I never really thought my family of seven had a food culture. Then I looked at the calendar to see how we did through the year.
January 1: Pork, potatoes and sauerkraut for New Year’s Day. Pork for prosperity, potatoes because we are Irish, sauerkraut because it builds character . . . and fermented foods are good for you, says Michael Pollan. Gramma always said never to eat chicken on New Year’s because then you’ll scratch all year. Well, apparently somebody’s been sneaking out to KFC.
Mardi Gras: We go out to the Old Country Buffet, the Midwest’s version of socially acceptable gluttony. Our four teenagers and 8-year-old guarantee we get our money’s worth. And we are set for another Lent.
March 17 is always corned beef, cabbage and potatoes because we are Irish. Using the black iron skillet, Dad makes the best soda bread.
It’s Holy Week, and we are making those crossed praying-arms pretzels. Does that count as food culture?
Braided Easter bread with the colored eggs tucked in so beautifully. Our daughter Clare can make these with her eyes shut now. She sold 28 of them for a fundraiser to go to France this past summer. Then, Easter lamb from our friend Charlotte’s farm. Tasty and small, it reminds us that organically raised meat is precious. Finally, there is the lamb cake from our friend’s bake sale for her Polish parish.
Summer: Campfire s’mores on the beach with aunts Ellen and Jane. We bask in their sweet love for us as we savor delectable gooeyness.
Fall: Football chili for warming the cockles while watching the Fighting Irish.
A December full of feast days: clementines, candy canes and chocolate coins on St. Nick’s Day, and warm cinnamon rolls served by candlelight by a beaming youngest sister in white with a wreath around her head.
Homemade spaghetti sauce and meatballs and pasta on nearly every Sunday and some Thursdays and the occasional Tuesday . . . because we are Italian, too.
Felicia Leon-Driscoll ’86, ’89M.A. is co-founder and community relations director of Good Shepherd Montessori School in South Bend.