28 August 2012

Who am I, really?

The Bakers Daughter by Sarah McCoy
This post is inspired by Sarah McCoy's The Baker's Daughter. In a small Texan town, Reba discovers Elsie's German Bakery and falls in love with more than the pastries. Shes drawn to Elsie's life in Germany during the last year of WWII. Join From Left to Write on August 29  as we discuss The Baker's Daughter. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Boy, it's been a long dry spell this summer, both in the local weather and in my posting.  I keep thinking that summer means long lazy days spent by the pool or in the backyard with my feet up, doing a ton of summer reading.  Heh.

I have three children.  Three boys, who like to do most anything besides read.  I instituted my summer reading/video game ratio rule, which is there must be at least thirty minutes spent reading before anything with a remote control or an on/off switch is picked up.  Boy, they were careful not to spend any extra time reading, I'll tell you that.  Thirty minutes and that was IT.  We had our usual summer activities and it flew by.  Today was their first day of school, and I was so ready.  

From Left to Write also took a summer hiatus and I was all discombobulated with my blog posting.  The book club discussions help me keep on track.  You see, I love to write, and I love to write creatively, but I still need subject matter and a deadline.  

In any case, here I am, having read this book.  I really enjoyed it, on several levels.  First, I am a total history nerd.  I love history.  I majored in it, and I write it in my gainfully employed state.  Historical fiction is great fun; it allows you imagine, what if?  Could this really have happened?  This book has enough authenticity in its detail to make you wonder as you read, not only could it have happened, but did it?  Also, it is abundantly clear that the author is well acquainted with baking, specifically German baking, and just exactly how things are made.  And the story is good.  I wanted to know what happened before, how characters were connected, and how things would turn out.  There are some good twists and unexpected turns of events that kept me guessing. 

The thing that really struck me about the story was Elsie's determination, no matter where she ended up, to maintain her cultural identity.  Even in Texas, she was German, through and through.  Elsie simply refused to give up parts of herself, even though doing so might have smoothed the path in front of her that was sometimes pretty rough and treacherous.  

I wonder, if circumstances conspired to uproot me from my life here in smalltown USA, and I found myself living in some other country, say, Norway....would I still hold fast to my American identity?  Would I just put my foot down and refuse to change parts of me in order to assimilate into a new culture, even if it would make my life easier?  Would they immediately know I was American? 

My cultural heritage is a mixed bag; I've got Irish, German, English, and French in me. One of my middle names (I have two) is French and once people get past my having two middle names, they don't know how to pronounce the second one.  (it's Rive with the accent on the 'e'...pronounced Rih-vay, in case anyone was curious) But that is about the extent to which I have preserved any smidgen of my cultural heritage.  We don't have German Christmas traditions in my house, for example, nor do we observe Irish traditions (well, there is St. Patrick's Day, but I'm not entirely certain that green beer really counts).  

After having read the book, and checked out the recipes for all of Elsie's many baked treats in the back (I know! How awesome is that?!) I find myself a little sad that I don't have recipes or traditions to pass on to my boys, or their future spouses.  

Do you have a sense of cultural identity?  Do you keep it alive in your homes with foods or traditions or other kinds of observances?  I'd love to hear about them! 


Thien-Kim aka Kim said...

I understand where you're coming from. Now that I have kids, I try to pass down Vietnamese culture, foods and traditions to them. Since their father isn't Vietnamese, it's even more important that I share as much as I can.

Rebecca said...

I completely forgot about the Christmas traditions part. We, because of my German ancestry on my Mom's side, do a lot of traditional German baking around the holidays.