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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.

Remember your Roots: Family History Month and food

My maternal grandparents, Ernest and Alice Schulze. The photo was taken in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary in 1964. Grandma Schulze made a mean meat pie and awesome peanut butter cookies

I don't know if there is anything that reminds me more of my family and its history than food.

Each Christmas we had Aunt Tam's nut roll. Aunt Helen made a mean poppy seed cake and Aunt Edna's cabbage rolls were to die for.

That doesn't include my Grandma Schulze's meat pie or the peanut butter cookies she made without using a measuring cup or spoon.

Then there was my Gran Russell, who's southern roots showed in her cooking. I still love fried okra and fried green tomatoes because of her and the cornbread dressing she made for Thanksgiving makes me drool just at the thought of it.

Part of our family's history can be told in the food we eat, especially if we have a specific ethnic background that shines through our food.

My former husband was of Dutch heritage. Each Christmas Eve I had to make oliebol, a deep fried pastry filled with raisins or dried fruit and rolled in powdered sugar. He would also often fix Dutch pancakes, which are really, really thin pancakes, much like a crepe, that are filled with goodies.

Even if our foodie traditions aren't based on our ethnic backgrounds, they are part of our family's story. For years when my kids were at home, I would cook Thanksgiving dinner. I couldn't deviate one little bit from year to year or I'd hear the kids groan. Change my stuffing recipe, you'd think I caused the world to end.

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As a genealogist, these traditions are as much a part of our past as are the collections of birth and death dates, marriage licenses and censuses.

They tell a part of who we are. They should be recorded as much as the other data.

I'm sorry to say, my grandmothers as well as my aunts have all passed and I never got their recipes (that is if they had recipes in the first place).

As part of Family History Month, as it winds down while the seasonal celebrations begin to ramp up, collecting and documenting those traditions is a worthwhile project.

If I could go back in time, I'd ask for the recipes, for their hints that made their dishes stand out above the rest. It would be nice to have a recipe book full of family favorites and with family stories to go with the foods or meals.

Do you pass on your family's recipes? Do the recipes come with stories? How would you preserve your family's culinary history and traditions? If you have a tip, let me know by dropping me a line at joyce.russell@nwi.com

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