The slightest aroma of sugar and vanilla can transport me instantly back in time to my grandmother’s kitchen. Each time I would visit, she always had my favorite – sugar cookies with a cherry in the middle – waiting to welcome me.
This happy recollection of my childhood, like so many other special memories, is undeniably intertwined with the vivid smells of the sweet treats I made in the kitchen with my grandparents, my mother, and now with my own children.
What is it about the family kitchen that conjures up such reverence for days gone by? Beyond just a particular scent that can trigger our precious memories, it is who we spend our time with and reasons why we inevitably end up congregating in the kitchen that we hold so dear.
Whether we realize it or not, we probably do spend more time in our kitchen than any other room in our homes. And, we probably take for granted the day-to-day interactions and activities that take place there which create chapters in the story of our lives.
Here are just a few reasons why the kitchen holds such a powerful place in our hearts and homes.
The Food: As the old saying goes, “the way to the heart is through the stomach.” The taste and smell of food taps into our senses and emotions and can take us back to happier or simpler times. Certain foods can evoke joyful memories from a time a cherished family recipe was last made, what occasion it was made for, and who it was shared with.
We can also plug into our right brain’s creativity by experimenting in the kitchen, discovering new foods and trying out new (and old!) recipes. Exploring and making special dishes with friends and loved ones that can be shared and taste-tested further strengthen our familial connections and can be the beginning of new traditions and happy memories.
The Stories: The kitchen is where the action happens. It’s the hub of conversation (and sometimes gossip!) that provides a communal venue for creating bonds with those around us. Kitchen conversation opens up the lines of communication and allows us to share our thoughts, our humor, ourselves in a way that could otherwise be uncomfortable if it were taking place in a different environment.
Also, the kitchen is not just where family recipes are made, but also where family stories are shared and passed down from generation to generation. Every recipe tells a story in some way. Whipping up an old family favorite helps us remember and know more about the people who originally made them. We learn more about their personality, their life experiences, their values, and their legacies.
The Traditions: Traditions are an important part of who we are. We crave to have them for familiarity, a sense of our ancestry, and for enduring and comforting memories. We all probably have some strong memories associated with sitting around the kitchen table to celebrate a holiday or other special occasion.
Ultimately when we cook and eat together, we are connecting to keep family traditions alive and thriving. Passing down recipes, teaching our children to cook, chatting about the week during family dinner, or helping grandma in the kitchen allow us another way to preserve and grow family traditions.
The kitchen is truly the heart and soul of the home. It’s where we make indelible family memories that are created and shared amongst our children and grandchildren. And, it is where we remember loved ones and establish our own legacies for future generations. Now I’m off to make some sweet treats–where else–but my kitchen.