The food that we eat in this country is often representative of the cultural and ethnic diversity we have, especially in California. While we often mindlessly consume our food, consider, how often do we take time to examine and recognize the connection food has to our ancestry?
El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is a Mexican holiday that is celebrated on November 1st-2nd. It is a holiday celebrated all over the world, recognizing and honoring ancestors and deceased loved ones. It is the time of year when people create altars with pictures of loved ones, and the foods and material items they once loved and enjoyed.
I know that for some, the idea of honoring ancestors isn’t a preferred one. However, I personally believe that I am here today not because I magically appeared on earth, but due to the existence, sacrifice, and intention of my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents, and more. Without them, there would be no me, and because of this, and their continued spiritual presence, I believe they are more than worthy of remembrance.
As African Americans, although we are several generations removed from our ancestors who were forcibly brought to this land, we can still see the foundation of our African ancestors in our music, daily practices, style, strength, and food (of course!).
Honoring my ancestors is year-round for me, however this time of year more frequently brings up the memories of loved ones who are both living and deceased.
When I think about some of my family’s greatest moments, we were surrounded by each other, telling stories, playing games, and eating delicious food. But I can’t take credit as the only chef in my family. I’ve watched from an early age how my mother, father, grammy, great-aunt, and great-grandmother all created food that was influenced by culture, tradition and the influence of their parents and loved ones before them.
As you prepare for thanksgiving and other holidays, what are some of your family favorite food dishes that have been prepared generationally?
From a mental health standpoint, this is collectively one of the most difficult times of year for people due to grief and loneliness. I’ve had many clients have difficulty processing and managing their grief, and depression this time of year.
Here are two things to consider as you prepare for the holiday season;
How can I be inclusive of friends or family members who may be having a difficult time coping with death/loss or loneliness this time of year?
What dish or drink can I make that is in honor of a deceased loved one? (This one may require you to talk to other family members).
Next week I’ll share mine with you!
Ife is a Pasadena Native, currently working as a mental health therapist providing therapy to individuals, ages 17-elder adults. She works from a holistic perspective and is passionate about supporting people with their health through food, nutrition, and sound healing.