Holding On to Our Culinary Heritage

New York Times correspondent Rachel L. Swarns reflects on the role that culinary traditions play in the cultural change and loss that can accompany the American experience.

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The New York Times correspondent Rachel L. Swarns reflects on the role culinary traditions play in the cultural change and loss that can accompany the American experience.

Mention the Bahamas, and most people naturally envision idyllic seascapes with pearly beaches and turquoise waters. For me, though, any talk of my mother's homeland always brings to mind the tang of sour limes and the sweetness of freshly cut coconut, the tastes that flavored my childhood.

My mother left Nassau as a little girl and traded her lilting accent for outer-borough New Yorkese. Our ties to the islands dwindled over the years as relatives migrated or died, but we maintained our connections in other ways, sharing meals of conch fritters and coconut candy, boiled grouper and johnnycakes with friends and family.

It is only now, in my 40s, that I feel those ties slipping through my fingers. There are no close relatives left in Nassau. My mother lives more than 200 miles from me. I have a husband who prefers pasta to pigeon peas with rice, and two little boys who turn up their noses at fried plantains. My children have never known what it is like to squeeze into a kitchen full of Bahamian women serving up fried fish and family stories. Suddenly, I've found myself grappling to hold on to something I never imagined I might lose.

Read Rachel L. Swarns' entire piece at the New York Times.

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