Thursday, December 16, 2021

Food Memories @LucyBurdette

Lucy's mom, ready for the party

LUCY BURDETTE: With Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror and Christmas coming fast, it’s not hard to drift back to memories of earlier days. Especially memories of food and family. 

We grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey. My father had a long commute into New York City to his job, leaving my mother as the chief cook after her days teaching elementary school, and taking care of four kids. She didn’t love to cook, but like the rest of us, she loved to eat. She also loved the holidays, when we got together with her sisters and their families. That food was never fancy, but it was good and plentiful, usually anchored by a ham or a turkey. If it was a ham, my aunt Barbara made a mean baked beans dish, and always two kinds of potato salad, one with onions and hard-boiled eggs for most people, and one without for the fussy kids. With turkey, we'd have mashed potatoes and gravy and all the trimmings.

A summer party with Mom, Aunt Carol, and my sisters Susan and Martha


My mother also loved a party. The times Mom most welcomed assistants in the kitchen was while baking cookies for the holidays and preparing finger food for a party--we often hosted a holiday open house for neighbors and friends. She spent days making tiny triple-decker finger sandwiches, choux puffs stuffed with tuna or shrimp salad, fruit salad piled into a watermelon shell carved like a basket, and spritz butter cookies in various shapes and colors. I’m borrowing some of those to use for a funeral reception in A DISH TO DIE FOR. Here's Hayley helping her mother prepare:

“Does old-time recipes mean head cheese, and Spam, and vegetables out of a can mixed with Miracle Whip?” asked Sam. He seemed to love serving as my mother’s first assistant, but he loved teasing her most of all.

“Let’s hope not,” my mother said cheerfully. “We’ll focus on finger foods, since most people won’t be sitting.” She clipped the list of recipes to a stand on the counter. “I asked Cole’s Peace Bakery to slice some loaves of bread lengthwise.” She pulled four loaves of sliced bread out of the brown paper bags on the counter. “My mother used to make little three-decker sandwiches when her friends were coming to lunch,” she explained to Sam. “The fillings were always different, like egg salad in one layer and tuna fish or cream cheese with olives in another.

“At Christmas time she had her bakery dye some of the bread loaves red and some green, so the layers of the sandwiches were multicolored. Do you remember, Hayley?” Her face looked a little melancholy, and her voice was wistful. We’d both deeply mourned the loss of my sweet grandmother.  

How about you Red family? Are you full of holiday food and family memories this time of year?

114 comments:

  1. Oh, so many good memories of family and food; many of the things that are tradition in our family are things that my mom made and we grew up eating at holiday time.
    Like so many, we had turkey for both Thanksgiving and Christmas; I made turkey at Thanksgiving, but we have a rib roast for Christmas [it’s John’s favorite] and I find that I’m happy not having turkey for both holidays. Of course, there are pies and cookies . . . lots of cookies . . . I remember twisting the dough, half uncolored, half pink, to make candy cane cookies . . . .

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  2. Lucy, I love your photos. Christmas time always has me longing to be at my mother's table once again. My father cured his own country ham, and it was so good. My mother baked it (I remember her putting the cloves in it), of course, and she did everything else. I now am in such awe of her fixing all that food and having enough for everyone. The turkey was always just right, because we had to have turkey as well as country ham. There was corn pudding and either an asparagus casserole or a broccoli one. There was a frozen fruit salad that was divine. Mashed potatoes were always there. But the dish that I still long for the most was my mother's dressing balls with gravy (even better warmed up as leftovers, so hard to believe there were ever leftovers). I grew up thinking everybody had their dressing in the shape of balls. Oh, and the scalloped oysters were a must, too. I still carry on the tradition of the scalloped oysters and the asparagus casserole, but, alas, I've never lived up to her dressing balls. We usually had pecan and/or pumpkin pie, but we always had transparent puddings (little transparent pies). The transparent pie is a local dessert where I grew up, and we would buy them from Magee's Bakery because they had the best. And, you could find some chocolate fudge and cream candy (another Kentucky thing) around to snack on. Oh, it was a wonderful feast, and I wish I'd realized then how special it was.

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    1. sounds amazing Kathy! But from your descriptions over the year, I think you learned to be a wonderful Southern cook, just like your mom.

