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Friday, June 22, 2007

Kitchen Superstition...What I Mean by Superstition

First, let me explain myself.

Superstition is roughly defined as the belief in the significance of a particular thing, for no apparent reason.

My definition of superstition is something ritualistic that we put our faith in to achieve a desired outcome...and what could be more ritualistic than family meals?

Come Sunday evening while dining outside in my parents backyard - where you will find grilled vegetables, bread rubbed with garlic, homegrown heirlooms crowned with feta or Point Reyes, brined chicken waiting for mango salsa and wild caught salmon blessed with Meyer Lemon zest - there is so much more going in than tradition.

There are new techniques and ingredients worked skillfully in to meal preparations that have proven to work for generations. Not to be taken lightly, these techniques and ingredients have been carefully considered by the matriarch. She instinctively knows what will better her food, but affirms that it's sacrilegious, not to mention unwise, to deviate from her family's kitchen rituals.

If the fleur de sel or anchovy paste improves the entree you convinced the matriarch to alter, glasses will be raised high, children will give their approval by sitting still long enough to eat. However, should the new, hip culinary addition diminish the familiar flavor of Sunday dinner, it could ruin everyone's week.

You just don't mess with a culinary winning streak.

Because if you think that food tastes better in a garden next to a St. Francis scultpture, then you're right. If you believe your children sleep better when you brew wild chamomile, keep doing it. If your husband's mother didn't top the berries she served with vanilla sugar, don't try to make them sweeter now.

Rituals are something to hold onto, food is restorative not only to our bodies. Together, rituals and food satisfy our psyche and our appetites. Superstition is the secret ingredient. And it's not a new one.

Samantha Gianulis, author of the food memoir Little Grapes on the Vine...Mommy's Musings on Food & Family, is a columnist and Editor-in-Chief of Mom Writer's Literary Magazine ( To learn more about Samantha or read more of her work, go to her website, or her blog, "Vine Chat",

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