My family was not rich, nor was it poor (at least in my judgment). Our traditional Christmas Eve Feast came from my mother’s side of the family. They grew up with even less money than I did and had far more mouths to feed (I have one sibling but my mother’s generation included 5 to 6 depending on whether or not their cousin was living with them at the time). Instead of sitting down to an extravagant feast of ham and turkey with all the trimmings and red and green colored linens around a table where nobody spoke because they were simply overwhelmed with the feast before them, we took a simpler route.
We ate grilled cheese sandwiches of white bread, butter and American cheese along side a bowl of canned tomato soup which was sometimes made with water and sometimes made with milk. We spoke of the day, wondered in excitement about whether or not all of our dreams would be answered with the magical appearance of wrapped boxes the next morning, and we most of all enjoyed each other’s company.
Don’t get me wrong, I have WONDERFUL memories of our Thanksgiving feasts which are most definitely extravagant and allowed our entire extended family to come together over a meal. But for me, the grilled cheese and tomato soup meal with just my immediate family is the place I go to in my memories that brings me the most joy and comfort. In my adulthood I have gladly swapped out recipes (substituting more complex, and dare I say REAL, cheeses and homemade bread and tomato soup) but I would never swap out those memories of our simple family gathering around a meal made with joy and love.
My Aunts and uncles enjoyed this same meal with their family and the generation after me shall share this same experience. It’s funny how something as simple as a traditional meal can effect you emotionally; and don’t tell anybody, but whenever I feel down I can still be found reaching for the canned tomato soup.
This post was submitted by Stephanie McDaniel, via the “Share a Recipe, Tradition or Memory” prompt on the right hand side of this blog.