Friday, December 24, 2010

The Food of the Season

Although Thanksgiving is the food holiday, Christmas is naturally right up there. Thanksgiving is about the turkey and stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, the cranberry sauce and--oh yeah--save room for some pie (or pumpkin roll!). Christmas, however, is about sweets. Cookies and candy canes and on and on. You can have turkey for Christmas dinner or ham or whatever you want, but there'd better be cookies and candies and sweet treats of all kinds, or it just isn't Christmas.

I don't remember any particular cookies from Christmas time in our house--it seems in memory like it was the same cookies mom would bake at any other time of year, just more of them. Chocolate chip, peanut butter, corn flake cookies (and later potato chip cookies). I don't remember Mom making a lot of sugar cookies, though lots of other people would of course, and I was always particularly fond of the cookies with the Hershey Kisses in the middle, which I don't think Mom ever made--which was okay, since it made them a special treat to get.

Although it wasn't exclusive to December, I remember chocolate fudge and peanut butter fudge being as common as Christmas ornaments around the house, and every so often, not every year, Mom would make Divinity. And every time she did, she would complain about how it was not like her mother's Divinity. So I've never known what it was "supposed to" be like, but I always liked it pretty well anyway.

There were always lots of candy canes around from the Christmas parties I blogged about and from school Christmas parties and my piano teacher and on and on. Lots of candy canes. While they were fine to suck on, what I really loved to do with candy canes was toss them in the blender--all of them, every single one I got except for the nasty ones that weren't peppermint--and then use that peppermint dust on ice cream, racing against natural forces to use all the peppermint dust before it re-solidified in whatever container I'd put it in.

Perhaps my favorite Christmas Eve / Christmas morning food memory is of the times when my grandmother came home with us after Christmas Eve services and made "Sticky Rolls." She would make up the dough the night before and prepare a pan by putting butter and brown sugar in the bottom and letting the heat from one of the heating grates slowly melt them together and raise the dough, and then on Christmas morning we would have these glorious home-made caramelly rolls. Just wonderful.

Perhaps just to make it different from Thanksgiving or perhaps because my mother never really liked cooking a turkey anyway, we always had ham for Christmas. Here's something I've realized about ham: I love it best when it's one great big shank. I don't want it pre-cut into neat, perfect slices. No. I want it to come in big, thick hunks. That's how I want the leftovers, too: thick, not thin. I don't care if it makes my sanwich lumpy, and I'm fine with pan drippings coming along for the ride--as long as I have thick chunks, anywhere from a half-inch to an inch thick, I'm good. Hog heaven, I guess you could say.

What about you? When I say "Christmas food," where do your thoughts wander?

And now's as good a time as any, I suppose, to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!


  1. Merry Christmas to you, too!

    My mom made, no kidding, at least 12 different kinds of Christmas cookies every year. One year, when we were having family from afar visit, she made (get this) TWENTY different kinds. They were delightful.

    Besides cookies, my mom always made awesome fruitcake, fudge and pies. Why I've never been morbidly obese is a complete mystery.

  2. Divinity is also in my Christmas memories, as is fudge, sugar cookies with the red and green sugar crystals on top, pies of all kinds, and my grandma's carrot cake with cream cheese icing. Mm. I agree -- Christmas is a sweets holiday for sure.

    Merry Christmas to you. :)

  3. Sticky buns! My mom's recipe included pecans in the topping, but her topping was made partly with light and dark corn syrups. Would love to try a different topping recipe without those -- tried one with regular maple syrup once and the texture wasn't right. Read somewhere that you can heat maple syrup to 225 I think and it gets thicker, more like a corn syrup.

    I made six kinds of cookies this year -- tops are the coconut macaroons. The first pan of nut horns didn't cook all the way -- I'll put them back in the oven later today. The milanos were disappointing -- spongy and alcoholy. The pizzelles and crinkles taste good but should be crispier.

  4. Dinner is standing rib and Yorkshire pudding at my stepmom's house. I make several different kinds of cookies, and they vary from year to year, but I always make sugar cookies, fudge, and (as you may have seen on FB) I love warm peanut butter cookies with a cold beer.

  5. I think Thanksgiving food is WAY overrated. But I ADORE Christmas dinner. My dad is a Brit (as you know) so we always have a standing rib roast, Yorkshire pud and creamed pearl onions. There are a few veg based side-dishes thrown in, but those are the three things I concentrate on. And I always try to make some over-the-top Christmas dessert (did you see the pic of my cake on FB? I haven't blogged about it yet.) OH! And of course, on Christmas, unlike Thanksgiving, and also in the British tradition, we have a HUGE fry-up for breakfast. Bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns + fried bread, tomatoes and mushrooms. And mimosas. To die for. Mmmmmmmm.....