This afternoon I tried my hand at making some Greek dolmades. Deliciously simple, they consist of grape leaves filled with a tasty rice mixture. My husband is Greek and loves the little treats; they were naturally a staple food during his childhood. Typically we attempt making them together (we have yet to actually get them right) and I usually play the part of prep chef helping to roll up the dolmades. During this lengthy little process he tells stories of his mom and grandma’s dolmades and other Greek food he loved as a child.
But today, while rolling up my grape leaves treats alone, I started to think of my own family heritage. Cultural values are something that my parents never really talked about. In the short 2 ½ years I have been with my husband I have learned more about Greek values that my parents ever taught me about my own Polish and Danish roots. Maybe this can simply be chalked up to the fact that Northern European descendants don’t have much to brag about besides pasty white legs an extensive history of potato farming, or maybe it is because my parents simply allowed me to build my own culture.
While growing up, my mom was always quick to remind me that God or Love was my true Father-Mother. At first I just took it for granted, along with “drink your milk”. When I was a teenager I became a little more perplexed with the saying, why would she want to pass of her job of mom off to God? Fortunately I trusted both my mom and God, so I never got too confused by it. Now that I am an adult, treating God as my Father-Mother really makes perfect sense. What makes my mom’s marriage work isn’t necessarily what is right for my own, but the building blocks, the building blocks of Love, Trust, and Humor are all there, thoughts given to anyone straight from God.
With God as my Father-Mother I was able to glean my own cultural values and family heritage from everyone I meet throughout life. For example, Mehmet Efendi, a kind elderly personal home chef I worked with while I was a nanny in Istanbul, Turkey, taught me how to make dolmades, and my Uncle Scott taught me the joy of snowboarding.
Cultural heritage is something that can enrich your life or define who you are in a near debilitating manner. If my own parents had insisted I take up the family tradition I would undoubtedly be farming somewhere in Idaho or Eastern Washington. But instead they trusted me to trust God, to travel and to build my own spiritual culture that enriches my life with traditions that mean something to me from all the different loving, good-hearted people I have met in my life.
Family values and cultural values can come to a person from their parents, grandparents, books and a million other places. The key is to let go of traditions that bring us down and grab hold of values and traditions that help to enrich our own lives and those around us.
And as a closer, my dolmades were perfect.