Earlier this month, I taught a class on Ancestor Veneration via Wicked Grounds Annex. (Link NSFW). The attendees asked some fabulous questions, and when I brought up a practice of feeding ancestors during celebrations, a question came up from several people: "Er, what should I cook?"
The question can seem as overwhelming as asking, "what's for dinner?" when you just got home and are still too fried to form a complete sentence. Fortunately, the answer itself is fairly simple, even if, in some cases, feeding ancestors still takes a high level of effort.
For ancestors, you knew while they lived, that's easier than for those that go further back. You were around; you know what they liked. I can easily make pierogi for my father or grab a pack of the black licorice whips he ate when he went out for long walks. Common foods at family meals, especially holiday meals, go over great.
If you want to go further back into your lineage where perhaps names cloud in the mists of time, it's a little harder. I offer a few simple approaches in those situations, especially if you are only just starting to build those relationships. There are two reasons for this: most of us can't have a way of knowing who these people are, let alone what they liked, and second, some of the foods common to them - even if we call the food by the same name - may look, taste, and even be cooked in a way entirely different from what we know today. The history of maize gives a good example of that.
1. Bring them what you're having.
It's ok to bring them what you are having with your family for dinner. You may get intuitive senses of like or dislike, and often the food will mold if it isn't liked or wanted. That's okay. Spirit work, even the family-centered work, involves a process of trial and error.
2. Research and prepare recipes from their cultures of origin
If you have the energy to do so, look up recipes from your family's culture of origin. If you're of Middle-Eastern descent, for example, hummus, lamb, or dried apricot dishes might go over well. If you're of mixed descent, as most people are these days, you may need to take turns offering a dish that represents different cultures.
3. Use your intuition. Use your tarot cards. Listen.
When I closed my eyes and asked for a good go-to ancestral food offering, I heard, "Bread!" This makes sense - bread and grains, and yes, beer, were foundational nourishment when people moved from non-conscious to self-and-collective-aware civilization.
Sometimes, one specific ancestor (or two) may need/want to require a special meal, apart from what you offer to feed the entire lineages. For example, I pulled out my tarot deck to inquire what they might want to eat (I didn't really assign food group to element, but had something vague in mind.) This is what I got:
As usual, my tarot cards told me something I needed to know instead of what I asked. My clients may be familiar with this experience. Yes, it's just as frustrating when they do that to me! I try to remember that they wouldn't do it if it weren't important, though!
In this case, someone needing food is obvious - that Satiety card inverted pretty much screams, "I'm not getting what I need!" The next card has been showing up in other readings, and I have been at my wits' end to identify her. Now I know - it's the ancestor in question, who has a justified need and needs that filled by me. The third card, the Empress direct, is all about family, nourishment, and care. So a great grandmother of mine needs some genuine TLC.
I'll be using the pendulum later to find out what great grandmother. But in the short term, I will give her a simple meal of bread, broth, water, and an apple. Yes, I could cook a fancy broth (and I might), but if all I had available were a bouillon cube and my dollar store spice rack selection, I would make that work.
The more you work with your ancestors, the more these communications may happen - and the more your own palate and kitchen repertoire may expand!