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    2. Kathy, my Alabama grandmother made "transparent pie," but in her neck of the woods it was called chess pie. Now I've got to look up the recipe and give it a try, because I LOVE that pie.

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    3. Corn pudding, dressing balls, transparent pie. I never heard of any of them. I grew up in California, are those Eastern things? Also, we called it stuffing, even if it wasn’t made inside the bird. Same thing, though, yes?

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    4. Aw, thanks, Lucy. Hallie, I should mention that they were baked dressing balls. My brother says he can make them just like my mother, but I've never been around when he makes them. Julia, people often confuse chess pie and transparent pie, but they are not the same thing, even though they look somewhat alike. The transparent pie is truly a regional item. Rick, those food items are southern, and dressing is the term used mostly in the south, while stuffing is mostly used in the north.

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  3. Yes, the holidays, especially those at the end of the year was all about the food. We always had a traditional southern soul food meal of collards, turkey, ham, sweet potato yams, baked macaroni and cheese, green beans, rice, mixed salad, gravy, biscuits and cakes and pies for dessert. The best part was after the first meal, we would sit around the TV with a football game on and chat about nothing and watch the small ones play with their new presents. Then it was time for the second meal before dessert. Good memories that seems to fade in time.

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    1. That menu, Dru, so delicious! we never had a second meal, but we would have open-faced turkey sandwiches with gravy.

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  4. Yes, my mom learned how to make the traditional Christmas turkey dinner once she emigrated to Toronto in the early 1960s. Betty Crocker Cookbook and the Joy of Cooking were her guides.

    So we had a roasted turkey with sausage/bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, carrots and brussels sprouts (which I hated as a kid but now like). But oddly, we did have any dessert with that meal! Probably because my mom was not a good baker. So no pie, no Christmas cookies. But we did buy a dark Laura Secord fruitcake to eat during the holidays, but not at Christmas dinner.

    I still buy that fruitcake each year. That is why I one of the few people who love eating fruitcake. I also bake my own almond stollen (with marzipan) and buy a panettone from the Italian market. BTW, leftover panettone make the BEST FRENCH TOAST!

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    1. That must have been such a shock for your mother to land in Toronto. I don't like fruitcake, but I can see exactly why you do!

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    2. LUCY: Well, she had to learn how to cook all kinds of North American foods that were foreign to her. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner were bigger, multi-course feasts that she had to learn how to make. And she did well, just no desserts!

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    3. As for the Laura Secord fruitcake, I bought mine last Friday. It definitely brings back fond holiday memories, and the only store-bought holiday treat that has not changed in over 50 years!

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    4. Sweet memories, Grace.

      We were just talking about fruitcake this morning. Steve's family loves it, based on what they used to get from a Texas bakery every year from friends. After we were married I started making a version that was thisclose to it, and it was a big hit with my own mom, too. For the last couple of years I have not been able to get the ingredients, and so when I spotted a small packaged fruitcake I got one for Steve.

      Well, yesterday I had a taste. YUCK! No wonder people say they don't like fruitcake. This was absolutely vile.

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    5. Rebecca Butler introduced me to Collin Street Bakeries fruitcake - I ordered their apricot and pecan fruitcake and it's all I can do NOT start it before Christmas.

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    6. That's the one, Hallie! I should have ordered one this year.

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    7. Collin Street Bakery is the best I've ever had that I didn't make myself!

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    8. My parents used to order Collin Street fruitcakes for their business customers! I loved it but haven't had one in years. Hallie, the apricot and pecan fruitcake sounds divine!

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    9. Grace, Pannetone also makes great individual Trifle desserts for a smaller amount of people. And I agree with everyone before me, I'm not a fan of fruitcake but Collin Street Bakery has the best!

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    10. HALLIE, ANN, DEBS AND LYNN: Never heard of Collin Street fruitcake. Good to know they do ship internationally but the website says 2-6 weeks estimated delivery time, so not this Christmas.
      But it's good to know about another good fruitcake company if Laura Secord ever goes out of business in Canada!

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    11. LYNN: Oooooh, using leftover panettone for individual trifle is a great idea!
      Will have to remember that...

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    12. KAREN: Sorry to hear about your vile fruitcake this year. Good thing it was only a small package!

