Friday, December 2, 2011

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 as easy as the grandmas made it look.

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 a 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 2 years ago, 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 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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With the exception of this past Thanksgiving, I haven't had to prepare a big holiday meal in a several years, thanks to family members who've invited us to dinner. 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. Chocolate of any variety doesn't last long in our household.

I also love to bake quick breads (banana, date, pumpkin), and sometimes I'll toss in some rum balls just 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 "help" me cook now; she even goes into her play kitchen to try to "cook like Mommy." 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 first in the "2011 Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" series, and was originally posted on December 2, 2009. Slight modifications have been made.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

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3 comments:

Kristin said...

Now I have to go find a recipe for loaded cranberry sauce.

Elizabeth O'Neal said...

LOL @Kristin - I'll look for it and post it. I'm pretty sure that's not the official recipe name. My husband would rather have that gooey can-shaped fake stuff instead of my real cranberries, so I hardly make it anymore. :-(

NoOceanInKansas said...

Yummy is all I can say!