Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope that each and every person has a wonderful holiday filled with food, fun, and family! I also hope that everyone gets a chance to relax and enjoy the friends and family that surrounds them. Is anyone having a “White” Christmas? It is rare to get any fluffy white snow here in North Carolina!
Christmas Eve is my absolute favorite holiday of the year. I have a long-standing tradition of going to the church that I grew up in and attending the midnight mass on the 24th with my Dad and best friend Lisa. It is my time to reflect about how the past year went, and to be thankful for my friends, family, and my presence here on earth. Unfortunately, I will be unable to continue this tradition this year, but hopefully I will be able to find some peace of mind and time to reflect this Christmas Eve. I will be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas with my Mom, and then traveling to Philadelphia to visit my Dad and friends back home for the remainder of the holiday season. I am looking forward to visiting everyone! What are your travel plans for the holiday?
Speaking of long-standing traditions, I wrote a paper for my Gastronomy class last year about my “earliest food memory.” It is directly related to Christmas, and is actually one of my favorite descriptive papers I have written over the years. My hope is to get everyone in the holiday spirit and to think about what your earliest food memories or holiday traditions are!
For those that have read MFK Fisher’s book The Gastronomical Me, the author describes her first food memory as eating warm peach pie with thick cream poured on top. Her father served this dessert to her and sister Anne while traveling back home after a trip to Los Angeles. She states that she does not remember what she ate, except for the peach pie at the end of the meal. She describes her food experience by saying, “Perhaps that is because it was the first conscious one, for me at least; but the fact that we remember it with such queer clarity must mean that it had other reasons for being important. I suppose that happens at least once to every human. I hope so.” I can relate to MFK Fisher with my own food memories throughout my life, because most of the time it isn’t the foods that are important to you, it is the people that you shared the foods with and the experience you had at that time.
My earliest food memory dates back to when I was about four years old. My younger brother and I absolutely adored Christmas morning when we were children, and we used to get up really early in the morning and wake our parents out of bed in order to open up our gifts. My parents of course did not want to wake up as early as my brother and I did, so we were told that we could not open any gifts until breakfast was made and coffee was prepared. In the meantime, my brother and I would impatiently sit at the top of the staircase, staring down at the glowing Christmas tree in excitement with all of our mysterious gifts placed underneath the tree.
My mother was always the first one to get out of bed, and while still in her pajama bottoms and white shiny Isotoner slippers, would carefully hurdle over my brother and I at the top of the staircase to start the coffee in the kitchen. At the time I did not drink coffee, but I can distinctly remember the strong, bitter aroma that encompassed the entire house and the sound of the coffee percolating into the pot. Then, my Mom would reach into the refrigerator and pull out a cylindrical tube of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. I know this may sound very trivial to others, but baking Pillsbury cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning has turned into a tradition since that year. I can remember the distinct “pop” of the can and the sound of the cardboard and foil unraveling in order to get to the dough. I can smell the vivid and sweet aroma of cinnamon and bread seeping from the oven for the short ten minutes they take to bake. Once the cinnamon rolls were finished baking, that was a sign to my brother and I that it was time to race downstairs and open up our gifts.
I always waited until I finished unwrapping my presents to go into the kitchen and select a cinnamon roll to eat. I enjoyed savoring the smell of the rolls cooling off in the kitchen while opening my presents, and eventually the smell made me so hungry that my stomach would start to growl. I selected the largest cinnamon roll in the batch, and remember taking a blunt butter knife and spreading a heaping portion of gooey white icing on top of the roll, making sure to melt the icing into all of the nooks and crannies of the roll. To be honest, I do not remember exactly what the cinnamon roll tasted like at that time in my life, I just remember all of the events that preceded the consumption of my cinnamon roll on Christmas Day.
From that year forward, the smell of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls baking in the oven and coffee brewing reminds me of Christmas Day. Not only do I love the taste of cinnamon rolls, but I enjoy reminiscing about what that food represents to me. It brings me back to my childhood and being together with my family, and when the biggest concern my brother and I had were opening the gifts underneath our Christmas tree. Just like MFK Fisher says, “When I think of that food, it is the people I see.” Although my Mom cannot fully replicate the memories behind baking the original Pillsbury cinnamon buns now, she still continues to bake them every Christmas morning with a steaming pot of hot coffee, and I get excited to open my Christmas gifts once again.