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  5. Yes, lots of memories, but I'm a little wistful this year, since no family will be around. My mom was an amazing baker and I grew up baking cookies with her, as my sons did with me. She also had a two-part Santa cake mold that ended up with Santa on his feet, iced to the hilt. Christmas morning was homemade cinnamon rolls with lots of real butter, bacon, and scrambled eggs.

    I'm sure we had Christmas dinner (and I do remember the traditional Thanksgiving dinner), but the Christmas foods I remember are the sweets.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your pictures!

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    2. I wonder if you still have that Santa mold Edith? I'm glad you got to see your California family anyway...

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    3. EDITH: I do understand your wistfulness about having no family around. I am feeling a bit down too...it will be my first Christmas holiday alone with NO family/relatives left in Canada.

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    4. Hugs, Grace. I will see my older son and his wife sometime before New Year's, which will be lovely.

      Lucy, I don't have the and don't think my sisters do, either. It was a wonderful thing made out of some thick metal.

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    5. Thanks, Edith. Since my dad passed just before Canadian Thanksgiving, I did not make a typical meal then too. I know the first year is hard without loved ones. I know I am "off" when I am not interested in food or cooking. I did buy that Laura Second fruitcake last week but have not thought about solo Christmas dinner plans yet.

      Sending hugs to DRU and HALLIE, too.

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    6. The firsts are the worst, and the December ones the worst first of all. Much love to GRACE, DRU, AND HALLIE.

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    7. Christmas alone is so hard. My heart goes out to you, Hallie and Dru, Grace. Wish you could all come and join our boisterous clan!

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    8. ANN and KAREN: Thanks. We were doing so well in Ontario during the blip of a fourth wave this fall. But it looks like Omicron is going to give us our worst spike of cases so far. I expect further indoor gettogether restrictions being announced this week by the local/Ontario government (sigh).

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    9. Ann, you said it. The December firsts are the hardest. Hugs to all who are feeling grief and emptiness and even wistfulness (Edith). I will light a candle here, to help guide you when the darkness seems overwhelming.

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    10. I lost both parents within 5 1/2 months last year, so this will be the second Christmas without them. I'm still grieving, but it's bittersweet. I can certainly empathize with all of you going through the rough patch this season. I'm not especially cheerful this year, so sorry if I seem like a Grinch. We are NOT alone, together!

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    11. LYNN AND DEB RO: Yes, it is still hard...hugs.

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    12. what a lovely group of friends you all are--we're so glad you're here!

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  6. I don't know that I'm full of holiday memories of food and family.

    My Thanksgiving sucked because I was in the ER learning I had pneumonia for the first time in my life.

    As for Christmas, I'm supposed to go over to my sister's for dinner and that should be good.

    I suppose the memories I have would be of the extended family gathering on Christmas Eve. First at my grandparent's house when I was a kid and then at my aunt's when she took over hosting when it became too much for my grandmother.

    It would be a packed house with kids eager to open presents and my uncle dressing up as Santa Claus for said little kids. He always made his gifts a fun surprise. One year he labeled the wrapped packages as what they supposedly were. One of my aunts was a host for a foreign exchange student and she didn't want to open her package because my uncle had labeled it "Underwear". She finally got that whatever the label said, that wasn't what the gift was. Another year, my cousin asked for a Sprite doll from the Rainbow Brite doll collection. She specifically said that she wanted a Sprite. So my uncle got her EXACTLY what she wrote down, a Sprite...a 2 liter bottle of the soda. She was mortified until he brought out the actual gift.

    There would be a host of food offerings that guaranteed that not only did no one leave hungry but that they almost certainly left with a container of leftovers. (I know I certainly did).

    My favorite holiday food dish was my aunt's chicken dish. It was AWESOME and something I looked forward to each Christmas Eve. And I would take some home and have it for breakfast on Christmas morning. One year, I even gave my aunt my container to put the leftovers in when I arrived at the house. I haven't had the dish since a year after my mom died. Though my aunt gave me the recipe, I don't cook much anymore and certainly not to the extent of putting together a meal from a recipe.

    That gathering doesn't happen anymore. The year my mom died the decision was made to end it (though not because of her dying).

    So I suppose that is a cherished memory of holiday food and family that I miss and remember quite fondly.

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    1. Sounds like such fun Jay! Now I'm curious about what was in that chicken dish...

