Survey

To add some more depth to my research, I created a survey designed to ask people how they related to food on Thanksgiving and in general. The questions were as follows:

Age:

Gender:

1)    On Thanksgiving, do you use food to connect to your historical/cultural heritage? If so, how?

2)    On Thanksgiving, do you use food to connect with your familial past? If so, how?

3)    In general, do certain foods elicit memories for you, either historical or familial memories? Why or why not?

4)    Are there any other times, besides holidays, that you try to connect to your family or culture through food?

Even though I only got back 24 responses, many of the answers supported the argument that food serves as a lieux de memoire, especially during Thanksgiving. 13 of the 24 respondents said that they use Thanksgiving to connect to their heritage or familial past. 14 of the 24 respondents made it a point to say that their families eat the traditional Thanksgiving foods (turkey, stuffing, etc.).

For some of the responders, Thanksgiving foods serve as a way to connect to American history while holding onto memories of their home culture.  One person’s in-laws are natives of India, and she said “since Thanksgiving is such an American holiday, they try to observe what they perceive as the customs of most Americans as a way to try to be part of that culture.” This indicates how foods serve as the objects of ritual, in this case the ritual of assimilation and accepting American history and tradition. Another respondent says, “We have both traditional American Thanksgiving food (cranberry sauce, mashedpotatoes, turkey, etc.) which reminds me of learning about the pilgrims/indians, but we also have Greek food on Thanksgiving.” Her family makes a point to use food to make connections to both their American and Greek heritages. These responses help show how food is used to keep the memories and traditions of home culture and heritage alive.

The idea of Thanksgiving foods as objects of ritual was reinforced by the fact that so many of the respondents cited how they eat the same foods each and every Thanksgiving. What’s important to learn from this evidence is not that the food is reinforced each year, but that the repetition of foods each year brings up memories from years past. This concept is quite important because it is one thing that helps define lieux de memoire. One respondent said that “…turkey with the trimmings reminds me of Thanksgiving with my huge family and about those who no longer among us” while another said “We always serve the same main dishes and desserts, because the tradition of it brings back memories from years past.” Both of these quotes show how routinely eating the same foods annually, like on Thanksgiving, keep memories of the past alive.

The answers people supplied to the survey questions helped to reinforce the idea that food serves as lieu de memoire. Many of the answers provided evidence for the idea that food dishes serve as ritual objects and can therefore be categorized as lieux de memoire. Many people also expressed the sentiment that certain foods elicit memories of other people, like their grandmother or great-aunt. Thanks to this survey, there is more evidence to support the idea that food serves as lieu de memoire. One respondent sums it up nicely by saying “…the fact that we eat the same thing year after year and certain family members bring with them ‘perfected recipes’ must show that we do use food to keep traditions…”


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