Sunday, December 2, 2012

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 different things at the same 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 favorite 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 past Thanksgiving - after 9 1/2 years of marriage - I learned that my husband likes raisins in his stuffing. Ick. I told him I'll have to make a special batch with raisins in it for him next time.

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 3 years ago, and found it very difficult to make, probably due to our humid conditions here on the California 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 want to check your horoscope and a Magic 8 Ball 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 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.

Honestly though, 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 discovered last month that my daughter is also a "pie person," like her father. And I'm horrified to say that she actually likes that nasty cranberry sauce blob from a can... you know, the one that still looks like a can when you take it out of the can? Yeah. Gross. She's Daddy's Girl all right.

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.

Quick breads are also a favorite of mine (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 "2012 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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