Friday, December 23, 2011

Time For the Christmas Feast

This was Christmas Eve in 2010.  It's not so cold or so beautiful this year.

My lead-up to the holiday this year has been slow.  All the annoying bumps in the road for surgery recovery have seemed finally to even out, so this week I’ve been going full tilt at completing decorations and cooking.  My mom’s strawberry bread and fudge have already been made once and distributed for gifts.  Now it’s time for round 2 for the family.  Last night my son’s girlfriend, Laurie, and I made two large casserole pans of my mom’s chicken casserole for the family Christmas Eve meal.  There are more cookies to bake today for the family gathering so that night before Christmas can be left to wrapping presents.

If you asked me what my favorite gifts were over the years, I would be hard pressed to rattle them off like men reciting baseball statistics.  For me, Christmas has always been about the food.  My family is not the sort to serve a traditional Christmas meal of roasted turkey or ham with all the trimmings served on white lace tablecloths with festive candles filling the room.  From my very first memory of Christmas, it has always been my Granny’s spaghetti, first created because there were so many mouths to feed at the family gathering each year.  It took years for anyone to write the recipe down.  When my Aunt Nancy followed her around the kitchen for that purpose she had trouble getting it right because Granny would wander into the kitchen later and add something else when no one was watching.  Through group collaboration we finally got it down on paper (the secret ingredient is bacon).

The reason for the season

Christmas is also not Christmas without my Grandma’s strawberry cookies.  You may ask what’s so Christmas-like about strawberry cookies.  Nothing, except that is when Grandma made them.  She was not a big cookie maker – more a pie kind of baker – but each December she went through the painstaking process of cooking the mixture of dates and sugar and pecans and butter that formed the basis of this treat.  When it had cooled she sat in front of the TV and spent the afternoon molding spoonfuls of the sweet concoction into the shape of a strawberry, then rolling it in red sugar and carefully creating a green leaf at the large end with a can of Betty Crocker’s icing in a can.  They were as bright and beautiful as Christmas neon.  One year after serving as her strawberry assistant I submitted her recipe to a Christmas cookie contest for the newspaper.  It won an honorable mention and a photo, but the food editors felt that they knew better and rolled the cookie concoction in multi-colored sprinkles instead of red sugar.  I suppose it worked for some, but the brilliant red and green gifts from Grandma’s hands were what made the Christmas table.

So as you sit down to share a meal with family and friends at the end of this year, whether Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s or other special occasion remember all you’ve been given this year.  Remember all who are not with you.  And give a special thought to all who suffer and are alone at this time of the year.  I wish you all the best and I’ll be back to regular posting after the New Year.  I’ve got some eating to do now.

I know I should have had photos of culinary creations today, but I just couldn’t get it done.  But stories about them are just as tasty.  What is your favorite food from family holidays?  You can think outside the Christmas season if you want and tell us about barbecue at Labor Day or latkes at Hanukkah or any family food that comes around only rarely and brings memories with it.  Please share in the comments box.

Skyler with her present from last year.  I think I'll just wrap it and
give it to her again this year.

You Must Read:  This fall two blogging friends have published books that you must rush out and buy now to read during the cold nights of January.  Kristin Espinasse, of the French Word A Day blog, has recently published Blossoming in Provence.  It’s another in her series of books with photographs and stories about her life as an American raising two French children and adjusting to life at a Provence vineyard with her French husband.  She has a wonderful eye for the scenes of France that she translates both with her camera lens and her words.

The other book you want to read is The Foreign Language of Friends, by Nadine Feldman.  It tells the story of four very different women brought together in a Spanish class but who find they learn more than the language with this chance encounter.  It’s for anybody who has faced a transition in their lives and have to choose a path.  Nadine’s blog, A Woman’s Nest, shares thoughts and suggestions on travel in the world and into a life of creativity and joy.

Read another story about our Christmas vacation that wasn’t.  Sometimes the best times are when nothing happens.

 merry merry2 122510


Nichole L. Reber said...

The shot of your home is beautiful. Wish it were indeed like that this year. (Go go snow balls!) However, I will continue to relish the sun for its ability to prevent depression! Your holiday tree Nativity decoration is pretty too.
Happy holidays to you and your family.
Nichole L. Reber

Judith Marshall said...

It wouldn't be Christmas dinner without a broccoli casserole I've made since the 70s. However, it's getting harder to make as there are no longer 10 oz. boxes of frozen chopped broccoli or for that matter, any size of frozen chopped broccoli. But I'll soldier on by chopping the stuff myself, because it wouldn't be Christmas dinner without it.

As for your goal, Julie, to keep moving, my girlfriend says, "Live every day like your a-- is on fire." I agree

Judith Marshall
Author of "Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever," optioned for the big screen.

Julie Farrar said...

Oh, Judith, I know what you mean about sizes of packages. There are no more 10-oz packages of frozen strawberries for my mom's bread (has to be frozen with the juice) so I buy the bigger size and get out my scale and measuring cups to get the right amount of strawberries and juice.

Nichole, I can stand our cold weather when the sun is shining, but if it is gray for a month I want to crawl into bed until April and watch old movies and chick flicks.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photo of your house. I'm envious of the snow. I love eating brisket and potato latkes at my parents' house for Hanukkah dinner. Something about my mom's brisket can't be beat!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful home, what a beautiful photo. The snow, the lighting are all perfect in the picture and gazing upon it has a calming effect on me. Very nice! Hope your holiday is truly memorable!

Scoop (Leslie Scoopmire) said...

For me, nothing says "Christmas!" like my mom's ham that was as dry and dessicated as an old maid and twice as salty. Oh, you meant happy memories!

Bella said...

Julie, that house of yours is breathtakingly beautiful! Oh my goodness, what a lovely shot of all that snow! Now that's really a white Christmas. That said, I took one look at Skyler and wanted to wrap her up and bring her home with me! I think little Roxy would love her! Happy New Year! :)

Muriel said...

No snow in London as well...I wish you a happy new year. How are your French skills?

Julie Farrar said...

Oh, Muriel. My French is deteriorating. I dropped out of my conversation group during my neck surgery/recovery. I'm ready to get back to it now.

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