Kris’ Corner – Connecting with Biological Family Through Food

December 12, 2023

So this post might be a little shorter than normal… for two reasons: it’s the holidays and people are busy and probably not very many of you if you want to sit down and read a long blog post.

And secondly, what I have to suggest is fairly simple and straightforward.

Now I know that, for some of you, you have little to no contact at all with biological family. And I completely understand that. There is nothing that you can, or can’t do. It’s all in their lap. But for those of you who do have contact, or at least have a Firefly case worker or DCS case worker or a visit supervisor who is willing and able to share messages or items between the two of you, this is for you.

So what I want to talk about (briefly) today is making connections with biological family during the holidays…when it is safe and healthy for the child.

Now I’m sure that you have all heard about the idea of saving a craft or two that your child makes in school to give to the biological family, especially at holidays and such. And that is a great idea. The pictures, copies of letters to Santa, all those handprint crafts, etc.

But something I just read recently talked about the memories that certain foods evoke. My family and I personally have a lot of memories that are tied to food and holidays so it makes sense that others would have that same kind of core memories. For me, the Fourth of July goes hand-in-hand with homemade vanilla ice cream; homemade Turtle candies always scream Christmas; and Thanksgiving and mincemeat cookies just can’t be separated. Now per that last example…I’m not saying I LIKE mincemeat cookies, but my grandma always made them for Thanksgiving so I equate the two together.

So here’s why I’m telling you what might seem like superfluous information about myself: What I read was pointing out that quite possibly part of the grief that biological families and the kids feel around the holidays is that they aren’t celebrating as they have in years past…and certain food dishes are sometimes tied to that.

I don’t know about you but comfort food is pretty important to me. Not that I have ever chosen which family events to attend based on which one will have the better comfort food, but it has been batted around in discussions.

So that said, what would it look like if foster parents asked a child’s biological family for one (or more recipes) that they (the parents or grandparents) either enjoyed as kids themselves, or something they always made for their children who are now in care. (And then if they ask for it, the foster parents can give them a recipe that their child is enjoying this season).

And how meaningful would it potentially be to a birth parent to know that not only are they enjoying the apple pie they love to have during the holiday season, but their children are too…but only because the foster parents took the time to ask.

And on the flip side: their children are also enjoying chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and they are as well, because the foster family shared their recipe with them.

So in an effort to test this out before I suggested it to all of you…I personally did this myself just this past week. Now, I didn’t get an actual recipe, as I was hoping, but also was not terribly surprised (which is NOT a criticism of her, but I tell you to make the point that you don’t actually have to have a recipe to make this connection happen). Even though I didn’t get a recipe, my son’s birth mom could tell me what it was that they always eat during the holidays. It’s cherry cheesecake, bought from the grocery store.

Now if you know me at all, you know I like fruit and I like dessert but I do not like fruit in my dessert so honestly, the idea of a cherry cheesecake makes my stomach turn a little bit.

But kidding aside, I do understand that this is not about me; this is about my child and his birth family. And even though he has never had cherry cheesecake (with his birth mother or otherwise), knowing that it’s some thing she enjoys at Christmas might help make that connection between the two of them.

The other things she mentioned I probably actually will make: meatballs with barbecue and jelly in the crockpot, and peanut butter cookies. Those are totally doable, and I’m 100% certain my child would like them. He might like the cheesecake too, but I’m not certain at this point we need to do all three…he was removed as an infant and never ate any of these with her, so he wouldn’t have those “food memories”.

And again…since I do not have recipes for any of them, I’m going to use Pinterest and hope I get a close approximation. The recipe isn’t really the point…it’s the idea of it, and what the effort does for the relationship.

Either way, I just wanted to put that out there as food for thought, pun intended, that some sort of recipe (or at least a favorite holiday food list) swap might be a way to help make a connection between your family and your child’s family of origin, as well as between you and your foster child; at the very least, you might give it a whirl and see what happens.