Generational recipes

Cultural dishes bring family together, keep traditions alive


Clara Hopkins

Freshly made empanadas by junior Clara Hopkins. Hopkins’ family recipe dates back to her great-grandparents and today, the dish connects her extended family spread from Argentina to France.

Many people have generational recipes that bring family members young and old together to make and eat food. These family recipes have also been shared among friends and colleagues, spreading culture and history. At McCallum, our diverse student body brings several delicious and unique dishes to the table. 

Junior Clara Hopkins has a delicious empanada de carne recipe that dates back to her great grandparents. While her family lives all over, with relatives in Argentina and Paris, it is something that time and again has helped to bring her family together. Typically, she will make the classic recipe with her mom, gossiping about life like a telenovela. When the empanadas are done, it is tradition to send a photo to their family in Argentina with a thoughtful note, such as “estamos pensando de ustedes, y hacemos esto para ti.”

Lupita Martinez, a janitor at Mac, has been making flan for around 15 years. She has even shared the dish with the foreign language teachers at Mac.“Flan is my dish because it brings everyone together,” Martinez said.

The dish is a staple Mexican dessert that includes popular ingredients such as condensed milk.

I want to be able to keep her memory alive through food.

— junior Logan Davis

“I put in three eggs and then some vanilla extract,” she said. “I put a ball of cream cheese and then I liquify everything in the blender.”

A dish doesn’t always have to be the most extravagant to hold a special meaning. To senior Siena Butlin, her family’s polenta recipe means much more than its simple makings. Polenta is a traditional Italian dish, often made among lower class families primarily because it is made from just one ingredient: cornmeal and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. The dish was a staple in Butlins home growing up mostly due to its versatility and that her grandma made sure to pass it down through the family. 

“My mom learned it from my grandma and I’ve made it a few times with them,” Butlin said. “It’s a really comforting dish, but we don’t have it very often, mostly when family is around. It sort of brings our family together in a way because everyone grew up on it and is used to seeing it.”

Family dishes often serve as ways to connect people with their family and roots. For junior Logan Davis, his great grandma’s famous adobo chicken links them all. From his great grandmother, all the way down to Davis himself, the recipe continues to bring joy to them all. But chicken adobo isn’t the only recipe Davis enjoys. 

Whenever we eat it together and she tells me about her childhood, I feel closer to her and her side of the family.

— junior Matthew Wilson

“I always am thinking about getting my grandma’s recipes that she keeps in her head and either learning them or writing them down,” Davis said. “I want to be able to keep her memory alive through food.”

For junior Matthew Wilson, his mother’s beloved fish and chips recipe also serves as a familial connection. Born and raised in Ireland, Wilson’s mom worked at a fish and chips shop for years and honed the recipe to perfection. When she moved to the United States and had a family, she began making the fun dish frequently (with a little twist), and she said that it always brings fond memories of her upbringing. 

“Whenever we eat it together and she tells me about her childhood, I feel closer to her and her side of the family,” Wilson said. “ I visited the place she worked a few years ago and I must admit I think she makes it better than they do. “

Food is just one of the many ways of bringing people together. Especially within families, recipes passed down serve as impactful ties across generations. We hope to inspire you to share your own family recipes with those around you and explore those of others!