Food - what we are going to cook and what we are going to eat - is definitely part of my family's priorities.
After Easter dinner, I quickly packed up ham sandwiches and tucked Easter eggs in thermal lunch bags, each cooled with an ice pack. Armed with these Easter bags, each of our grown kids, including the daughter traveling three hours on a plane, went home.
In the matter of a weekend, we prepared a couple of my mother-in-law's recipes with her help, prepared a couple of new recipes, and made as many of the family favorites as we could possibly fit into breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. I even held a food demonstration with a captive audience - family - on stools and chairs around my kitchen counter. We colored Easter eggs, made an Easter bunny cake, and used the last frozen blueberries for muffins.
The meaning of food in our family truly is a way of expressing love, comfort, and memories just as Marcus Samuelsson says in the three-part series The Meaning of Food. The series is scheduled to air on PBS television stations (WGTE-TV, Channel 30, in Toledo and WBGU-TV, Channel 27, in Bowling Green) at 10 p.m. beginning Thursday and continuing April 14 and April 21. It features the award-winning chef of New York City's Aquavit and Riingo traveling across America breaking bread with Americans of all backgrounds.
In Episode One: Food and Life, the show goes behind the scenes with customs agents from JFK Airport to show the unusual foods people try to bring back from their homelands. It also features Brian Price, a former Texas convict who has prepared final meals for death-row convicts; Shatreen Masshour, a Muslim-American high school student and cheerleader who struggles to maintain her first Ramadan fast, and Bianca Steiner Brown, a Holocaust survivor who recalls the power that memories of food had for women in a Nazi concentration camp.
Chef Samuelsson says in Episode Two: Food and Culture that "America is called a melting pot, but I think it's more like a stew where individual flavors are still present yet create a whole." He was born in Ethiopia but was adopted and reared in Sweden and then became an acclaimed chef in New York City.
The second episode begins in South Carolina where unique Geechee heritage is explained with the cooking of rice. Then the program takes you to Neah Bay, Wash., where the Makah Indians return to their ancient tradition of hunting and eating whale, and to a large Czech community in south-central Texas where making kolache pastry is passed to each generation.
Episode Three: Food and Family features Hsiao-Ching Chou, a food writer for the Seattle Post-Inelligencer, who returns to the family restaurant in Missouri and shares bittersweet memories of seven-day workweeks. The Cruz family of San Benito, Texas, celebrates Christmas with a tamale-making marathon called a "tamalada.
Along the way, we see food traditions of a Bengali woman, an Italian wedding banquet, and Hawaiian poi making. As Mr. Samuelsson advises, "through food, bring comfort and hope to your family." The next time you sit down at table, ask, "What's my food culture? What's important to our family?"