The holidays are nearly upon us. Do you have your tree trimmed? And the gifts – are they all wrapped? Then you are far ahead of me. A cold has me down for the count. Hubby and Kiddo have both promised to lend a hand to get our festivities back on track.
All this got me to thinking about the holidays and the gifts we exchange. A few years back, Hubby went out on a limb and gave me an Instant Pot. I thought no way – it’s trendy and will end up taking up valuable kitchen space. I was wrong. While the Instant Pot has made life easier in so many ways, it still requires “cooking” – recipes and a certain amount of skill in the kitchen. And from that gift family recipes are still the star attraction. Dad’s New Year’s Beans made with the ham saved from Christmas. Mom’s Fried Rice made faster and easier. Old family recipes with a modern twist.
Skills in the kitchen and family traditions are exactly what I want to talk about. Or more to the point, rant about. I’m sure you’ve all seen those Meal Kits out there. No need to learn the art of shopping. Family meals are but a click away. Just pick your preferences and all the ingredients are delivered in a box, complete with step by step instructions. I wasn’t sure how to react to this idea. I felt a little sad that people hadn’t learned to shop. But then I had a great childhood, complete with time in the kitchen with my parents teaching me life skills. I wish I could say my grandparents were there too, but that wasn’t the case. We lived far apart, so there was no off to Grandma’s house for us. That didn’t meant we didn’t have huge gatherings – with uncles and aunts and cousins galore. We really did have that Norman Rockwell life, just missing the grandparents.
While I wish my grandparents could have been a part of that extended family life, my family roots were there anyway, through recipes handed down from generation to generation. And in a tangible way with a rolling pin that is a true family treasure. My great-great grandfather whittled the rolling pin for his wife. She passed it down to her daughter, who passed it down until finally I received the rolling pin from my father. Considering it’s long history, rather than put the pin to good use and possible damage, I’ve hung it in my kitchen to watch over us and “channel” all that family energy down through the ages. I hope to pass the pin along some day and hope it is cherished for a long time to come.
So back to the box meals – you can see why the concept bothered me. The popularity of these modern conveniences meant that people didn’t have a connection of memories guide them. That we were loosing that ability to pass down recipes filled with love and form cherished memories with our children, who would in turn do the same. I decided I was being too judgmental. While my childhood was blessed, we couldn’t all have those memories to pass along. I convinced myself that the complete meals in a box were a good thing. The concept of cooking perfect meals from a box wasn’t terrible. Perhaps it was inspirational. These boxed meals could build confidence and might even bring families into the kitchen together. That the meals in a box would be a springboard for venturing out to learn more, experience more and create our own traditions.
But now I’m not so sure. There are new meals in a box out today. Unlike the original concept of ingredients that required actual chopping and following a recipe, utilizing your pots and pans, this new concept comes fully prepared in neat little containers with an oven that can scan the instruction card and before you know it, dinner is served. The only prep work, from what I can tell, would be to sprinkle some seasoning over the chef-crafted supper. No knives, no pots or pans. You won’t even need a plate, since you can eat right out of the containers the food arrived in. What memories are we passing along? I know – welcome to the future as we will gather round the food replicator. With the push of a button and the scan of a card, we each get exactly what we want!
Instant gratification. Instant satisfaction. Zero connection to our own past. Is that what we have become? Maybe I’m wrong, but I see this as another break down in the tapestry of traditions and sense of belonging that we once had. And it makes me sad.
So ask yourself as you decide which gifts belong under the tree – do you want to pass along memories, traditions and connections to all that makes you you? If so, I promise you, it doesn’t come in a box. It comes from the heart.