Family recipes are the best part of the holidays

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By: Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross
lienhart@purdue.edu

Liz West/Flickr

The holidays are all about traditions, and for many of us, our family traditions are centered on special foods.

This is a good time to have your family make a list of all the foods that are special to them this time of the year. You may go home for the holidays or other family members may come home, but once everyone is together, it won’t be long before someone asks, “What do you want to eat?”

My list begins with cheese balls, soft honey cutout cookies, eggnog, cranberry salad, cranberry glog, candies, peppermint ice cream and traditional fruitcake.

My mother made her special honey cookies for more than 50 years. My father prepared smoked turkey breast. For the Cross family, it is date pudding and cranberry salad. Another food tradition we have had for some time is a delicious cheese spread.

Many times the answer to the “What do you want to eat?” question involves an old family recipe. It could be a certain aroma, the preparing of it or the sharing and eating it – that connects us to a time passed and sometimes a flood of emotions and memories of a special family member.

In my opinion, family recipes should be made as they have been. Don’t mess with them and try to make them healthier. Just make them and enjoy them.

Some of your family’s holiday recipes have been passed down through many generations and perhaps prepared without being written down. Family recipes like these are too easily lost, so learn them and preserve them now.

Some families may have family recipe books that are more than 100 years old. These recipe books can carry a lot of family history along with the recipes. There is something very special about baking or preparing a recipe you used to make with a family member.

When you have a family recipe, you are working with a piece of the past — remaking it and connecting with times gone by.

Something special you could do this year after a family meal is to make and share copies of a family recipe. A couple of old-fashioned ways are to have family members copy recipes onto special recipe cards or write them in pretty bound books. If you choose to use a bound book, you could start your own family cookbook to pass along to future generations.

The best way to learn and share recipes is in the kitchen, elbow-to-elbow, actually preparing the food and washing the dishes. What’s wonderful about the kitchen are the great stories that get told during the preparation of a meal. These oral history stories should be remembered and preserved just as much as the recipes. In fact, some of the history or interesting facts could be recorded with the recipes.

I really encourage you to share some family recipes. Here are some hints to help you get started now.

  • Begin with recipes you love and remember.
  • You may want to make notes about the comments the cook makes using their senses. An example would be the color, feel or aroma.
  • Don’t trust your memory — make notes about brands
  • Most of all, do this recipe gathering now, before it’s too late.

Since I mentioned my family’s traditional cheese spread, here is the recipe:

Wonderful Cheese Spread

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 (8-oz) pkg. cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tsp. minced onion
  • 3 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. prepared mustard
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Directions

  1. Cream mayonnaise, cream cheese, Tabasco sauce, minced onion, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, mustard and lemon juice until smooth.
  2. Fold in the shredded cheese and relish; refrigerate.
  3. After several hours of refrigeration, you can shape or mold the cheese spread and garnish as desired.
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