Survival of the fittest doesn’t necessarily mean the biggest and strongest will rise victorious at the end of every battle. Rather, those most capable of adapting to change. No amount of flexibility can limbo under the fact that 2020 was… difficult. But as we adapt, we find where we are and are not willing to give.

Regardless of what this year has handed us, it’s important to remember our family’s traditions, and to preserve them for future generations. Even if that means temporarily adapting them to our current circumstances. Even if that means putting them on the shelf for just one season. This month, The Reader asked a few of our foodie friends about the holiday traditions that bring them a little closer to home.

 

Nick Bartholomew
OverEasy, Dandelion, The Switch Food Hall

Nick Bartholomew knows that sometimes, food is love. That’s why he uses his resources to build a platform for chefs and creators to share what food and community means to them. Utilizing the space at Dandelion Popup, Bartholomew has created a table where none existed, and a bridge between concepts and customers.

Traditions have meant more to Bartholomew since becoming a father. They now have less to do with the past, and everything to do with being present.

“We always get dressed up and go on a holiday lights tour of Omaha. We stop at this huge tree on Underwood Ave to take our traditional annual family picture. Food-wise, we have a lot of great go-to dishes. My favorite has to be the scalloped corn. For me, though, it’s all about the leftovers. One year when I was little, I remember hiding the leftovers under my bed after the meal so none of my family could get to it. Leftovers are sacred!”

“I want my daughter Bring to grow up with holidays that allow the past to be present with us. The memories of loved ones. But to recognize that it’s the funny things that happen each year that become the traditions, engraining fresh memories of the love we have now.”

 

Brian O’Malley
Chef/Instructor and Associate Dean at Metropolitan Community College of Culinary Arts, Podcast Host
Open Kitchen Podcast

“Traditions are whatever we inherit that the generation before us carried. Maybe it’s an object, a recipe, or an idea. I’d like to say ours were passed down intact since my family came over on the boats, but I doubt it. It comes down to how good my grandma was at giving to my mom, and how good my mom was at teaching it to me.”

“For us, it’s cookies and candies. All of the cousins and kids go to my mom’s to frost cookies and make peanut and cashew clusters. It’s more about generating a stock of snacks to give out to neighbors, clients, and friends. Gifting treats is as much a tradition as making them.”

“For our holiday meal, we usually debate what sides we should be eating, but it always centers around the brisket. That tradition comes from my Grandma. Maybe being around most of the time leads to taking some of the traditions we have for granted. We all probably do it, except my brother. He has to come from pretty far to be here for holidays. He’s the most vocal about making sure we have our traditional dishes. Especially this sherbet dessert he loves. It helps us keep perspective about how important the details can be, and just how much it can make the difference for someone who’s missing home.”

 

Colin and Jessica Duggan
Kitchen Table
1415 Farnam
kitchentableomaha.com

From almost any angle you view Colin and Jessica Duggan, it would appear that they pour everything they have into Kitchen Table. A restaurant that feels like your slightly cooler older sibling’s house, wherein your sibling happened to have married a world-class chef – who makes even grilled cheese taste gourmet. The local sourcing, casual comfort, and homey vibe inform the diner that this isn’t the cute couple’s “home away from home”, but the very place they live their lives.

But be warned, fellow fans. They’ve been cheating on us. They have a family and traditions that don’t include us! Don’t get salty, we never said this was exclusive. When spending holidays with the family they’re actually related to, Jessica and Colin devour every moment, and maybe a few celebratory bites.

“For us, the preparation and the sharing of recipes and techniques has always been a huge part of Thanksgiving. Of course, we have our standard recipes and traditions that we all look forward to every year. Grandma Bev’s cheesy cabbage and Grandpa Wayne’s sweet potato casserole. But there’s almost always something new that someone is proud of and proud to share with the family.”

 

Ashish Sathyan
Kinaara
13816 P st
https://kinaaraomaha.com/

After the closure of the deliciously creative Indian Bowl, you’d think owner Ashish Sathyan and his wife Kimberly would have considered that the first of the many blows 2020 had in store. Instead, they turned this into the year they may be most grateful for. After opening their new and wildly popular establishment, Kinaara, in February, the couple welcomed their beautiful little girl, Ameya, in May of this year.

