Ah, the foods. The wonderful food that Mom would make. She has always been an amazing cook – though I have wished that she would sometimes make the same dish more than once, or cooking some “boring peasant food” that is to the rest of the world comfort food (like pot roast).
Why is it that the holidays are always surrounded by food?
At Christmas time we would usually get a box from my Grandma. They’ve never had a lot of extra money to buy gifts – but as far as I’m concerned they never needed to. Getting a box full of Grandma’s caramels, home canned pickles, crab-apple jelly, chokecherry syrup, and a myriad of other treats – that meant more than any present she could go out and buy. I’ve never tasted better pickles than what she makes, or better jelly. As an adult I’m starting to realize that I better have her teach me how to make these things, because let’s face it – she’s not going to be around forever, and I want my girls to enjoy it, even if it’s not directly from her. They’ll know the recipes came from her at least.
As a kid, we had a couple of food traditions. Every year on Christmas eve, Mom would make Canadian Pork Pie – a fabulous meat pie (I believe it’s French Canadian) that I now have the recipe for to make for my family. We kids loved it, but for a family of five, a 9” pie just never seemed to be enough. We wanted enough for seconds and for leftovers …
Christmas day dinner as a child I don’t really remember any specific traditions, probably because there wasn’t one. Until I was 9 we lived in Dickinson, ND – 100 miles away from my dad’s family and 140 miles away from my mom’s. ND winters don’t always lend themselves to traveling, and without a 4-wheel drive vehicle, my parent’s didn’t often take the chance. So it was usually just us at home – and I don’t remember Mom ever doing a traditional meal. In the last 10 years or so at my request, she’s done the same basic meal each time I’ve been with them for Christmas. It’s kind of a traditional English meal: Prime rib roast, mashed potatoes (mixed with parsnips and carrots), and plum pudding with a heavenly, creamy bowl of brandy butter sauce to top it. It’s funny to me now, as my paternal grandmother was born in England – so perhaps I’ve subconsciously channeled my British roots.
Every Christmas was marked by baking. Mom always loved to bake (though she doesn’t love what eating all of those baked goods can do … ). Each year, we got one request for a dessert – and she would make it for us. Of course, we didn’t get to have it all to ourselves, we had to (or got to) share with each other. Of course, that way it meant that I could request baklava and still get some toffee if my brother or sister requested it – so I guess it wasn’t all that bad of a deal. But if we wanted something like sugar cookies, we had to go to Grandma’s to get it.
Now, the holiday baking is something that I’ve done every year, without really thinking about the origins of that little tradition. This year, my oldest is disappointed, because we won’t be able to do much – with our kitchen renovation in progress, the place will be too torn up to do much.