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    2. It was a simple chicken and mushrooms dish but it just tasted so damn good. I'm not one for mushrooms so I moved them off the to the side of course. But I always regretted when I got full because it meant I couldn't go back for another helping.

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    3. Jay, your uncle sounds like such a character. Do you think he was part of your inspiration for the comic book Halloween tradition of your own?

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    4. Karen, I don't think so but I guess you could be on to something there.

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  7. What marvelous memories, Lucy! I spotted the watermelon basket right away. Iconic.

    My mom was a stay-at-home type and truly, a gourmet cook. The fill-in postman once called the police because he spotted what he thought was a child hanging through the slit in the kitchen curtains between the valance and the curtains proper. It was a duck, hanging for Peking duck. no charges were filed.

    Thanksgiving was turkey, Christmas roast beef, Easter stuffed leg of lamb. Sides could be creative with two constants, broccoli with cheese sauce (made with condensed soup) and corn casserole (made with condensed soup). We always had appetizers. Standards were crab stuffed mushrooms, hot crab dip, and a homemade antipasto platter. I was NOT permitted in the kitchen, EVER. Mom did not share her recipes or cooking techniques with me until after I married. Can't blame her. I once tried to make a pound of spaghetti in a four cup saucepan. It was not a success.

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  8. I've always associated turkey with Christmas, but this year we're having ham. And I wish I could duplicate a dish I grew up with - layers of sweetened sweet potatoes and apples layered and baked in a dutch oven. Somehow the potatoes and apples just absorbed whatever liquid was added and it developed a sweet crust, so there must have been brown sugar. Anyone?? My attempts have ended up either dry or soupy or bland or sicky-sweet.

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    1. Hallie, I googled this and there are as many recipes as there are bottles of wine in the holiday kitchen! Tell me more and I'll see what I can find. So many of the recipes incorporate mashed sweet potatoes and apples, fewer with sliced.

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    2. I bet there was cider involved. Or maybe applejack brandy. Sounds delicious, Hallie.

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    3. Taste of Home. Healthy sweet potato apple bake. Is this anything like it?

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  9. Oh, Kait, my mother also never let me "mess around" in her kitchen. Luckily, my dad, the far better savory cook, let me assist him or I would never have learned to do anything but open the fridge. And the same here: after I was married we burned up the telephone wires with her telling me how to make chili, roasts, and other stuff.

    Lucy/Roberta, what sweet memories. For a reluctant cook it sounds as though your mother sure went all in. Some of those dishes, like the shrimp puffs, were pretty complicated.

    And which of the girls is you in the photo?

    My mom was an uninspired cook, except when it came to baking. Then she really went to town, grating a giant bowl of carrots for carrot cake, and pounds of chocolate for German chocolate cakes. But the menu at the holidays was always the same, and usually always delicious.

    For many years after Steve and I were married we hosted a holiday party in between Christmas and New Year's, an open house with groaning boards of food and drink. We invited his friends, my friends, and my business clients in town, along with the odd relative. I still have the lists of food I made, including shrimp dip, bourbon balls, and all kinds of other dainties. Steve often smoked a turkey, and he became famous with our friends for that. In fact, one guy called yesterday to get some food together for an old friend who was recently widowed, and he suggested that Steve make a turkey for him!

    We're spending Christmas at my oldest daughter's this year. She and her husband have their own, ironclad traditions, and nothing else will do. I'm happy to do what I'm told before, and to just sit down and eat their delicious efforts.

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    1. I know Karen--shrimp puffs in choux pastry is pretty fancy! I'm the one in the middle looking strangely pious:)

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    2. Kait, the fact your daughter felt free to establish her own traditions with her husband speaks to you being a great mother. I've known a few (not mine, thank God!) who insisted on their adult kids keeping up with the old family way of doing things - including mandatory appearances on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, etc. It's a gift to let your adult children do the holidays in a way that makes sense for them.

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    3. Julia, there is a letter to The Lily in today's Washington Post about that very thing, a mother-in-law who insists her kids' families follow her traditions only.

      I have had three mothers-in-law (my first husband also had a stepmother), and luckily they were all accepting of whatever aspects of holidays I wanted to follow, as was my own mother. They were all good role models in that regard.

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    4. KAREN: Did Steve use an outdoor smoker to make the smoked turkey?
      I hope so, or the house will smell smoky?!

