Happy New Year everyone! This was supposed to go out yesterday, but as Bob Cratchit said in A Christmas Carol, “I was making rather merry yesterday.” So here is the last post of 2022 or the first of 2023, however you care to count it.
Over the holidays I did a lot of baking. I made cookies and candy and various quick breads, most to give away as gifts and most from old family recipes. While I was making all these holiday treats, I was remembering every person who had given me a recipe or a cooking implement or who had taught me some baking skill or who had been in my kitchen or whose kitchen I had been in.
Food is so often the language of love. We have our personal favorites , and when someone makes that dish for us, we know we are loved. I used a bundt pan that formed a ring of pine trees to make a cake for a Christmas party. At the party was the woman who had given me that pan, one that her dearest friend had bought some time before she died and, as far as I know, had never been used. I made the cake as a gift of remembrance and affection.
My stepmother and I, at times, had a rocky relationship, but time mellowed us both, and we came to have a great affection for one another. One thing she did touched me more than any other. When I was visiting my childhood home, I commented that her date pudding was my favorite dessert. Every time after that when I came to visit, she made sure to have that special dessert waiting for me. Eventually, I got the recipe, so now that she is gone, I can make it and remember her and the love she and my father bore for one another.
Some of the cooking I do for my husband has been reverse engineered. He will tell me what he remembers about the dish, and I will acquire recipes that approximate it and modify as required. My mother-in-law gifted me with the family recipes for some of the more exotic family favorites. One is a lebkuchen that is different from the ones most people are familiar with. This is because Jonathan’s Nana was Swiss and not German. He has always called them shuttle tiles (with a frosting that is obviously the tile adhesive) because of their intense crunchiness. They are spicy and crispy and amazing, and definitely not German.
I consider the maintaining of gifted family recipes and utensils a sacred trust. My aunt’s pickles, my mom’s date pudding, the Swiss Lebkuchen, and all the other gifts of cookie cutters and pans and assorted utensils I’ll use, and I will remember every person who brought the foods of love into my life.
Image: Holiday cookies, by Marilyn Evans