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Where have all the Grandmas gone?

Chef's Log

Where have all the Grandmas gone?

Will Cunneen

As the holiday season comes to an end, I have had time to reflect on the ideas of tradition, where they come from and why we pursue them.  From all walks of life, from every corner of this world, people and cultures have traditions and holidays they hold onto, traditions that have been carried on for centuries.  From my own experiences, I can say that most holidays seem to be centered around the family meal.  Of course, when you talk about food in the home, you almost always have to include Grandma (or Bunica as she's called in Romanian).  This matriarchal system in the household has been past down from mother to daughter for generations.  Perhaps not Your grandma at every occasion, but chances are there would be an older lady that fits this description, busy in the kitchen.  Now, I understand that this is not true for all families, but I am willing to bet 90% of holiday gatherings include a grandma or two in the equation.  I know when I was growing up during the holidays we always looked forward to Grandma's pumpkin pie, stuffing and apple slices!  But it was more than just the food that shined through.  It was the presence in the home of grandma and mother (future grandma):  directing traffic, ordering family around, swatting hands that were reaching for dishes that weren't "ready", and all the while telling people not to touch things while simultaneously asking why no one was helping!  As hectic as all that sounds, there was a certain comfort level that came with it.  Everyone knowing their role and with Grandma at the helm.  A constant that we could look forward to, and escape our day to day lives, if only for a few hours.  

But now, as I have grown up, I am starting to see a shift in this next generation.  Where the roles of family members begin to blur.  In the building in which I live now, the men in the households do the majority of the cooking (mine included, but of course choosing to be a chef as a profession, I knew what I was getting in to!).  I've met women who almost proudly confess that they do not, nor care to learn, how to cook.  It's as if this role of housewife or whatever you choose to call it is being viewed as sub-servant and somehow less important than earning income in today's modern, materialistic world.  With more and more women in the work force, and equality between genders, who will take up the mantle of "Grandma" in future generations?  Will that role exist?   Not saying there won't be grandmas in the future (obviously), but is this the beginning of the end of an era that started eons ago with the male hunter going out to provide and the female tending all the needs of the home.  I know this train of thought may sound a tad sexist, but lets face it, history is draped in sexism and this was the way it was for many centuries.  I am also not saying that change is a bad thing.  I am just curious to see what the future holds.  Do the roles reverse?  In a hundred years, will it be Grandpa yelling at all the kids to quiet down and set the table?  Will there become a generally agreed upon, division of duties?  Will community in the form of restaurants, catering and the like begin to fill that void, and the way of the self-taught, pasted down from generation to generation tradition be replaced with the food network trained, internet Pinterest recipe driven you-tuber that is more interested in showing there hobby to strangers, than nourishing their family?  I guess only time will tell.  

Perhaps I over dramatized a bit.  Maybe the change I foresee isn't all that different than the constant change that's been happening throughout human history.  I do know that if things change, it won't be over night.  There are still many out there that hold on to these values and perhaps the change will be so gradual, we won't recognize it as such.  My sister for one (and I hope she won't mind me saying so) will be a great person to fill the "Grandma" role in the future.  I view my wife and I as splitting the role, her part to remember and enforce the traditions, mine being to carry them out!  Others may choose a different path.  From a personal level, I do hope that these traditions carry on into the future.  I've always been a traveller.  I love to learn about new places, culture and people.  I moved from Chicago to a small surburb when I was young, and when I was growing up, I couldn't wait to get back to the city.  To go where the "action" was.  I couldn't understand the "Townie" mentality of not wanting to leave a place for something "better".  Now, as I grow older I've realized that without those people who stay in a place, carrying on the traditions of there parents, that there would be no new cultures for me to visit and experience.  Ironically, what makes a certain people unique, is by doing the same thing that their ancestors did for hundreds of years!  And as for all the grandmas out there and future grandmas/grandpas to be, remember.  Never forget where you came from, but be sure to tell the next generation where you've been.