It’s that time of year again. The time where people frantically shop on their lunch breaks or get to stores when it’s still dark outside. The time when people stand in exceedingly long lines at airports and ship packages across the country. It’s also the time when families and friends get together whether to make treats or enjoy a meal, and celebrate the festivities of the holiday season. Whether people cognitively consider what they do around this time of year a tradition, I firmly believe everyone has at least one that is food-related.
As a child, my mom and us kids would spend practically an entire day making cookies around the holidays. We needed something to put out for Santa and it was the only kitchen activity in which all four of us wanted to participate. The array of cookies we produced varied from year but usually centered around some tried and true classics: your chocolate chip, sugar cookie cut outs, peanut butter blossoms and the good old fashioned cookie press varietals. There was something comforting and seemingly magical about mixing ingredients, cutting out shapes and scooping dough. Of course, as time progressed everyone got busier and it started happening less and less. Even more so when you throw divorce and collegiate careers into the mix.
But times passes and things change. Both my younger sister and I baked cookies when we were at college at some point. I think it stemmed from a love of snacks coupled with some nostalgia that managed to creep into my subconscious. Either way, the traditions we grew up with that carried a somewhat romantic notion, tend to change and/or disappear.
My older sister, for instance, has married into a family where all the women get together the week before Christmas to make an almost incomprehensible amount of pierogies. A time-honored tradition in her husband’s family in which she now gets to partake.
Other than that, my family does Christmas dinner together every year. Usually at my aunt and uncle’s house, but occasionally at my mom’s house. Snacks while we hang out and happen prior to dinner. Dinner usually involves roasted turkey, prepared by my uncle. A solid standby for any holiday gathering of a large group of people. A (very loud) dinner full of laughter is usually followed by more relaxation, present exchange and games. Thank you Ellen DeGeneres, Heads Up! has become a family favorite.
That’s Christmas day.
Among the side effects of divorce, having a second Christmas happens to be one of them. Now that my dad lives in Florida, my sister has taken to hosting Christmas #2 for the ‘Brady Bunch’. Although as I have a little more experience cooking for large crowds, I get free reign if we decide we want to do an actual dinner. This undoubtedly means prime rib, because well, beef. In previous years, we’ve done the whole snacks grazing thing all day. There’s no solidified tradition there other than the fact that there is always food.
But enough about real food. Back to cookies…
With the lost art of holiday cooking baking as a familial activity, my younger sister and I decided last year that we needed to rectify that situation. Belle and I set out to do so and rallied my then 16 year old cousin Sammy to organize our first annual Cookie Fest. An event, that now has a second notch in its belt, includes arranging all of our cookie baking supplies on the island in Sammy’s kitchen and blasting Christmas music (“sing it, Mariah!”) while working our way through a previously established list of cookies. Something about being in the kitchen for hours on end, the smell of freshly baked cookies and the hum of my KitchenAid is just the dose of holiday magic I have needed back in my life.
We (namely me) decided this year that we should get together and make pasta with my grandmother. The original Ange will be 93 years old come January 3rd and I don’t think I have ever actually made pasta with her. Of course, I have fond memories of showing up at her house in Rockaway in the summer and seeing strands of fresh pasta stretched across the dining room table. It’s a tradition I know will be a staple from here on out, for as long as it can be and I wish I had started it sooner.
Inadvertently, this became a slightly rambling stream of conscious thought about various holiday endeavors, food and nostalgia. C’est la vie.