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    5. Oh, yes, always. He uses a Weber grill.

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  10. For a few years now I've made a fabulous cioppino for Christmas Eve dinner, seven fish and all that. It's an elegant one pot meal, adding a good sour dough and a better bottle of wine. I use lobster instead of crab, Julie's preference, shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, anchovies, and cod. It's out of this world and brings back San Francisco memories. Dessert is always raspberry, mango, and lemon sorbet.

    But this year we've decided on a rib roast. Roasted carrots, onions and potatoes, brussels sprouts, good rich gravy, and Yorkshire pudding.

    I also am making my grandmother's fruit cake, my precious friend Pauline's sausage rolls and mince pies, Julie's mother's date bread, and iced sugar cookie cutouts.

    All that beef will last us until New Year's in one form or another. New Year's Day will be Hoppin' John: black eyed peas cooked with fresh hocks, rice, okra, and cornbread, crispy from a cast iron skillet that belonged to my grandmother

    By the way, I've been having a great time with my air fryer. I think I will use it for the roast potatoes.

    Happy Holidays everyone, especially Dru, Grace, and precious Hallie. Much love

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    1. everything sounds amazing Ann! Definitely Hoppin' John for New Year's!

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    2. That would be my a time favorite, Snn but with 14 in the house I’m not serving lobster!

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    3. 2021 is the first year since 2005 that I was not able to travel to San Francisco for vacation. I do miss a good cioppino...especially since I cannot eat tomatoes but any decent seafood soup will do here in landlocked Ottawa ON.

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  11. Oh, so many! The first thing is that my mom used to make… Are they called spritz cookies? In a pastry tube that you would goosh out the cookie dough. And then decorate them. Oh, those were great! And I haven’t thought of that for years.

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    1. We made (and make) Spritz cookies, too! So delicate and delicious.

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    2. Yes spritz. I bought myself a spritzer last week and will try those cookies on Saturday.

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    3. Spritz cookies it is! Make them every year. Sometimes the cookie press doesn't work as well and then *&^$% want to throw it across the room. But, grandsons keep me calm and we have fun decorating those little trees. This year trying chocolate spritz for the first time. Wish me luck.

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    4. Ike a cylinder, with a pattern template in the bottom, that you would goosh the dough through. And you never know what shape would come out. Kinda like a lesson in spatial geometry. And sprinkles on everything!

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  12. For Christmas dinner we always had standing rib roast—honestly, it smelled so good! And Yorkshire pudding, which I think is miraculous. it’s kind of dangerous to make, isn’t it, all that hot oil? but well, another amazing food.

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    1. Standing rib roast is my Christmas specialty, Hank, although in recent years, with the number of vegan and vegetarian friends, it has to share pride of place with Mushroom Wellington.

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    2. HANK: That sounds like a yummy English-style Christmas dinner.
      Do you not like turkey?

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    3. Standing rib roast! Wonderful, but has gotten SO expensive!

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    4. Julia! Mushroom Wellington--I am swooning!

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    5. Grace, I adore turkey. But we had it for Thanksgiving every year.

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    6. Rick, SO agree. I am still debating. :-)

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  13. I still have Mom's Mirro cookie press, vastly superior to the fancy one I bought. She hit her stride with birthday cakes, making black-bottomed pie (chocolate and vanilla custard topped with whipped cream) for my brother and strawberry shortcake for me.

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    1. I tried to get a new fancy press, because Mommy's Mirro was showing its age. The new one doesn't work as well!

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    2. Oh groan, my new press will probably be a dud as well...

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    3. Wirecutter! I love the NY Times's answer to consumer reports - they have a piece on best holiday cooking baking gear https://tinyurl.com/yckhrc8w SADLY nothing about cookie presses.

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  14. Roberta, you look so like your mother! What a hostess she must have been - those spreads look as if they ought to be in one of those artful domestic magazines like Southern Living - or, as the kids would say, very instagrammable!

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    1. Thanks Julia! The older I get the more I resemble my father:)

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  15. All y'all's dinners sound divine! While Mom was still living in her senior apartment I got in the habit of serving finger foods (yay Trader Joe) and we treated it as a Christmas open house for family rather than making a big dinner. That went over well and I've kept that tradition for us. I need to go stock up on canapes, etc. Holiday memories include Mom baking a birthday cake for Jesus when I was 4 or 5. That impressed the heck out of me. Also helping her make rum balls, even though I hated the taste. Ditto the gum drop tree. Looked cool but yuk! Yes, I was a picky kid. My aunt in Racine sent a couple of kringles every year and that was a real treat.

