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There's snow on the ground outside my window as I write this morning. Snow conjures up a lot of memories for me. Of course, living in Canada you'd kinda expect that!
When I was growing up I lived on a cul de sac in the suburbs of Toronto. Now I don't know if it's cuz memory makes everything larger or if it's the way it really was, but it seems to me we'd get more snow back then. I can remember at least two or three "snow days" every winter. The plows would come around about mid-morning and on our street that meant they'd push all the accumulated snow into the middle of the cul de sac and we'd have a "snow mountain". We'd spend hours making tunnels in that thing. We'd have whole villages of tunnels. There were a few of us on the cul-de-sac that pretty much grew up together, so we'd have our "armies" and just continue play from one day to the next wherever we stopped off the day before. Someone's mom always had hot chocolate and cookies waiting for us when we got too cold. Our parents moved there while we were still babies and the sub-division was new, and for the most part our parents are still there now. But the snow mountain doesn't seem as big as it used to be.
So of course that got me started on memories and the things that most spoke to us of childhood Christmases.
I asked some friends to tell me their most cherished memory from Christmases past that was food related and to give me the recipe as well. I got some very touching and even funny stories, which I've compiled for you here. I'll start with my own and then give each of my friends a short introduction.
I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.
First, since it's my column, here's one my cousin sent me, funny thing, it would have been the one I used myself.
My favourite memory of Christmas was of all of us kids staying awake as long as we could on the night of Christmas Eve. At midnight, Nonno would bring out the "sciagurella" that he'd been working on. Usually using pieces of chicken or chunks of beef, tomato and little else except hot peppers, and braised slowly on the stove under Nonno's watchful eye, this was the signal that Santa was arriving soon and our ritual way of breaking the meatless day that Christmas Eve traditionally was. We would all have our little bowls, one piece of chicken, some sauce and lots of bread. All of us would be sitting around the kitchen table feeling like the adults and chattering away. Those were best times in my life!!!
Thanks Sue . . . those were special times for all of us growing up!
This next one is from a dear friend and neighbour, Teresa. She and her family lived with us while they were building their new home and we're still friends!! *laughing*
For me, Christmas is the smell of chestnuts and tangerines. When we were younger, and our family did not have a lot of money, we always got chestnuts and tangerines in our stockings. They took up space! We would eat them Christmas afternoon, roasting the chestnuts in the fireplace, anxiously awaiting them to be ready, jumping up and down with each "pop".
Later on, when I met Frank, my husband, I was thrilled to discover that his memories of chestnuts were the same. His father used to chew them for Frank who couldn't because he had such soft teeth, just like a baby bird. Now that Pa has left us, every time we crack open a roasted chestnut, we remember him.
When the season is upon us, I treasure this memory and soothing, comforting smell of tangerines and chestnuts. There is no memory of the holidays that I consider more enjoyable. No recipes, no fuss, just the plain old smell of tangerines and chestnuts.
Happy Holidays, all. Remember to take the time to smell! Love Teresa
This one comes from a dear friend who lives too far away (in Ohio) for us to be physically close at Christmas, but she knows she is always in my heart. Thanks Diana (I left it exactly the way she sent it to me in the email, she'll probably kill me!!)
I don't know if this will be much help . . . but the only food that comes to mind that I can't wait to eat around Christmas Time is the Sugar Cookies with the Buttercream Frosting . . . colored of course in Christmas colors . . . :)
As far as an anecdote . . . I'll leave that to you . . . I know when I bite into a sugar cookie . . . I just feel dreamy and not a care in the world . . . You can go from there.
Wishing you luck and love every single minute of the day, everyday . . .
This one is from another Diana, a very dear friend who is teaching my youngest son table manners and etiquette. She's a loyal reader of this column too.
Most non-Greeks associate the word Halva with a very sweet sesame candy. In Greece, however, the term also applies to a popular dessert made with farina. Fast and easy to make, Greek Halva is an excellent last-minute dessert for unexpected guests.
I remember daddy always making this. We would sit around the kitchen table and just watch him make a mess. He would often pour chocolate syrup on the top in place of the cinnamon. Now that's what I call fattening. Daddy would make this just before Christmas Day, only problem was, there wasn't any left on Christmas Day.
Prepare a syrup by combining the sugar and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Set aside. In another saucepan heat the butter. Add the farina and almonds and cook over medium heat until the mixture turns a light golden colour. Pour the syrup into the farina and blend well. Cover and cook until it thickens. To test doneness, insert a clean knife in the mixture. If it comes out clean, the Halva is done. Transfer to a small mold and allow to cool. (A lined cookie sheet works well) Unmold and sprinkle with cinnamon.