Food, Family and World History — The North Star Reports – by Tayler Boelk. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal
When I was first seeking a theme for my family project, I struggled. It was not until about half way through the project that I realized how prominent cooking was in my family. Making homemade food has always been important to us. Even today, we make many homemade foods such as noodles, jams, salsas, fritters and breads. The more research I did into family traditions, the more often food came up.
One of my favorite things to do with my family is bake homemade bread. Because we have to wait for the bread to rise, it has always been an all-day event. We make as many loaves of bread as we have pans, including some cinnamon bread. The youngest children are taught to make their own loaves in the smaller pans while others take turns making and eating fritters.
Fritters have always been a favorite of mine growing up. I thought fritters were a food unique to my family, but as I watched more and more presentations, I realized that an incredible number of people with Scandinavian heritage make the same food by a different name. My family’s fritters are another family’s “dough god” and another’s “fry bread” but essentially it’s just a donut. My family’s version of the fritter is homemade bread dough fried in oil and topped with sugar.
Learning that so many others have this same food in their family really gave me a way to connect with other members of my class. We may have come from all different backgrounds but there are still things tying us together. This is one of the amazing things about food. Yes, we need it to survive, but it is also a mechanism of bringing people together. It is no coincidence that each of the most important holidays in one’s family usually have a dish or two associated with it. Many people in my community have the usual Thanksgiving turkey or birthday cake but one traditional food in my family that I think is pretty great is our homemade noodle soup.
A few times a year, usually around bread-making days, my family makes homemade noodles to eat in soup. For the noodles, we take flour, salt, and eggs and mix it all together. Then we roll it out in a thin layer and let it dry. When it’s dry we cut it and boil it like you would any other noodles. Aside from the noodles themselves, the soup has no actual recipe. In the past, it would be considered “a poor man’s soup:” the kind of soup to which you added random vegetables and meats, if any were available, into a big pot and that would be dinner. I find this both humorous and endearing because now it seems to be a special treat. It is funny how things like this change throughout history, and it truly makes me appreciate the access to things like meat that I have today.
The biggest lesson these foods have taught me is how important it is to carry on traditions. Even when families gain a higher economic status, these traditions are carried on. Maybe it reminds them of their childhood, or maybe they never lose their belief that no food should be wasted; in any case, I am thankful that the recipes for these foods have continued to be taught generation after generation. The most important element of a family is what brings them together— in my family, this is homemade food. [From Professor Liang’s 2014 World History II class.]
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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, projects on historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.
We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA
(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact chief editor Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu