January 6, 2016
Happy New Year!
Are you recovered from the festivities, fuss and fun of the holidays yet? At our house, the tree is down, the decorations have been put away, and even the lights and garland that so recently festooned our front porch have been tucked away for another year.
We do vary our habits some from when we were first married. We used to follow my mother’s tradition—the tree stayed up until after Epiphany (which is today). But my beloved got called back to work a week early, which was for this past Monday, and so we decided to put everything away before he went back.
I spent a lot of time thinking about traditions over the last two weeks. I was very lucky this year in that I got to see all of my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as my brother and all of his family over the holidays. That made my Christmas. Watching the children put me in mind of Christmases past, all those many years ago when I had been a child myself.
I was pleased to see, at my brother’s house, that he still displays the “Christmas candle” that my father used to light only on Christmas Eve. It used to be, and still is, displayed in an evergreen wreath that sits flat on the table. During those long ago Christmases, it was surrounded by 4 red wooden “Santa boots”, about two and a half inches high and an inch in diameter, that would be filled with that special Christmas hard candy, or salted nuts. I came into possession of the boots a few years ago when my sister passed away. I was the youngest and had lost out when those treasures had originally been “distributed” some forty years ago.
I was also thinking about the food related traditions we have. I know I mentioned before Christmas that one of our family’s customs was the big Christmas Day breakfast. We enjoyed my brother’s variation of that again this year. He makes a delicious brunch on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas). This year’s menu was side bacon, peameal bacon, fried eggs, toast, breakfast potatoes, fruit salad and cheese blintzes served with blueberry sauce. This year there were 11 of us partaking of this feast. It was very good—both the company, as well as the food.
Over the last couple of weeks I spent more time than usual thinking about the way that food plays into our family’s rituals, but I had a good reason for that. This past September, I underwent laparoscopic gall bladder surgery. As a result, this Christmas was the first one in four years that I was able to enjoy the foods being offered. Not that I ate a lot, but what I did eat tasted really good and, for a change, made my tummy very happy instead of miserable.
Does food matter to you as a part of your mores and traditions, above and beyond providing nutrition? I’ve discovered over the years that some people care more for and about food than others do. Despite my recent recovery, I didn’t eat a lot over the holidays. I don’t eat a lot, period. I think it’s a sign of getting older. Neither my husband nor I eat nearly as much as we used to. But food still plays an important role in our memories and customs, and I wonder if that is just us, or if it’s universal.
When David and I were first dating in our teens, there was a grocery store close to where he lived. That store had an on-site bakery. One of our favorite things to do on a Saturday afternoon in the summer was to have a “picnic” in the park. We’d stop at the store, and for not much coin, purchase a fresh loaf of bread, a one pound piece of Polish sausage, and a cold bottle of soda. That was our repast for the event, and no, we didn’t use cutlery or dishes.
Day to day, we don’t fuss over our menu. We prefer comfort food to fancy, although my beloved accuses his weight gain, since he stopped smoking more than a decade ago, on my good cooking.
Looking back, it’s the meals enjoyed with families and friends that stand out in our memories, times when we’ve gathered and celebrated—and shared. I might not be able to recall what was served, but I can remember, fondly, the convivial atmosphere in which it was consumed.