Monday, December 03, 2007

Advent Memories No. 3: Holiday Foods

Holiday Foods

Did your family have any traditional dishes for the holidays? Was there one dish that you thought was unusual?

A couple of traditional holiday sweets we had while I was growing up were banket (bun-KET) and olie bollen (OH-lee BOH-len), traditional Dutch desserts. Banket is similar to Danish kringle in that it is a rolled pastry log with sweetened almond paste filling, cut into small slices. Every year we would hope my grandfather wasn't too tired from his working his long hours at the post office in Grand Rapids, Michigan, so that he could make banket and send it to us in Southeast Alaska, and later in Northeast Washington. He would wrap it in foil and freeze it, then send it in our packages of Christmas gifts.

Olie bollen literally means "oily balls" or "fat balls" and they are what we know as donut holes. I buy these, both plain and with powdered sugar, almost every year for my family at my local supermarket and often bring them to class on St. Nicholas Day, while I tell my students about our Dutch traditions.

For Christmas dinner, Mom would always make a big traditional meal, usually with whatever meat we had raised on our farm. We had a variety of poultry to choose from: chicken, duck, or goose. We also had rabbit, ham, or chevon (goat meat). Along with the main meat dish, there would be mashed potatoes and gravy, home-grown cooked vegetables, cranberry jelly, and pickles and black olives. Dad's favorite dessert was mince-meat pie, and I think one year, we had homemade mince-meat after we had butchered a hog. I also remember homemade apple pie with slices of cheese.

When we have Christmas at my house, I don't usually go all out with a large, sit-down dinner. My kitchen is pretty small, and it's hard to crowd a dozen people around my dining room table, even with all the leaves out, so I'll often have a buffet instead. Depending on the time when we open gifts, sometimes it will be a brunch with crackers, meats, cheeses, and the like. At other times, I'll have plates of sub sandwiches with side dishes. Always, we have several desserts to choose from.

When we go over to my brother-in-law's place, we'll sometimes have a traditional meal, especially if it's Christmas Eve. If we meet between Christmas and New Year's, we often have a comfortable dinner of homemade stew, rolls, and a salad, followed by dessert. My brother-in-law, like my husband, is a pretty good cook, and usually makes the stew.

New Year's Eve is normally spent at home, just the four of us. All evening, we graze on any leftover goodies that may have survived Christmas Day. Sparkling cider is bought for the kids, and we may have a good bottle of wine, such as Mogen David's blackberry wine mixed with a little Sprite. Lately, our drink of choice to see in the New Year has been rum and Cokes, or actually, rum and Diet Rite, as we don't want too much sugar and caffeine before bed. Except for a few hot summer evenings when a cold beer is refreshing, we don't imbibe much in alcohol, so it is a nice treat.

This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Click on their names for the list of topics. To see what others have written, go here.
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