Traditional Family Values

This morning I was reading an opinion piece by a woman who had decided to stop cooking the traditional family supper. I enjoyed the article and smiled at some of the writers comments. It was amusing and showed a small window into her home life with her two sons. I was stunned by the comment section following the article. The verbal attacks on this woman were simply mean. Even the comments which were meant to be humorous fell short as the words were razor sharp. One person went so far as to accuse the writer of destroying traditional family values. There was a brief author synopsis following the opinion piece which informed us the writer lived with her sons. Yet another commenter quite insanely wondered why the father wasn’t pulling his weight in the kitchen. I must admit I felt sad for this writer. So many mean people. Quite a few called it fluff and another was offended that we pay billions to keep the CBC afloat and this garbage was the result of our hard earned money. I found myself questioning why people read opinion pieces if they are offended by the opinions. It is one section of every paper or news outlet. Read something else. I once had a teacher friend tell me she encouraged her elementary school students to have opinions… as long as they could back these opinions up with facts. I smiled politely so that I didn’t tell her exactly what I thought. This teacher obviously does not know the meaning of the word opinion.

When we look back through history there is change, change and more change. As my oldest daughter is fond of saying, the only thing consistent about me is my inconsistency. So too with time. With the passing of time comes change. It has always been this way and will continue to be this way forever. Change is inevitable. Okay. Enough with the clichés. I think you get the point. When we talk about traditional family values it is difficult to define. A dictionary will describe family values as cultural values. The core rules that are shared and taught. Accepted. Usually passed down from generation to generation. And yet all families are different. They come from different backgrounds, countries and religions. They all have values of some sort I would imagine so how do we come up with a list of “traditional” family values. Especially in a country whose entire population is based on immigration. How does a single Mom who doesn’t feel like making an evening meal for her kids destroy traditional family values. We often read about Canadian values or traditions when the subject of immigrants or refugees comes up. Again what is traditional? And why do we all have to follow the same traditions in order to be a unified society. It doesn’t make sense. It hurts my head.

When I was a child I lived in numerous small southern Alberta towns. Each one had a Chinese restaurant. Vulcan had three but we had our favourite. It was such a treat to eat in a restaurant when we were kids. The advertisement always made mention of Chinese and western cuisine. I loved the old menus. The Chinese writing with the English translations. After my Mom passed away I found an old menu from the Stavely Hotel. Two pages and cheap, cheap, cheap. There were sandwiches, soup, simple drinks and desserts. Two hot meals. When we went to Calgary, we always stopped for supper at Linda Mae’s, a restaurant in China town that was on the corner of centre street and first avenue southwest. My brother always had an order of deep fried prawns and I had a hamburger deluxe. In those days that meant a hamburger with French fries. There was a small bowl with toasted sesame seeds served with a bowl of soy sauce. We dipped our forks into the soy sauce and then the seeds. Yummy. It was so exotic and different and exciting. In the 1990’s I worked for Suncor which was situated in Sun Life Plaza. On the north side of the building on the main floor there was a Timothy’s coffee shop. It was located directly across from the spot where Linda Mae’s once stood. I mentioned it to the owner of the coffee shop one day while we were ordering our drinks. She laughed. Her grandparents owned the restaurant and her memories were far different from mine. She saw the hard work and long hours that went into raising her family. Her parents were raised working and living in the restaurant. There were no family dinners where everyone chatted about their days. In the end we did have a common bond though . Immigrant families. Someone came to this wonderful place and years later our lives were easier because of their decisions.

Today, because of immigration, I am hard pressed to have a favourite type of food. I love Vietnamese dishes. Greek food is high on my list of loves as well. My son introduced me to Lebanese foods when he was a teen. Pasta or Italian food as always been a standby but today I am more apt to cook Italian at home. I like the way I make some foods. I am not willing to risk ordering risotto in a restaurant since I love my own version. I love food and I am not particularly fussy so I love to eat out. I still crave Chinese food quite often and it always brings me back to my childhood. A favourite from our past is the Mongolie Grill. I often associate foods with people. Mexican food reminds me of Suzie. Chips and salsa with beer brings to mind my chum Dawn. I can’t leave a farmers market without buying some samosa’s. My second job after university was next to a small indian café. It was also where I first experienced a food truck. The Calgary Stampede has me searching for the BBQ trucks. A cup of beans with pulled pork and coleslaw. Pure heaven. I love the fact that Sushi is so available now. Perogies are a comfort food for me and at the Folk Fest I had them with a Greek twist. Topped with Feta cheese, diced tomatoes, cucumber and olives. Oh my goodness. How will I ever go back to bacon and onions. At home my meals are quite often vegetarian in nature although I love spice and flavour and texture and experimenting. How boring my life would be without immigration and the diverse culture and foods that make up my country. Immigrants do what they can to earn a living and often cooking is the most natural and obvious choice. Our own lives are richer because of it. At least mine is.

Food and family go hand in hand. I think we can all agree. Interestingly enough, most people don’t know about poor people food. Not traditional Canadian poor people food like Kraft dinner and wieners. I am talking about the foods each culture uses to fill up their families tummies when there isn’t enough food to go around. Filler food. Cheap, easy and in great abundance. The Italians have Pasta. Perogies from Poland and the Ukraine. Scottish haggis. Anything potatoe from Ireland. Asians and rice. I think it is amusing that what started as filler food has become snobby food. We eat pickled herring like it is manna from heaven although it started as a way of preserving food for winter. My favourite Danish food is a dark rye bread with a liver pate. Not fancy goose liver. Pork liver ground together with fat and onion and spices. Cooked low and slow in a water bath. Truly my favourite food ever. Made from whatever is left over from a pig. Crazy. The Danish meatballs I make have more flour, onion, eggs and milk than meat. Makes them go further but I couldn’t imagine them any other way. What makes these foods special is the passing down through the generations. Learning from Mom or Grandma.

I guess when I think of the word traditional I recall my own life and upbringing. It isn’t a Canadian thing, it is a Kjeld and Ditte thing. Mom and Dad. Choosing to forego the traditional family evening meal isn’t a sin worthy of online abuse. It is the opinion of a Mom to chose a different way. One that works for her and her family. As another person commented on the article, this was not news so why was it even published? I guess the CBC realizes some of us are tired of real life news. Sad, disheartening and angry stories. Sometimes, just sometimes when we listen to another persons opinion we see another side of life. These days when you put yourself out there online, you run the risk of being abused. I have learned there are some angry people sitting at keyboards all around the world. Perhaps if they spent more time preparing traditional family meals they could help preserve our traditional Canadian values. Only then perhaps all of our lives be better.

PS. You know that last part was sarcasm right?

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