Page 1 of 10Turkey, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes: from childhood to today, those are the first things that pop into my mind when I think of the holidays.
Dare I say I’m not alone? Food seems as much a part of holiday traditions as—if not more than—twinkle lights, wreaths, music, and gifts wrapped in colorful paper. But food’s connection to the season is stronger than any material goods. While ornaments handed down through the generations are awesome, it’s the splotched and stained recipe cards that I hold dear.
These are the recipe cards I use every year even though I know the recipe by heart. Food, for me, is the best way to honor loved ones. When I see my grandma’s distinct cursive handwriting, I’m transported back to childhood and all the times peeked around the kitchen’s corner to ask “How much longer til we eat?” Every time I would get shushed and shooed away while the women of the family bustled around the kitchen as if a hive of bees had been set loose.
Now as a cook, I’m putting my own spin on those recipes. I’ve copied those precious recipe cards. On the copies I jot down notes of my tinkering with ingredients and am fine-tuning some of the cooking methods. While for many that might seem sacrilegious, I feel updating recipes to deal with dietary restrictions or dietary choices only preserves those traditions. (I’m bound and determined to make vegan, gluten-free green bean casserole from all fresh ingredients, and I’m damn near close.)
After my husband and I got married in 2005, I’ve welcomed even more food traditions into my holidays. Dan’s Polish, Scotch-Irish heritage has introduced me to kielbasa on Christmas Eve and Chicken Continental on Christmas Day. But the quick-to-become-a-favorite tradition is making holiday cookies the day after Thanksgiving. Rolling out dough, precisely measuring flour and sugar, watching the stand mixer smoke from so much action—these activities are part of how families grow and change and move along life’s continuum. All of these traditions are ones I’ll share with my children and grandchildren. I’m not sure there is any gift better than that.
For this issue of From Plate to Palate, I wanted to share my families’ traditions as well as those from other food-loving families. This month I’m ecstatic to welcome my mom, mom-in-law, and sisters-in-law with several recipes that are a vital part of our holiday traditions. Arlan Hess’ piece tells the tale of picky eaters and humorously illustrates how food can and cannot become a tradition. Gourmet pizzas replace holiday food in Arielle Greenberg’s triumphant essay. Cal Freeman and F. Daniel Rzicznek honor our four-legged friends and remind us dogs, too, love the season, though mostly for mischief making. Jeannie Kidera rounds out the issue with her evocative essay about how the sense of smell takes us home for the holidays. May this season bring you peace and joy now and throughout the New Year. And may the New Year bring you lots of good food!
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