In the early 20th century, my great-grandparents came to the United States from Italy, Germany, and what was then Polish Ukraine. Most of them entered the country through Ellis Island and settled in Baltimore.
My mother has a wonderful story about being a new bride trying to learn how to make ravioli. Mom was desperately trying to write down measurements, but my great-grandmother was too fast. “Mom, how much water was that?” Her answer: “Half an eggshell.” That’s how my great-grandmother made ravioli, just as her mother and grandmother before her.
A few years after Baba (my Polish Great-Grandmother) died, my grandmother (her daughter) told me a story about her mom. She wanted her children (4 girls) to be Americans. My grandmother learned how to cook in the “old way,” but Baba wanted them to speak English. My grandmother obviously understood Polish, but like her mother, wanted her children to be Americans, so she never taught her children the language. She told me then that she regretted that decision.
While my roots come from Europe, Catherine’s are not. We can use that half-an-eggshell-of-water to make ravioli, and I’ll teach her how to roll out the dough with a broomstick, but that is not her heritage. Hers is Caribbean and South American. We want Catherine to know – and celebrate – her cultural identity. I speak only a little bit of Spanish, and I wouldn’t know where to start with authentic cooking, so we celebrate with books.
Today at Booklights I have a post about using folktales to introduce culture. Folklore is the “history” of many cultures, and there are stories that transcend geography. But as this is National Hispanic Heritage month, I have selected some stories to celebrate Hispanic culture.
I’d love to hear your story … so feel free to leave a comment. If you’ve got a favorite folktale, please stop by and add it to the list over at Booklights.