Unique holiday dishes bring families together

By ElsaJurrens

Madison Shaffar ’24 prepares biscotti, Italian cookies(top and bottom). Shaffar’s grandmother and cousins have come together each year during the holidays to bake. Photo courtesy of Shaffar.

No matter where one is in the world, food is an important part of holiday celebrations. Food brings people together in numerous ways. Cooking together, eating together and learning about food together is a great way to connect with one another. Food is an essential part of life. 

Without food, no one can survive. Ever since the beginning of time, food and meal time have been keeping families together.   

Junior Madison Shaffar comes from a big Italian family. In Shaffar’s family, lots of different family traditions are connected to food. 

Sofia Torres-Salvador ’24 prepares Sciachiatta. Photo courtesy of Torres-Salvador.

Every year around the holidays, Shaffar’s family makes homemade biscotti cookies. “Me, my nana and my cousins usually make them (the cookies) around Christmas,’’ Shaffar said. “The cookies aren’t even that good, but it’s a fun memory and tradition making them with my family.” These little cookies help connect Shaffar with her family.

In between Thanksgiving and Christmas, senior Gigi Shoemaker gets together with her mom’s side of the family to make tamales. “It’s an all day affair,” Shoemaker said. 

The family starts with spreading masa (dough) on corn husks. They fill it with a mixture of pork, wrap it up, steam it in a pressure cooker, then enjoy. “It’s a tradition everyone looks forward to, we even did it through COVID,” Shoemaker said. 

Sofia Torres-Salvador ’24 prepares Cuccidati This family tradition has lasted for years. Photo courtesy of Torres-Salvador.

Junior Sofia Torres-Salvador enjoys both Venezuelan and Italian cultural foods during the holidays. Torres-Salvador makes hallacas (Venezuelan holiday dish, masa filled with meat, wrapped in banana leaves) and pan de jamón (a traditional Venezulean bread filled with ham and olives) to celebrate the Venezuelan part of her family. 

Both dishes take lots of time to prepare. To celebrate the Italian side of her family, Torres-Salvador bakes Cuccidati (Christmas cookie filled with fig, orange filling and almonds) and cooks Sciachiatta (Sicilian meat pie). “In Italian genes, food is life and cooking with family is a big deal,” Torres-Salvador said.  

Every year around Christmas, junior Maggie Chattin bakes potica with her family. Potica is a Slovenian roll filled with a nut compote. Chattin’s extended family travels from Kansas City to make the rolls every year. “We start with the dough really early in the morning,” Chattin said. 

After the dough is ready, it is filled with walnuts, pecans and other crushed up nuts. “It’s a twenty-two year tradition,” Chattin said. This long held tradition brings Chattin’s family together. 

Food brings people together. People love food almost as much as they love each other, so combining both brings happiness and joy to all. 

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