Preserving Holiday Food Traditions

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show

This time of year, many of us are looking forward to holiday foods that mark both the season, and where out families came from. Larry Meiller learns how holiday food traditions have been transferred from Old World to new, and how we can be sure that those traditions are preserved for generations to come.

Featured in this Show

  • Preserving Ethnic Holiday Food Traditions

    Whether it’s a special cookie you wait all year for or a particular kind of meat dish or soup, the holidays are full of wonderful food traditions. And depending on someone’s ethnic background, those delicacies might be very different.

    Kathleen Ernst is an author, educator, and social historian. Her first job was at Old World Wisconsin, a living history museum in Eagle. There, she immersed herself in history and used it as an inspiration for her writing. She has written for youth and adults, as well as for television. She also teaches a variety of workshops, including how to preserve family food traditions.

    Many family traditions can be lost over the years without at least one family member taking on the task of collecting and preserving traditions and recipes. Ernst said that the first step is to take stock of what has been collected, and what might be in the hands of other family or community members.

    A person will also need to assess what is already recorded and what is just known. In the latter case, a person might need to interview people to capture what is currently just in their minds and memories.

    Ernst said that people don’t want to rely on one old and fragile copy. Scan or duplicate what they’re able to and take photos of the items that they can’t. She also suggested that we “clean, stabilize and store fragile pieces” using guidelines of professional archivists.

    It can be a daunting task to collect, organize and share a family holiday food traditions. Ernst said to assess what resources are available before beginning. That includes whether others are able to help, a budget for collecting and preserving items, and also, the time it will take to do it.

    It’s also a good idea to think about what end goal is, and who the audience will be, she said. That will help a person determine the scope of the project, and to decide what format will be best. For example, someone might want just text, or maybe they want to include images, too. And if they include photos, they will need to decide if they will be in color, black and white or a combination.

    Finally, will the collection actually be published, or will it exist digitally? Choosing to create a physical collection also means choosing between a high-end hardcover book, a smaller booklet, or even just a collection of recipe cards, she said.

    No matter what you do, or how you put it together, someone will know that those recipes and traditions have been preserved for generations to come.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Kathleen Ernst Guest