Ashish and Kimberly know that this will be the year traditions look a little different, but that a taste of home can bring everyone back together, if only for a moment.

“My favorite Christmas meal is Duck Mappas.” Ashish said. “It’s duck with Kerala spices and coconut milk. Kerala spices include cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, turmeric, tamarind, nutmeg, and curry. We also serve Appam, a South Indian pancake made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk. And for dessert, we have Kerala plum cake.” This is often likened to an Indian version of the traditional fruit cake, but the result is much more tender and moist, and very rich in fruit flavors.

Angie Grote
Communications Manager at Food Bank for the Heartland
https://donate.foodbankheartland.org/default.aspx?tsid=9194

Food Bank for the Heartland has had more on their plate this year than could have been anticipated, but the team has pulled together beautifully. With a 72% increase in the number of Heartland families served this year over last, the Food Bank has found itself increasingly grateful for its donors and volunteers.

Angie Grote, communications manager for the Food Bank, has found plenty of positive in this year of challenges. When the community was most in need, she found how many were willing to put in the work to see that nobody was left behind. Sometimes, we have to be one another’s family when things get difficult. And even in moments of peace and celebration, Angie knows that it’s family that matters most.

“My kids and I love to bake biscotti every year to celebrate the holidays. We follow my Great Aunt Rose’s recipe. She passed away in April at the age of 106. It is special to me to continue her tradition of baking these beloved cookies for family and friends, and having my children participate. Although, we inevitably end up with flour all over the kitchen!”

 

Kane Adkisson
Mootz/Kano
http://kanoomaha.com/

 

If you’ve been fortunate enough to have a chat with Kano and Mootz’ Kane Adkisson, you’ll quickly understand the role travel has in his worldly cuisine. Adkisson’s creations manage to transport you to the furthest reaches, while always managing to taste like home. You may not then be surprised to learn that his love and respect for the traditions and dishes of his fellow man was instilled in him in childhood, and that celebrating them is sacred to him and his family.

“My family has a really fun Christmas tradition. On Thanksgiving we all choose a country, write it down and throw it in a hat and choose one. We theme our Christmas around whichever country was chosen. We dress up, exchange gifts that are traditional in that country, and base our dinner around their traditional celebratory meal. It’s a lot of fun, and we’ve done it since I can remember!”

Dan Hoppen
Restaurant Hoppen Podcast
https://restauranthoppen.com/

 

Dan and his podcast serve as a virtual love letter to the Omaha culinary culture, and the people who make it happen. I was excited to find out what makes a meal a celebration to someone who sees the deeper meaning in every dish.

“Each year my mom, dad, sister, and my wife get together on Christmas morning to open presents. Then we celebrate with a delicious lunch – Though it’s not always traditional. Mom is a tremendous cook, and we trust her to design the menu and deliver amazing food, which she always does. One year that might mean a brunch theme with waffles and candied bacon. Another it might be a taco bar. If she’s feeling traditional, we might have mashed potatoes and a sugar glazed ham. To us, it doesn’t matter necessarily what we’re eating, as long as the food is delicious and we have family. That’s all that matters.”

 

No matter how your family is celebrating the end of this year, The Reader wants to thank you for allowing us to be part of what connects you to your fellow Omahans. We are grateful for our readers, and for the restaurant professionals, farmers, and suppliers who have kept Omaha on its feet during an incredibly challenging season. We are here for you, and we can’t wait to see what we can make of the next year!

Happy holidays, and a very happy New Year!


Subscribe to The Reader Newsletter

Our awesome email newsletter briefing tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Omaha. Delivered to your inbox every day at 11:00am.

Become a Supporting Member

Subscribe to thereader.com and become a supporting member to keep locally owned news alive. We need to pay writers, so you can read even more. We won’t waste your time, our news will focus, as it always has, on the stories other media miss and a cultural community — from arts to foods to local independent business — that defines us. Please support your locally-owned news media by becoming a member today.

Leave a comment