Family Ties...

Traditions have always been very important to me, whether they are habits that you observe with a friend, drawing on shared memories to renew a sense of closeness, or long-established family rituals that create unity through a sense of common identity. My love of tradition is why I trek to Daley Plaza in the cold every December to take a photo with Lisa in front of the municipal Christmas tree; why I continue to bake "S" cookies for my father, even though few people truly enjoy eating them besides him; why I join Sarah for girls' nights at La Madia at least once at month; and why I pull Justin aside next to a particular vending machine at the Roosevelt El Station whenever we happen to find ourselves there in order to reenact our first kiss. The traditions I choose to uphold are a vital part of who I am.

Now that I'm becoming more of a part of Justin's family, I find myself in the position of observing a whole new set of traditions. Today, for example, I joined Justin's family for their annual apricot dumpling party, after I nagged him into picking up some of the fruits on sale at a store near our house. He and his sisters gathered early for a full-day of dumpling-making with his grandma.

Lizzie and Carrie boiling dumplings and toasting breadcrumbs, respectively.
The dumplings, known as marillenknödel in German, are an Austrian specialty, and a favorite of Justin's entire family. In his family's version, a complete apricot is wrapped in a dough make with mashed potatoes (it's not as weird as it sounds -- remember that some hamburger buns are made with potatoes and they're perfectly light and fluffy), boiled, and rolled in breadcrumbs that have been toasted in butter. When they are ready to eat, they are cut open, the pit is removed, and they are given a generous sprinkling of sugar. The apricot brings its assertive sweet-tart flavor to the mix, while the toasted breadcrumbs add a nice textural contrast. With sufficient sugar, they make a very nice dessert.

The finished product.
Apricots are never going to be my favorite fruit the way they are for Justin and most of his family. It was still fun though, to try one of Justin's most beloved dishes and share the experience with his family. Even if I never love apricots, I can certainly get behind adopting apricot dumplings as a new tradition in my life.

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