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Ravioli: Family Tradition and Cultural Identity

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Identity Through Tradition

Most families have a tradition, whether it is as small as pizza night every Friday to an extravagant, annual family reunion. My family’s favorite ritual involves getting together once a year around the holidays to make a huge batch of ravioli, which I will write about in this essay. Specifically, I will look at one aspect of my own cultural identity, describe the ritual and discuss how these are represented within my own family ritual. Finally, I will conclude with a discussion of my own opinion regarding this ritual and whether or not I will repeat this in my future family interactions.

The specifics of my family ritual involve travelling to either North Carolina, of having my family who lives there travel to Florida. My family that lives in North Carolina is on my mother’s side, and includes my uncle, aunt, their three kids, my mother’s cousin, his wife and their three kids, and my mother’s other cousin, wife, and their triplets. I am extremely lucky to be so close to my second cousins, and I strongly believe that our annual ravioli ritual is a huge reason for this. We usually like to merge this tradition with Thanksgiving or Christmas, since we all travel to see each other for one of these holidays per year anyway, but we also perform this ritual after family funerals in memory of the loved one that we lost.

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I will begin by explaining the history of this particular family ritual. My mother’s side of the family is Italian, and I am proud to share that this tradition began with the Molinelli sisters in Italy. They brought this tradition to the U.S. when they immigrated, yet another component of this tradition that makes its continuation so special and necessary. My family chose this particular Italian tradition even though we mostly identify as Jewish, honestly, because we just love food. My great grandmother taught my nana, and my grandmother taught my mother, passing down the recipe from generation to generation. In Family Ground Rules by Elizabeth Stone she states, and I strongly agree, “The lore of family and family culture itself-stories, rituals, traditions, icons, sayings- are preserved and promulgated primarily by women.” I have definitely noticed that the women in my family, particularly my mom, after my grandmother passed away, take this ritual very seriously, and make sure to carry it out annually regardless of how labor intensive it can be. My sweet, adorable nana that I loved very much could be seen in the kitchen until 3 A.M. rolling out the dough with her tiny arms, and if that doesn’t inspire me to carry on this tradition then I don’t know what will. For now I just assist in the ravioli making process, and of course indulge, but the time will come soon in which my mother hands the recipe down to me and teaches me the revered way to make them.

The ravioli making process is extensive and requires a lot of hard work. My family and I usually begin the process after Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, and conclude around 3 or 4 A.M. We make everything from scratch and add our own twist to the delicious meat sauce that the raviolis are tossed in. Rolling out the dough takes time, and the men are usually assigned to this task while the women create and season the filling and the sauce. Everybody’s true colors show during this process because of all of the hard work, and it’s so funny to watch and listen to my uncles jokingly bickering. The “kids” of the family, including me, although I am 21, all joke about how when we are older we will be too lazy to carry on the tradition, but deep down we all know how important it is and will be to us when we have children of our own. I believe that the values and ideas conveyed through our ritual are that hard work pays off, it is more fun to work hard when you are doing it with people you love, that tradition is important to pass on because it provides the family with a source of identity, it strengthens familial relationships, teaches values, connects generations, and creates cherished memories. Because of this awesome, palpable tradition, not only does my family get to stuff their faces with the fruit of our own labor, but also we get to bond during the process and have something in common to talk about with each other throughout our lives.

In conclusion, I would like to state that I absolutely feel obligated to continue this revered family tradition, and that I will gladly do so in my own home with my own kids and the rest of my family when I am older. I want my children to be able to identify with their culture, as well as be as close with their cousins and second cousins as I am with mine. When people ask my children what they did over their holiday break I want them to be able to tell this wonderful story, instead of not having anything interesting to share. Through this tradition, a special thing that I have learned is how amazing of a mother that I have. Sadly, many other moms would make excuses, or be too lazy to continue this tradition, or they would put it off and never get to it, but my mom and the rest of my family truly values it enough to travel eight hours each year to be together and do it. We still use my great grandmother’s old rolling pin, so we actually have something palpable from past generations in our family that we put to good use in order for us to eat numerous bowls of delicious, steaming hot, sauce smothered ravioli baked with love. (Recipe attached)

Identity Through Tradition

Most families have a tradition, whether it is as small as pizza night every Friday to an extravagant, annual family reunion. My family’s favorite ritual involves getting together once a year around the holidays to make a huge batch of ravioli, which I will write about in this essay. Specifically, I will look at one aspect of my own cultural identity, describe the ritual and discuss how these are represented within my own family ritual. Finally, I will conclude with a discussion of my own opinion regarding this ritual and whether or not I will repeat this in my future family interactions.

