Everyone has food memories associated with the holidays. My own include sugarplums that my maternal grandmother used to send from Stop & Shop in Chicago when I was a child. (I later figured out how to make my favorite variety at home — see recipe online at YourObserver.com.) Then there was the dinner where my late mother managed to slip while carrying a gravy boat and get turkey gravy on the kitchen ceiling. And there was also the overambitious year when I cooked the entire centerfold dinner from a Gourmet magazine.
“Edibles” is blessed with a community of wonderful cooks who have been featured here as Guest Food Editors. Their holiday food memories populate this column and next week’s. They come to you with our wishes that, whichever one you celebrate, you have delicious, happy and safe holidays.
Megan Greenberg: Anything But Cookies
Where I come from, the holidays were always a time to go a little above and beyond, to try new recipes and to make new favorites. One holiday season, many, many moons ago, my mother tried her hand at baking several dozen different varieties of cookies for an office party. Considering that she was a master in the kitchen, we figured cookies would be no big deal. I cannot even begin to describe the monstrosities that came from that oven. My mother can whip up canard à l’orange no problem, but ask her to make peanut butter cookies and the Earth stops; she’d probably have a better shot at nuclear fusion. Those cookies were so awful, even the dog that would eat dead lizards would not touch them. I don’t know if I have ever laughed so hard in the kitchen as I did that holiday. It’s been almost two decades since that fateful baking disaster, and my sides still hurt from laughing.
Phil King: Southern Comfort
Coming from the South and being raised in rural Kentucky, we literally lived off the land and what we grew. The farm women were fabulous bakers, and my favorite holiday food memories will have to be my mom’s pies and candies, especially her pumpkin pie, which was like no other. First of all she used “cow pumpkins” – yellow, as opposed to the usual orange. Second, she always used meringue on the pies. The crust was to die for; of course, it was the lard that made the difference. Then there are the apple pies, which I have yet to attempt to duplicate, but I have her instructions in her handwriting. And, of course, the most important ingredient in everything was love.
Pumpkin seeds were planted along with the corn, and after it was harvested, the pumpkins were left in the field and the cows were moved there to eat them and the leftover corn
Carmen Baskind: Turkey Tale No. 1
How about a slightly tipsy grandmother who went into the kitchen and screamed “The turkey is possessed!” We all ran into the kitchen to find the turkey was wiggling across the table. My mother’s miniature poodle had climbed onto the table and into the turkey and was happily eating away.
Lynn Barrie: Turkey Tale No. 2
I had the buffet looking gorgeous. The turkey was all carved and ready in the dining room. We were in the living room sipping on champagne when our family dog came running in with the turkey leg in his mouth! What a laugh we had!
Eileen Hays Wallace: Turkey Tale No. 3
The setting for the story is our home in Old West Chester, Pa. The fire was crackling, six inches of snow on the ground — a perfect setting. New neighbors, not previously away from their West Chester, N.Y., home, were invited to join us for Christmas dinner — a couple with three children. He was a vice president of marketing for Campbell Soup, which meant he brought gifts of huge red tomatoes, among other things, and she was the most fun, delightful person. Anyway, in the midst of preparing a 29-pound turkey, with all the trimmings, and enjoying the evening, my husband and I proceeded to pull the turkey out of the oven. It was very heavy and I, in my glorious black hostess dress, proceeded to drop the bird and nonchalantly look up and smile just in time for the camera to capture the moment. I only wish I could find the photo! The good news is that the bird was not overdone, and we all proceeded to have a very memorable holiday night.
Scott George: Gorgeous Gravlax
My best holiday food story is about learning how to make my own gravlax from Gita Hall, a neighbor in Tuxedo Park, N.Y. She was a Swedish Balenciaga model, a B movie star and the purported love of Errol Flynn’s life. A lot of vodka went into the salmon, as well as the cooks, and I still make it for Christmas Eve dinner every year.
Yield: 16 sugarplums
Start to finish: 30 minutes
16 whole dried apricots
16 candied cherry halves
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Open the apricots like a book and divide into halves.
In a shallow frying pan, bring 1/2-inch water to a boil. Lay apricot halves on a steamer or a cake cooling rack placed above the water, cover and steam five minutes or until softened.
Sandwich a marshmallow between two apricot pieces.
Put the sugar in a small bowl; press each end of the sugarplum firmly into the sugar to coat.
Top with a candied cherry half.
Store tightly covered in a cool place. These keep and ship well and make a pretty, quick and inexpensive holiday gift.
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