Traditional Foods


How can I keep the whales in mind during this holiday season? Maybe you don't get caught up in the jolly holly but it’s taken me some effort to keep the whales’ oceanic world in mind amid the tinsel. I will be getting back to the plight of the NW resident Orca whales who are not getting enough to eat come January. This blogpost is a look at our human food habits and how open they are to change.

Our Food Identities

As some of you know I’ve recently moved which means a new look at our favorite foods including the baked ones. Familiar comfort foods are interlaced with how we see ourselves in our families and communities but making them in a new kitchen was bound to bring up some changes. I hoped new holiday thinking would give me a chance to expand rather than contract my sense of connection to others, especially those who are not close by and maybe including the world’s whales.

Fresh Looks at Old Traditions

Some holiday foods carry a special charge, going right to the part of the brain that is pure feeling and memory. For me it’s biscotti. I've had a long-standing tradition of sending home-made biscotti to far-flung family.

Then I thought through how planet friendly they are. The ingredients came up pretty short: sugar, flour with its dicey gluten, expensive almonds. The energy needed includes two bakings, with the "bi" in biscotti standing for twice-baked. And that’s after the almonds get pre-baked to use up another helping of the oven’s natural gas. So the ingredients are not local and the cooking energy is not renewable.

I'd like to say I make them some old-fashioned way, but alas I use a bread machine and an electric knife to ease my hands in mixing and cutting the dense dough. In our area, our energy is largely renewable hydroelectric but the dams that produce it have led to the massive reduction in our wild Pacific salmon, a direct threat to local Orca whales' survival.

Finally, there's the considerable cost of wrapping and shipping which taps into our ongoing overconsumption of fossil fuels.

Quite a list! You'd think I'd abandon the idea. But those hints from relatives wanting the same biscotti flavor every year kept whispering in my ear, especially from the clan's growing grandchildren. The layers of emotion are old and strong and led me to just sit with the decision for a few days.

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I decided to make them one more year; for now I’m sticking to this familiar way of giving to my wider clan. I did update the ritual. I included more organic ingredients. I invited my husband to the slicing which he did manually with a well-honed knife. I enjoyed going through the steps of my well-marked up recipe and thought fondly of each family member as I wrapped great tasting goodies. I love that they’re a fit for those of every age who already have as many tech toys they need.

Wrapped and sealed biscotti ready to go

Wrapped and sealed biscotti ready to go

I am now more aware of the full cost of this tradition of sending biscotti off to loved ones. In this instance, as is often true when food is involved, my feelings are overriding the cold logic of energy renewal and planet-friendly eating.

I wish you all a safe and fun holiday season, enjoying your best-loved traditions. Do take the chance to rethink some to expand your identity beyond being a member circle of family and friends. Find fresh ways to claim your identity in the wider circle of humans who are trying to make the ocean a safer place for whales. I hope you do it better than I have. Meanwhile I’ll start finding ways to help our whales and oceans with next year’s gifts.
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