Once upon a time, man looked up to the sky and saw something in the movement of the heavenly bodies. He observed that the changing positions of the stars and the planets foretold the way he and his fellows did things on earth – the best time to plant, the right time to harvest. This, they say was the beginning of tradition. Soon, society gained structure and we called this civilization.
But as generations passed, populations grew faster. Suddenly, people wanted so many things and to accomplish so much with so little time. We began to lead “exciting” lives through the cellphone and the Internet. With everyone just a text message or Facebook away, there was not enough time to wait. Busy became sexy. Toxic became trendy. Life became complicated.
Time flew so fast we needed something to slow us down – to make us stop for a moment and just be. I know someone who cannot start his day right without reading the news while leisurely sipping his cup of coffee. I feel incomplete without my morning meditation. For some, the ritual could be a mid-day nap, or a long, hot shower before bedtime. We do these little things every day of our lives until each becomes our personal tradition.
More and more, we need tradition in our lives for several reasons. In times of uncertainty, traditions provide a dose of predictability and a sense of normalcy; a sense of order when life seems out of balance. Traditions keep us sane – they become our refuge from the chaotic world outside. In times of stress, traditions bring us comfort.
For us Filipinos with closely knit extended families and friends, we need traditions in order to belong. We need to become part of something that makes us feel safe. Every year, we look forward to birthdays, Christmas and the holidays. We celebrate childbirth, graduation, weddings, job promotions and milestones. We always find a good excuse to get together. When time stops and revolves around these moments, it makes us feel better about life.
“Traditions keep us sane – they become our refuge from the chaotic world outside, In times of stress, traditions bring us comfort”
For many of us, these gatherings are centered on eating together. Food has become a symbol of traditions. Fiesta lechon. Christmas ham, queso de bola, or fruit salad. Birthday spaghetti. Just like rice, pasta has found its way into many of life’s events – because to us, noodles and similar stuff signify long life!
Flavors tell us the time of day, like the smell of greasy garlic and fried rice at breakfast. Flavors represent an occasion, like the sweet aroma of barbecue on New Year’s Eve. Through the senses, traditions remind us where we are in our lives. And the things that we feast on in the midst of these events determine the kind of memories we like to keep – rich, savory, special. They satisfy the soul.
What about you? What is your personal tradition?
In the next post, I will write about a very special ingredient that follows its own unique tradition and how to best cook it with Clara Ole. Come back to find out what it is!
Until then, cherish the things that bring you comfort and joy!
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