According to Mom, Christmas dinner when she was growing up including turkey “with all the regular trimmings”.
Each year, as Mom and I discuss what to have for our holiday meal, she remembers that Grandma used to make sweet potatoes by slicing them and then frying them in a big, black iron skillet. She added brown sugar and other secret ingredients to make her special holiday dish and of course, tiny marshmallows were sprinkled on the top and then browned in the oven. No matter how often she tries, Mom can’t seem to duplicate that dish. Could it be that the special childhood memories add an extra dose of sweetness to the dish from long ago?
Mom also talks about the delicious pies that Grandma used to make: pumpkin and occasionally – mincemeat pie. The Pumpkin Pie recipe has been passed from Grandma to Mom and I’ve never know anyone who didn’t say it was the best Pumpkin Pie they’ve ever had. (I can’t testify to this since I don’t care for pumpkin…) My own kids love the pie so much, every year they beg her to make a pie for each of them to eat during their Christmas break. A couple of years ago, Mom outdid herself and made TEN pies for my 4 children and my husband!
I think the only dish that I serve at Christmas that my Mother’s family didn’t have is a recipe that comes from my mother-in-law. It’s a strawberry “salad”. It’s made of strawberries mixed with jello and topped with a sweetened cream cheese layer. It has a crust on the bottom made of crushed pretzels mixed with melted butter and sugar. For years, I had this with my husband’s family and I thought the crust was made with pecans! I never would have guessed it was made of pretzels!
I don’t think it’s any secret that with every family, no matter how many generations ago, the real ingredient that makes our holiday meals special is the warm memories created by being together with those we love.