Thursday, December 2, 2010

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Day 2 - Holiday Foods

I was unable to find any old photos of holiday foods-past, 
but I did find this picture of my cousins and I 
having breakfast in Christmas bibs, c. 1967.
That's me in the front with the creepy doll.

Unfortunately, I really don't have many memories of special holiday foods from when I was young. Is that odd? I guess you could say I've always been a girl who eats to live rather than the other way around, so food just doesn't stand out in my memory.

However, I do remember a few things. My grandmothers were both fantastic cooks (aren't they all?). Watching them cook was fascinating to me; how could they make so many things at one time? It was amazing to see everything come together in perfect precision. Ding! Dinner is ready, and on the table... just like magic!

I've since learned that this is NOT an easy thing to do.

My maternal grandmother made the best stuffing with her turkey. I think this was my favoriate part of the meal. She never did give me the recipe, but I've managed to find one that comes very close. It's the only stuffing I'll make, and thankfully it does not contain necks, gizzards, oysters, or anything else that a kid (or grown-up) might consider "yucky."

This same grandmother - and my mother too, I think - also made a delicious, white confection called Divinity (which I will write about in an upcoming post). I made this for the fist time last December, and found it very difficult to make, probably due to our humid conditions here on the coast. Trust me: the weather must be ideal, and the planets perfectly aligned with nothing in retrograde in order to make the best Divinity. You might check your horoscope first, too.

My paternal grandmother, Reba, was an expert pie-maker. She made many different types, but her pumpkin pies were always my favorite. I have fond memories of standing in her kitchen "helping" her bake cookies. Mmmm... the smell was heavenly.

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I haven't had to prepare a big holiday meal in a several years, thanks to family members who've invited us to dinner, but when I do, I typically prepare the same things each time. Turkey and stuffing, "loaded" cranberry sauce (loaded with bourbon), sweet potatoes with extra marshmallows, mashed potatoes, rolls... the whole deal. I'm a terrible, awful piemaker, so I'll usually buy a pie and maybe a cheesecake for dessert. If I'm feeling very adventurous, I'll make the cheesecake myself.

Actually, I'm more of a "cake girl." My father loved him some pies, but I just couldn't get into them myself (except for pumpkin). I suppose there are "cake people" and "pie people," kind of like how there are "cat people"and "dog people." If you're wondering, I'm a dog people person.

I used to do a lot of baking at Christmastime. When we were particulary short on funds, we would give baked goods as gifts. We found out the hard way that these cost a bundle to mail, so there wasn't a huge financial savings with this strategy.

I found a great recipe for fudge that you can make in your microwave in about 5 minutes (and, it tastes good!), so we enjoy a lot of fudge. My daughter discovered chocolate last year, so I don't imagine it will last long in our household.

I also love to bake quick breads (banana, date, pumpkin), and sometimes I'll toss in some rum balls for fun. The rum balls are great to take to work for those days when you really don't feel like working. Pass them around the office and let the holiday cheer begin!

My daughter loves to watch me cook; she even goes into her play kitchen to try to "cook like Mommy." I've started letting her help me cook this year, and she gets so excited when something "she made herself" comes out of the oven.

And enjoying these holiday foods through her is what truly makes Christmas special for me.

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This post is the second in the "2010 Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" series, and was originally posted on December 2, 2009. Slight modifications have been made.

To learn more, or to join in the fun, please visit the official blog of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

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grace said...

I love the old photo of you and your cousins in high chairs and the bibs.

Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski said...

Apparently creepy dolls are timeless. My mother made Divinity (forgot to mention that in my post probably because I was momentarily distracted thinking about Spritz cookies and Buche de Noel.) Love the bibs and can't wait to see some photos of Daughter's continued kitchen adventures.

DianaR said...

Ooooh - I want the recipe for "loaded" cranberry sauce"!!

Nolichucky Roots said...

I think I had the same creepy doll - Kissy, if I remember correctly.

Brenda said...

I agree with Diana, you must share the 'loaded' cranberry sauce. Haven't high chairs come a long way?

Kristin said...

I want that cranberry recipe too! do you just splash in some bourbon after it's cooked? two splashes? a cup?

Lidian said...

I agree, that cranberry sauce sounds terrific! (I also love divinity, but haven't had it in about 35 years)

Elizabeth O'Neal said...

Brenda, Kristin, Lidian & DianaR - Ok, ok! I'll post the "Loaded" Cranberries recipe. That's not the actual name of it, but we've come to call it that... probably because they're "loaded" with bourbon, and you can get "loaded" if you eat too much (I would never, of course). ;-)

Grace - Thank you! My cousins don't know it's posted. ;-)

Cindy - I'll see what I can do, once I get rid of this blasted cold and some other "chores" that are awaiting my attention.

Nolichucky - I can't remember the name of the doll, but Kissy sounds familiar. And extra creepy. Seriously though, we must have some common ancestors or perhaps we were separated at birth? We have way to much in common not to be related in some way.

Lidian - Divinity is divine, but also hard to make. If the conditions are even slightly off, it comes out all gooey and mushy. It's a pain, but once you get it right, it's wonderful!

Brenda - Thank GOD high chairs have come a long way. I can't imagine one of those c. 1965 chairs containing my daughter when she was younger. And they sure don't look comfortable!

Greta Koehl said...

I haven't made Divinity since moving out to "Swampland," aka Virginia. But my mom and I made some wickedly good stuff (with pecans from the trees near us) back in dry old Texas.