we never invite because we just know that there will be a lot of family will turn up.
    But there is one thing that we have always stipulated “no prezzies” cards yes.Hopefully this year will be no different than the last. We will enjoy our social Christmas gathering as always.Greetings from Down Under.

  2. Oh Boy – that food sounds soooo good!! As a Kiwi we too enjoy the same foods and although I have been living here in the USA now for almost 25 years, I still yearn for the “taste of home”. My family and friends send me “goodies” and I love to make a roast lamb dinner with mint sauce, roasted potatoes, peas and carrots…. and then the Pavlova for dessert – OH my mouth is watering just thinking about it… Thank you for sharing your memories.

    1. Hi Rodney,

      We’ve tried many (many!) recipes over the years, but the best we’ve found here in the States was actually shared with the Martha Stewart website by Australian actor Geoffrey Rush. It’s been our go-to recipe for many years now. Never fails. Good luck!

  3. I have lived away from Australia since 1966.
    Only recently I have found someone who also lived in Aus. And we have had Australia Day meals of Sausage rolls, hot pies, salad and Lamingtons or Pavlova. Would love to have pressed beef tongue like mum used to make. Mum also made a boiled Christmas pudding with threepences and sixpences in it with hot runny custard. The coins and my mum are long gone but the memories remain. Yes foods I knew are memories I treasure. On a trip to Australia my children became addicted to Lamingtons -not a bad way to go really!