Tradition Vs. Food Rules: Which Do You Have?

As I write this post, it’s Saturday.  When you think of Saturdays, do any food traditions come to mind?  

For me, the smell of bacon cooking as a hot breakfast is being made in the kitchen, promising the sweet goodness of pancakes and real maple syrup alongside takes me back to childhood Saturdays.  I would wake up to find my dad busy at work in the kitchen, since breakfast was his territory (along with fish and the grill). If eggs were also offered up, he’d ask my sister and I – one yellow eggie or two – that’s what I called scrambled eggs, yellow eggies.  

Today, I have a new Saturday tradition thanks to my Norwegian husband.  Rice porridge. I know, doesn’t sound as compelling as the above, at least to the American readers.  But to Norwegians, this is the bomb! It’s a traditional dish made from rice, kind of like rice pudding, but with an oatmeal consistency.  It’s served with butter, sugar, cinnamon and raisins – and it’s delicious.

Rice porridge may actually be more of a traditional tradition because most Norwegians will ONLY eat it on Saturdays or on Christmas Eve.  My husband won’t break this rule, even if he’s craving it. Today I asked if we could have porridge for breakfast, and he mocked the idea.  Apparently it’s an afternoon-only dish. At first I laughed at this notion, but keeping traditions to certain occasions is kind of what makes them special.  

In the US, it seems that a lot of our traditions have become perfectly okay for any old time.  We like instant gratification. But there’s something to be said about traditions, particularly with food that can add a special quality to the experience.  When you partake in such a dish, you’re not just feeding your body. All the memories, emotions and reminiscences of the circumstances around that food season the dish and nourish your soul.  

The emotion you feel while eating even has an impact on your physiology.  When your food triggers memories that are joyful, your body relaxes. A relaxed body is able to digest and metabolize so much better than a stressed body, and your immune system gets a boost.

When your food triggers memories that are joyful, your body relaxes. A relaxed body is able to digest and metabolize so much better than a stressed body, and your immune system gets a boost. ~Meghan Leah, MS, RD Click To Tweet

It’s important to clarify the difference between a food tradition and rigid food rules.  Sometimes my husband says he has certain food rules, but they come from a place of tradition rather than rigidity.  For example, he only has one piece of deli meat or cheese per slice of bread. He was taught to do that as a kid to prevent being wasteful.  Rigid food rules may not allow you to eat certain types of foods, or may dictate you’re only able to eat at certain times.

The biggest difference is the place these “rules” are coming from.  Why do you have this rule? If it’s to uphold a family tradition or because you want a certain food to unhold its specialness, and you fully enjoy them without guilt when you do have them, there’s nothing wrong with that.  

On the other hand, if your rules come from a place of “I don’t deserve that,” “I need to lose weight,” or “that’s sinful,” then it’s a deprivation rule, and there would likely be guilt when you do eat them.  And guilt produces the opposite of relaxation and all its benefits. It shuts down your digestion and increases stress hormones that add to your waistline.

if your rules come from a place of “I don’t deserve that,” “I need to lose weight,” or “that’s sinful,” then it’s a deprivation rule, and there would likely be guilt when you do eat them. And guilt produces the opposite of… Click To Tweet

Alright, time for me to go enjoy my Saturday porridge!  I encourage you to think of what your own food traditions are.  How are they meaningful to you? What traditions would you like to start for yourself or your family?  Let us know in the comments 🙂

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