My grandmother always told me to make sure to have a table in the kitchen. “Sit down while you’re doing all that prep work for holidays and family get-togethers,” she admonished. Good advice for saving one’s back and legs! But the table was and is more than a workspace for ethnic specialties.
To tell the truth, I don’t remember what the actual table looked like, as it was always covered with a tablecloth – a nice one for meals or plastic for preparing the amazing things that came out of her oven or those huge pots on the stove.
The kitchen table is where women (and, increasingly, men) historically gathered – and still do, in some cultures - to share the cutting, mincing, chopping, dicing, rolling and more. Together, they shared the tasks while they talked, told jokes, sang songs and, yes, shared family history.
It is – and was - a space for sharing, collaborating and holding heritage close to our hearts.
A New York Times article detailed individuals holding onto their heritage – family recipes and traditions - before it disappears. I don’t know how many of those featured in the story have tables in their kitchens, but I’ll bet most of them do!
But Richard Alba, a sociologist at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York who has studied how immigrants assimilate, warned that the old ways can endure only for so long.
Families hold on to food customs as best as they can for a very long time,” he said. “But these things change across the generations.” …
Unfortunately, many people today live in smaller apartments or homes where an eat-in kitchen is simply not an option.
What does your kitchen table mean to you? What memories do you have of your grandmother’s or mother’s kitchen table? Share your memories below.