The Value of Tradition
[This week Yasi Khanlou dropped by to help collaborate on this post. Hope you enjoy and go read her blog!]
Societies have long been marked by their wrestle of tradition and reform. Every society has different traditions and customs that help shape them into the culture people around the world know. These traditions can be seen in the way the people act, the foods they eat, and the way it all changes with time. As time marches on, however, the norms change. As knowledge grows, and technology with it, the old is called into question and change is made. This can be as simple as tweaking of family recipes or as complex as a society’s view on gender equality. Tradition, with proper context, can be a wonderful, empowering force. The tension lies in the ability to preserve the timeless good with clarifying reform.
Pasta and noodles are something relevant in many societies all over the world. Modern day cultures have taken all kinds of noodles from around the world and greatly simplified them. This simplification process has taken away from flavor and tradition that their places of origin had originally given to them. For instance, lasagna, ravioli, and spaghetti that used to be rolled and dried carefully are now machine made and lack the value that they used to have. A great deal of what used to be made with care is now made for accessibility. Because people don’t have the time they used to have the rely on canned and boxed forms of what used to be an old family recipe. Ramen noodles used to be a signature Japanese and Chinese dish that was enjoyed by the consumer because of its taste and nutritional value. Today the Ramen noodles are something completely different. What was once a cultural delicacy has now been made into a quick easy meal with none of the positive nutritional benefits that used to come with it.
The last century has seen many pushes for equality amongst genders. The bulk of these strides have been undoubtedly good, but there is still a need to find what habits of the past bear repeating in the future. Most of the changes can be somewhat explained through simply how much the needs and functions of society has evolved. Less physically strenuous labor has allowed women more opportunities to show the value they bring outside of just the home. However, to abandon the way of the past simply because the future looks so different would be foolishness. There is value to be mined from the former family structure, if nothing else just the stability which was provided. As our collective knowledge continues to grow, we should be observing and examining the ways modeled in the past and glean as much as we can from what worked and didn’t. We’ll never go back to “how things were” and we shouldn’t pine for the past, (hopefully we aren’t longing for the days of subsistence farming) but hopefully we can take what the past has taught us and adapt it to build a more nuanced and complete society.
While it is true that change is necessary for progression, some things don’t need to be changed as drastically as they have in recent years. Traditions exist for a reason – they often hold a deep value beyond themselves. A dish is not just something for a family to share, it ties a city or region together, and familial structure has been largely static for a long time because it has proven to have a particular value. To go forward without celebrating and developing the past would be an unfortunate loss of perspective.