The specifics of my family ritual involve travelling to either North Carolina, of having my family who lives there travel to Florida. My family that lives in North Carolina is on my mother’s side, and includes my uncle, aunt, their three kids, my mother’s cousin, his wife and their three kids, and my mother’s other cousin, wife, and their triplets. I am extremely lucky to be so close to my second cousins, and I strongly believe that our annual ravioli ritual is a huge reason for this. We usually like to merge this tradition with Thanksgiving or Christmas, since we all travel to see each other for one of these holidays per year anyway, but we also perform this ritual after family funerals in memory of the loved one that we lost.

I will begin by explaining the history of this particular family ritual. My mother’s side of the family is Italian, and I am proud to share that this tradition began with the Molinelli sisters in Italy. They brought this tradition to the U.S. when they immigrated, yet another component of this tradition that makes its continuation so special and necessary. My family chose this particular Italian tradition even though we mostly identify as Jewish, honestly, because we just love food. My great grandmother taught my nana, and my grandmother taught my mother, passing down the recipe from generation to generation. In Family Ground Rules by Elizabeth Stone she states, and I strongly agree, “The lore of family and family culture itself-stories, rituals, traditions, icons, sayings- are preserved and promulgated primarily by women.” I have definitely noticed that the women in my family, particularly my mom, after my grandmother passed away, take this ritual very seriously, and make sure to carry it out annually regardless of how labor intensive it can be. My sweet, adorable nana that I loved very much could be seen in the kitchen until 3 A.M. rolling out the dough with her tiny arms, and if that doesn’t inspire me to carry on this tradition then I don’t know what will. For now I just assist in the ravioli making process, and of course indulge, but the time will come soon in which my mother hands the recipe down to me and teaches me the revered way to make them.

The ravioli making process is extensive and requires a lot of hard work. My family and I usually begin the process after Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, and conclude around 3 or 4 A.M. We make everything from scratch and add our own twist to the delicious meat sauce that the raviolis are tossed in. Rolling out the dough takes time, and the men are usually assigned to this task while the women create and season the filling and the sauce. Everybody’s true colors show during this process because of all of the hard work, and it’s so funny to watch and listen to my uncles jokingly bickering. The “kids” of the family, including me, although I am 21, all joke about how when we are older we will be too lazy to carry on the tradition, but deep down we all know how important it is and will be to us when we have children of our own. I believe that the values and ideas conveyed through our ritual are that hard work pays off, it is more fun to work hard when you are doing it with people you love, that tradition is important to pass on because it provides the family with a source of identity, it strengthens familial relationships, teaches values, connects generations, and creates cherished memories. Because of this awesome, palpable tradition, not only does my family get to stuff their faces with the fruit of our own labor, but also we get to bond during the process and have something in common to talk about with each other throughout our lives.

In conclusion, I would like to state that I absolutely feel obligated to continue this revered family tradition, and that I will gladly do so in my own home with my own kids and the rest of my family when I am older. I want my children to be able to identify with their culture, as well as be as close with their cousins and second cousins as I am with mine. When people ask my children what they did over their holiday break I want them to be able to tell this wonderful story, instead of not having anything interesting to share. Through this tradition, a special thing that I have learned is how amazing of a mother that I have. Sadly, many other moms would make excuses, or be too lazy to continue this tradition, or they would put it off and never get to it, but my mom and the rest of my family truly values it enough to travel eight hours each year to be together and do it. We still use my great grandmother’s old rolling pin, so we actually have something palpable from past generations in our family that we put to good use in order for us to eat numerous bowls of delicious, steaming hot, sauce smothered ravioli baked with love. (Recipe attached)

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