For my first Thanksgiving with my wife’s family, one of the most meaningful acts of hospitality on their part was that they made it a point to ask if there was a particular menu item that was traditional for me. While it was a simple question, it was a way of recognizing my own family’s history and bringing that to the table with me (I was very glad that my grandfather’s broccoli salad was well received!). Traditions and food are very intimately connected to one another. These traditions connect us one generation to the next. With each of my grandparents there are particular foods that I will seek out during times when I am particularly missing them. When we certain meals, I will tell the stories of those foods to my children so that they can get a literal and metaphorical taste of the history that runs in their blood.
Part of raising children for my wife and I has been the process of determining which traditions we will carry over from our individual families and which we will create fresh together. When we moved to Michigan, one of the new traditions we started was a regular Friday pizza and movie nights. Growing up in Gainesville, FL meant that every Saturday was gameday and every gameday meant homemade pizza. While my mom did most of the baking, pizza was my dad’s domain. Thick meat sauce, a sprinkle of sugar (his secret ingredient!), lots of cheese, and concentric circles of thickly sliced pepperoni made each pie a work of art. For our pizzas, we also tend to make them from scratch, however, on particularly busy weeks, we are grateful to have several good pizza places close by.
Pizza dough is really one of the easier breads to make. It comes together quickly and only takes is a single rise and bakes very quickly. In addition to taste, homemade pizza has many benefits. With the ability to customize toppings it makes everyone happy, and when your toppings come from the week’s leftovers it starts the weekend with a cleaner fridge. For our pizzas, I use my sister-in-law’s dough recipe. It is a simple ingredient list, but my favorite part was her suggestion to add dried herbs. For me this brings a fun flavor component to the dough. I started adding 1T oregano and 1t of garlic powder to the dough which gives it a bit extra depth, but I am still experimenting! I then usually go for a thick tomato sauce (although pesto and BBQ have made appearances based on topping options). Then we pull out whatever we have leftover. Sometimes when he is not too distracted picking out the movie, our oldest son likes to help with assembly. This is always my favorite part because when he steals a pepperoni, I flash back to my own topping thievery. Then as we sit down for the movie of the week, I am reminded of all those games we watched together growing up.
In seasons like lent, the practices of the church such as ashes and palms or hymns and fasts unite us together as family in Christ. Just like a fresh pizza on a Friday night, they invite us to experience a deeper connection with the great cloud of witnesses that cheer us on. In a world where so much focus is on the differences between groups, the liturgical calendar itself pulls us out of those silos and reminds us that though we may have some different practices or emphases, in Christ, we are fundamentally one family united by one Lord. As we celebrate this season and look forward to the great feast of Easter, complete with its own family traditions, let us also celebrate the traditions of our faith and the way it can shape, ground, and form us as well.