Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Family Food

Ask most people what they eat for Thanksgiving dinner and they'll say, "Oh, just the traditional stuff." But when pressed for specifics, you'll find that the usual stuff varies widely by region and by family. Actually, all you have to do to figure that out is to get married and have a traditional holiday meal with your in-laws. You'll find dishes you've never had before and wonder where the sweet potatoes with little marshmallows are (though I'm more than happy to "miss" those).

The women in church are having an international Christmas night where we're encouraged to bring a dish from our heritage. There are many women from other countries and even if you're not, maybe you have a family recipe from a great-grandmother who immigrated here. Or maybe you're like me and most of you ancestors came over in the 17th or 18th centuries and anything like that is long lost.

I briefly joked that I probably had to bring Jello since I grew up in Utah, but then I started thinking about the foods that actually defined my childhood Christmases.

There was Jello, but it was the sugar free Jello that only my diabetic grandmother ate. And grandma herself made sugar cookie Santa heads with coconut beards and raisin eyes for the grandkids. We powered through the coconut flakes, but the rest was delicious. That side of the family also made popcorn balls--admittedly using Jello for flavor and color.

On my mom's side we couldn't eat our ham without Grandpa's potato rolls. And I had to spoil my dinner with Grandma's homemade caramels, always found in a candy dish shaped like a Santa boot. Great-grandma made divinity, but that was not to the younger generation's tastes.

So with those options in mind, I made Grandma's caramel recipe. And though I don't have a Santa boot candy dish, the buttery smooth flavor takes me back to my childhood.

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