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    1. That's such a smart way to entertain! And I agree with you on gumdrops and rum balls...

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    2. Gum drops gum drops. OH I love those! (sorry, digression..)

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  16. My Mother started Christmas in early November with her "Poor Man's Fruitcake." Poor, because it didn't contain candied fruit or marzipan which was really expensive to get in the high mountain desert of Southern Colorado. This version was made with white sugar and was never iced. So, basically it was nuts and currents in cake wrapped in bourbon soaked cheesecloth for 60 days (minimum). She used to make the dough in the turkey roasting pan, turning out enough loaves to give away as presents. It is the only kind of "fruitcake" I will ever eat voluntarily. She also made two kinds of boiled puddings- one with persimmon boiled in the fancy tin which was traditional on my Father's side of the family. The other made with suet, tied in cheesecloth and boiled which was a specialty of her step-dad. Both were served with "hard" sauce -- sugar, butter and a liberal dose of brandy. She had a theory of parties. Put people who like one another in a room with good food and you will have a successful party. So, she would have open houses with 3 different times on the invites, to insure that the people who liked one another would come at the same time. The centerpiece of those gatherings was a cut crystal punch bowl full of homemade eggnog -- lots of whipped creme and even more rum. I've had the punchbowl for many years. It is the epitome of ugly but it holds good memories. She would do a brunch on Christmas morning with things she could prepare the night before and big turkey dinner in the late afternoon. She wasn't much of a baker, so after dinner we went visiting to an old friend who baked a lot. I can still remember the rumballs. Christmas was lively at our house and these are the best memories of my Mother.

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    1. Wow, your mother was a serious entertainer! Just no thanks on the suet...

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  17. Our holiday meals always consisted of roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, some sort of vegetable (I think green beans with slivered almonds?) and the family favorite, a chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles made from a dough of cheese, eggs, and breadcrumbs and seasoned with a sprinkling of nutmeg. We kids usually filled ourselves up on the soup, and had only small portions of everything else. It’s not the holidays without that soup, which as far as I know, is known only in the region of Italy my mom’s parents came from. We have no recipe for it. We mainly improvise on the ingredient amounts. My cousins on Mom’s side of the family do the same. Last year I was alone on Christmas (thank you, Covid) and I made myself a small amount of our soup. I don’t remember what else I made, but that’s okay! I had my soup! Growing up, we also generally had spritz cookies and maybe a pie. Oh, and we snacked on chestnuts!

    This year will be different for me, too, because of the recent loss of my brother. Although we lived too far away from each other to get together for just the one day, we always had an extra special phone call on the holidays. My brother, who loved to cook and introduced our soup to his wife when they got married many years ago, would tell me in detail about how he was making the soup that
    particular day. (Nearly all of our phone calls, whether or not on holidays, involved him telling me about food, and me listening, and listening!) He liked to make adjustments here and there.He was a very gabby person and could go on forever about measuring out cheese and breadcrumbs! His wife hated the soup; their daughters, who grew up on it, love it.

    DebRo

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    1. DEB RO: Hugs...it's hard, I know.

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    2. Hugs from me too DebRo. We'd love to look at the recipe for that soup!

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    3. HIs wife hated the soup! (I hope that makes you laugh.) Aww...thinking of you, dear friend.

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    4. Much love Deb Ro

      Maybe you could share the noodle recipe? Sounds wonderful

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  18. Christmas always meant my paternal grandmother's Jello mold salad and my maternal grandmother's nut roll. I've never been able to replicate either (no recipe exists for the nut roll). My sister has the Jello mold recipe and has not gotten it perfect yet, but she is determined to do it one of these days.

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    1. Nut roll...like soft cheese rolled in nuts?

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    2. “ What is a nut roll like Liz?”

      I keep reading this over and over and giggling. I’m sure there is no nut roll like Liz!

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  19. Lucy, I love the photos! But you were so solemn! Don't you wonder what you were thinking that day?

