We live in an era when busyness is glorified and time is short. Long commutes and the pressure to get more done every day means modern families spend less quality time together than ever before at great cost.
Family traditions and rituals, especially those surrounding food, cultivate a sense of belonging, pride and security, which is especially important for children. Kids need to feel that they belong and one of the best ways to give them roots is by connecting regularly as a family.
By definition, a ritual is an event that is performed regularly. The point is to connect, have fun and make great memories on a regular basis. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you do have to turn off all phones and other devices. And of course, these ideas are not only for families. Couples and groups of friends can also adopt them to ensure they touch base in a meaningful way regularly. A monthly girls’ dinner, for example, is a classic ritual that many of us rely on for our sanity!
We’ve got some great ideas to help you develop your own unique family rituals:
Have an on-the-couch movie night once a week or month and make it special. Give everyone a chance to choose a movie and get some special goodies to eat and drink, such as hot chocolate or everyone’s favourite baked treat. Here’s a delicious, easy-to-make, salty-sweet popcorn recipe from Kate Doran’s book,Homemade Memories, that the whole family will love.
Salty Sweet Popcorn
Ingredients for one large bowlful:
2 tbsp groundnut or coconut oil
150g popcorn maize kernels
3 tbsp caster sugar
generous pinch of salt
In a large saucepan, combine the oil and a pinch of kernels (about 5). Cover with a lid and warm over a medium-high heat. When the kernels pop, add the remaining corn, cover with a lid and shake once or twice to cover in oil.
Cook for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pot every 30 seconds or so to prevent sticking or burning. A few kernels will pop at first, then the rest will follow in a noisy flurry. After about 1 minute, remove from the heat and shake again: the residual heat should pop the remaining kernels. You’ll know the popcorn is done when you no longer hear popping.
Pour the popped corn into a large bowl. Return the pan to a low heat, discarding any unpopped kernels, and add the butter. Allow to melt, then when the butter begins to brown pour it over the popcorn. Sprinkle over the sugar and salt, then toss with your hands until evenly coated.
Taste, adding a little more sugar and salt if necessary, then toss again. The popcorn is best eaten on the day of making, straight out of the bowl.
I have a friend who is a successful, busy businesswoman and a single mum to two girls. No matter how busy she is, the three of them eat together every night and even if it’s just a simple meal of scrambled eggs on toast, they share their best and worst moments of the day.
This ritual doesn’t take long, but it gives the family insight into each other’s pleasures and challenges. Visitors to the family table are also encouraged to share their ups and downs. This is a wonderfully relaxed way to keep in touch with what your kids are going through. It encourages dialogue and creative problem-solving as a family and kids don’t feel like they’re being “grilled”. Kids need to feel that they belong and one of the best ways to give them roots is by connecting regularly as a family
Not every family can eat together every night, which makes enjoying a family lunch on the weekend an important tradition. Yuppiechef.com recently introduced a Share Sunday Lunch campaign to encourage the connection of families and friends over food.
Jamie Munro, Yuppiechef Marketing Manager, says: “We recognise Sunday lunch as an occasion that encompasses everything we stand for: taking the time out to have meaningful, undistracted conversations with the people you care about. Unfortunately, amid the ways of modern living, this occasion seems to have become an endangered one. We want to bring back the tradition of Sunday lunch.
“The main thing to realise is that it doesn’t have to mean slaving away in the kitchen all day. It can be beans on toast if that’s what you like. The main thing is that you’re taking time out to spend with your friends and family,” says Munro.
If you love this idea as much as we do, you might like to try out 20 favourite Sunday lunch dishes, courtesy of yuppiechief.com And for pudding, here’s a delicious dessert from Katie Doran’s Homemade Memories.
Butterscotch Devil’s Delight
Ingredients for four
45g butter, cubed
150g dark muscovado sugar
3/4 tsp flaky sea salt
450ml double cream
3 tbsp cornflour
350ml milk seeds of a vanilla pod/5ml vanilla essence
1-2 tbsp whisky (optional)
handful of chocolate shavings
In a medium saucepan, brown 30g of the butter. Once it is golden and toasty-smelling, stir in the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat and whisk in 150ml of cream.
In a medium bowl, whisk the cornflour with 50ml of the milk. Whisk in another 50ml of milk, the brown butter mixture and the remaining milk. Return to the saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Cook for three minutes, stirring constantly until thickened.
Remove the pan from the heat then stir in the remaining butter, vanilla and one tbsp whisky (if you opt for it), until smooth. Press cling film onto the top to prevent a skin forming and allow to cool completely to room temperature.
Whip the remaining cream, adding one tbsp whisky at the start if you’d prefer a slightly boozier pud, then fold two-thirds into the cooled pudding.
Divide the mixture between four glasses or bowls and chill, along with the remainng cream for a minimum of two hours. Remove the puddings from the fridge, top with an extra dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate shavings, then serve.
USHER IN THE WEEKEND
Enjoy a family or couple’s dinner on a Friday, or perhaps make Saturday morning your Pancake Breakfast Day. You don’t have to cook too much or spend a lot of money for either of these weekly rituals. You could just grab a pizza or take-out on the Friday, and if the breakfast idea appeals, you could even buy pre-mixed pancake mix.
The only rule is that it has to be fun and must be relaxed – weekends are definitely something worth celebrating and there’s no need to create extra work for yourself!
BAKE FOR BIRTHDAYS
Everyone loves cake and there’s no better excuse for making one than a loved one’s birthday. Turn birthdays into an opportunity to have fun in the kitchen with your kids. If you’re short of time, get a plain, un-iced cake and an icing pack from your local supermarket and let the kids decorate it to their hearts’ content with sweets. This is how great memories are created!
Make traditions part of your family culture and celebrate them often. Enjoying great food with the ones you love is a great way of ensuring a sense of belonging and connectedness. Enjoying a Sunday lunch, breakfast in bed, popcorn on the couch… whatever you do, do it with love. This is the glue that holds families together.