Keeping holiday family food traditions alive


Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, we've been doing a lot more cooking and baking at home. At one point this year, one of the most searched items on the Internet was "How to bake bread at home." You may be tired of cooking at home with the family, but you can't let down now. No, not when family holiday food traditions are on the line. Amongst me and mine, we're doing our best to keep those traditions rolling along. Why not even start a brand new tradition this year? Here's some food for thought from holiday food traditions I've been involved in, complete with recipes.

  • I remember my parents Christmastime cocktail parties. The alcohol would flow, and the potluck was great. But, the star of the show was my mom's shrimp dip! She didn't cook from scratch a whole lot, but this and spaghetti and meatballs were her signature items. We weren't pretentious, and we didn't have a lot of money, so this was served with saltines. Simple and delicious!
  • At first, with a family of 7, we were just fried eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, milk and juice for Christmas breakfast. Once marriages and kids came along for my older siblings (and we always had some people with nowhere else to spend Christmas), we expanded to at least two dozen people. That's when the Breakfast Squares came along! Prepping the night before was a family event, with all hands on deck! Thrifty, as always, we used Texas toast from the day-old bakery and had multiple flavors, including ham, sausage, bacon and veggie. Make the night before, cover and stick into the fridge, then pop them in the oven Christmas morning!
  • My next door neighbor and second mom, Fern, was the candy, cake and pie queen! Homemade peanut clusters, peanut brittle, haystacks, buckeyes and dipped ginger snaps were the things I always looked forward to. She also made divinity, but I could never figure that one out
  • My ex-wife's family had a great Christmas Eve tradition, cheese fondue from a Dutch cookbook. Using gruyere, Emmenthal and white wine, this gooey deliciousness was an event for the kids, just as much as the adults. The boys always grated the cheese while we (I) sipped wine to make sure it was just right. You can dunk the baguettes, which should be cubed and left out to become stale, boiled baby potatoes and pearl onions, and tiny pickles. Oh, and make sure you cook out the alcohol in the wine...makes a big difference
  • Speaking of Christmas Eve, while my dad loved oysters but couldn't keep them down, my mom enjoyed dad's simple version of oyster stew. Oysters, liquor, cream and butter. One time a year...that's all.
  • My fiancée's family tradition was lasagna. Since we're celebrating sans family, we'll probably do the brined bird I love to make at Thanksgiving. You can do a chicken or a turkey with this recipe, and don't be concerned about the 500 degree temp to start things off. Just make sure that you pay attention to the chicken a little more closely, because it won't take 30 minutes like the turkey does. We'll have the chicken for dinner and plenty of leftovers for sandwiches and chicken salad
  • A tradition we started is having Laura's brothers family over for crab legs, roasted and smashed fingerling potatoes, my version of the Trader Joe's Lemon Basil Pasta Salad and whatever we can find to nosh upon.

This year, make sure that you and your family continue those family traditions and even start some new ones! Charcuterie boards anyone? Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and bon appetit!