Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tradition and Technology

I started to title this blog entry “Tradition Vs. Technology,” but then I realized that it isn’t really a case of one against the other; it’s a case of combining the two. Let me back up a bit and explain.

Tomorrow, of course, is Thanksgiving Day. Since we are hosting dinner this year, this means that I get to make a full-scale, turkey-and-all-the-fixins dinner. This is not said with this slightest bit of sarcasm; I honestly love making Thanksgiving dinner, and I often wish we had a larger family to share it with. We have five adults and two kids for dinner and I’m thrilled to death that my sister-in-law and her family (who are usually out of town on Thanksgiving) will be joining us for dessert, for a total of 11 people.

I’m just old-fashioned enough that feeding people a fresh, home-cooked meal satisfies my desire to be hospitable. I made a pumpkin pie from the recipe my mom and grandmother used to use. I cut in the Crisco with a pair of butter knives, just like they used to, and just like my mom taught me when I still needed a stepstool to reach the kitchen table. The dishes on the menu are exactly the same dishes that my mom made for Thanksgiving dinner throughout my childhood: turkey, real mashed potatoes, gravy from a powdered mix, squash with butter and brown sugar melted into it, a giant bowl of green peas with a big pat of butter melting on top, creamed onions in a simple white sauce, bread stuffing made from the family’s recipe.

But I’m not too old-fashioned to take advantage of some modern technology to make my life easier. I made the onions in advance and will be warming them up in the microwave. Instead of squinting to read recipes written by hand on index cards now splattered with turkey grease and squash, I read them from my Kindle Fire. I kept my kids busy and out of my hair while I cooked by putting a Disney movie in the DVD player. My mom kept lists of her annual menu along with cooking notes in a faded wire-bound notebook; I keep mine on my computer.

And I love the way tradition and technology work together. By saving family recipes on my computer and my Kindle Fire, I am preserving my family traditions for my children and my children’s children. They might not have the experience of cooking a meal from recipe cards stained with physical evidence of Thanksgivings past, but they will have the experience of enjoying the same meal that their forebears did. The more that technology worms its way into every facet of our lives, the more important it is to find ways to use that technology to preserve history, both general history and our own personal histories. My children may not have had the opportunity to know my mother personally, but they do have the opportunity to know her through the legacy that she has passed along through her recipes, her traditions, and her hospitality. And I can’t wait until I can teach both of them how to make pie crust by cutting in the Crisco using two butter knives.

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