    I don't remember my mom every baking cookies, although my grandmother made snickerdoodles and I've never been able to replicate them. My mom was famous for her pies, though, and every year she made my dad a German chocolate cake for his birthday. (I don't remember her ever making a cake for me!)

    All those big gatherings seem like another universe now. My grandmother lived with us and so our house was always the place for the holiday dinners, with my mom's sister and two brothers and my cousins. One sister from my dad's side plus family were usually there, too.

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    1. Debs, surely she made you a cake! If not, I will make one for you. I do love snickerdoodles too.

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    2. I’ll make you a cake, too.

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  20. Growing up in Southern California, so many dishes mentioned here today were unheard of. Maybe it’s all eastern, southern, midwestern dishes? Since my family went to an Aunt’s house for Thanksgiving every year, we had our turkey at Christmas, and it was the traditional turkey menu, with stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls, green bean casserole, cranberry, etc and pumpkin pie.

    As an adult, I lived alone for many years and didn’t bother with special meals on holidays; a ham sandwich was fine for Christmas dinner. Now, married but no family around, we have ham at Thanksgiving and like beef for Christmas. Since beef roasts have gotten criminally expensive, this year we just bought two steaks to go with baked potatoes, green salad and cheesecake for dessert. We usually make cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast, but glucose numbers make that inadvisable. Diabetes takes all those wonderful desserts out of reach, even though I take insulin. SIGH.

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    1. I grew up in the Pasadena area, Rick, and never heard of the Feast of Seven Fishes until I moved to Massachusetts. Ono the other hand, tamales are my primo comfort food and I don't have a drop of Hispanic blood (that I know of).

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  21. Being the oldest and only daughter of 3 kids, I was always my mother's lil helper since I was very young. She was great at entertaining and loved everyone to have a good time. When my dad's job started transferring him around the country, our traditions changed and we went along with some of them. The only must-have was chicken and sausage gumbo for Dad before the holiday meals. When we kids became teens & tweens we started opening gifts on Xmas Eve, instead of just one each sent from faraway family members,and my husband started the "gag gift" tradition that Mom LOVED, and that continued for decades. With all our new friends and in-laws added, it just became more exciting, with inspirations to add different dishes. We spread out across the country, but tried to get together when possible on T'Day or Christmas, and often had out-of-town relatives or friends visit for the Big Feast on Xmas Day. When Dad took a new job and one brother also moved to NC for his JD at Wake Forest (parents lived in Winston-Salem)we started having the salty country ham and turnip greens, and I became close friends with Dad's French secretary Andree' who was married to a Scot that had moved to Liverpool, England as a child, and she taught me many things, like how to make English Trifle, which I make almost every year.(& I do Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake for dessert on T-day) My baby brother's wife is Mexican-American, so they alternated holidays (and still sometimes do) and sent or brought us homemade tamales. My oldest niece is now married w/2 young kids, and we've also had Xmas Eve Dinner of Prime Rib at her in-laws. I really like glazed ham and scalloped potatoes for part of my dinner when it's my choice, along with spinach and artichoke casserole, and cranberry sauce or spiced peaches like MIL used to make, but I don't turn up my nose at anything, really, (esp. cornbread dressing, and fresh green beans) just no mushy sweet potatoes!

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  22. Oh, the secretary! That's so fascinating! This is SUCH an interesting life!

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    1. Hank, Alex & Andree's is one of my favorite true-life love stories! Her French family moved to Algiers, then came war...she met Alex in Morocco, both young in their careers. Moved to different places with 3 children, and after both retired, sorta, they ended up living in Nice, France. We were friends (D played darts with Alex) and pen-pals for decades. She also taught me to make French Potatoes Vinaigrette, and how to cook orzo, etc, as she asked me for my brownie recipe and things like that!She also met John Lennon when his Aunt Mimi was in hospital in England, next to her m-i-l, and he autographed her album! We used to call each other,LONG-DISTANCE, on New Year's Eve. Oh, the stories!

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  23. Not to be too optimistic about this. But my laptop has caught up with me in this move. And it seems that I can comment here. Fingers crossed.

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  24. I remember my brother and I sticking black olives on the ends of our fingers at every holiday. I don’t remember much else until dessert. My mom and aunt are both fabulous bakers - cookies, pies, cakes - it was THE BEST!

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