Small Beginnings: Christmas traditions that warm my heart part two

Another familiar aspect of modern Christmas celebrations is the focus on specialty foods that are often reserved only for the holiday season. Much like other traditions that are sacred to each family, I look forward to certain Christmas foods each year and I also fondly remember some dishes from the past even if I do not prepare them myself.

Food is one of those things that memories attach to. Perhaps it is because of the phenomenon of how smells are significant memory triggers and certain foods create very deep olfactory impressions. I have vivid images of childhood Christmases when we would visit my grandparentsí home and walking in to the kitchen alive with roasting meats, simmering vegetables and baking goodies! It was a veritable feast and my Nana was a superb cook! A favorite menu item that is now my brotherís specialty was her potato filling. I have had many variations of potato filling over the years but I never find a version that measures up to Nanaís golden brown goodness in a Pyrex baking dish. Christmas just wouldnít be the same without it which is why my brother faithfully makes this mouthwatering staple each year. I could eat a dish full of just that and I would be satisfied!

In addition to the potato filling, we have the standard fare for Christmas to which I am not particularly attached, though I do find it all delicious. We generally have ham, mashed potatoes, corn and some other vegetables and freshly baked rolls. I like to try something new each year so last year I made carrot soup. I do not know if anyone else really liked it, but I absolutely crave that bright orange dish! It sounds a little strange, but trust me, itís rich and creamy and smooth like tomato soup and if you donít mind carrots, you should give that a try!

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Another interesting family food tradition we have is that we always need snacks to tide us over until the real food is ready. Generally that would include an assortment of dippable vegies and snacks, chips, pretzels and cookies. My Nana always called these ďDutch PlattersĒ, and she would design a tray full of ring bologna, cheeses, and other finger picking goodies that would be a meal in itself. I truthfully donít do snacks as fine as Nana, but we always must have goodies while we unwrap so no one passes out from hunger.

Desserts of course are a category all their own. My momís favorite dessert was a pineapple upside down cake and that was a Christmas offering I looked forward to. She also loved a good Schlap Kuka (Milk Tart) and that was a treat when someone brought one of those out on Christmas Day! Also Mince Pie and Raisin Pie were two other seasonal favorites that seldom appeared on the cupboard unless it was Christmas time. My family now is partial to chocolate so whether itís a homemade cake or a cream pie, we always have something decadent and chocolate to polish off the day.

I think Iím gaining weight just reminiscing here! And isnít that the sad truth? We indulge and treat ourselves to all sorts of pleasures and then moan and groan all evening that our pants are too tight and we feel ill. I have learned my lesson the hard way to enjoy the specialties of the Holiday season in moderation and with self-control. As soon as Christmas is over then a week later we have a big pork and sauerkraut meal to start off the New Year! Itís a never ending revolving refrigerator door and I have to guard myself against over indulging.

Our Christmas dinner is not elegant or refined. Itís home style and comforting. Itís special to me because itís shared with those we love and it fills our home with laughter and good memories. The food is just one aspect of the blessing of the day. Iím already licking my lips and developing some real anticipation for the week ahead! Countdown: seven days to go!