Before my great grandmother passed away, many of us were scrambling to have her teach us how to make some of her most famous Italian meals. Most of her recipes weren’t written down, and as she aged she was cooking far less often, so watching her prepare the meal was the only way we were ever going to learn how to make the dish. With broken English and a glass (or two) of wine, dinner was served. But more than just dinner, were memories. I can almost taste the sauce now and hear her telling us “Mangia! Mangia!” (Eat! Eat!)

Food. It’s a staple in life for nourishment, but it also provides a sense of comfort, culture and connection. A taste or smell acts as a memory trigger and we bond over broken bread. It may be a thing of that past to have the traditional nightly sit-down dinner, but many families still strive to incorporate togetherness at least a few times a week during mealtime. Eating together brings us closer; we share a meal and we share our day. Foods with emotional and cultural influences bring up conversation and connection.

If food is a powerful connection, it makes sense to apply that to adoption. Today many families are grown through adoption and those adoptions often bring together different backgrounds, nationalities, cultures, heritages, religions, and races in a single family. Utilizing food to tie us together is a valuable tool. How can you connect through food in your grafted family?

1. International cuisine. If you have an international adoption, eat at different restaurants or search for a few recipes of comfort foods specific to the region your child was adopted from. This can help create a tie to his or her home country and incorporate the culture, tastes, and memories into your home.

2. Family recipes. If you are in an open adoption, you can ask the birth family if they have any favorite family recipes they can share with you. Or invite them to bring a favorite dish to the next get-together.

3. Cultural foods. Whether it’s BBQ, shrimp and grits, hot dogs, crab cakes, or something else, if you adopt a child from a region that is known for its cuisine, it could be fun for your whole family to experience that type of food together.

4. Religion and Heritage. Even if you adopted from someone right next door, your backgrounds could be very different. While I am a 3rd generation in this country, my great grandma was very Italian. Her neighbor was a Jewish woman who taught them how to make an amazing beef brisket.

5. Holiday traditions. Many families have holiday traditions that are based around the heritage or upbringing. While some people may serve a turkey or ham on Christmas, mine goes with lasagna, while others may go for fried chicken and biscuits.

Cooking styles vary in the same area based on the person’s roots. Incorporating those roots is a fun project for the whole family. Getting in the kitchen, cooking together, sampling, telling stories, and eating together is a great way to bond and experience a different side of your child.

How do you incorporate food into growing your adoption connection and embracing your child’s differences?