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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cooking/Baking (not recipes) (10/16/08)

TITLE: Traditions...Old and New
By Joy Bach


It’s funny how some holiday traditions get started. I had no idea when I began my unique idea for the holiday meal, that years later it would still be a “tradition”.

As a single mom with three children, money was scarce. So I tried to do extra, inexpensive things to make the holiday more memorable. My plan was to provide the meat (usually a turkey from the Salvation Army). I sat the girls down and explained they would have a part in deciding the menu. I wanted each of them to choose a favorite food to go with the main dish.

We have had some unbelievable combinations for our celebration. Macaroni and cheese complete with ketchup…chicken and noodles…and many other variations. We usually tried to invite a guest who had no place to go for the meal. As they looked in astonishment at the assortment before them, the “tradition” would have to be explained again.

Then it got even weirder. Boyfriends and then husbands would come to celebrate with us. Before I had a chance to say “enough”, my kids had already explained to them that they got to choose a dish. When baked spaghetti squash was requested, I hurried to the computer and looked up how to cook it.

In the middle of all these years, I re-married. My husband, John, wrote the wedding vows out, gave them to me to edit (the word obey was not there) and then we had our ceremony. However, he failed to mention what he expected as part of my commitment. He had heard of our “tradition”. His choice was oyster dressing…with the recipe written in his ex-wife’s handwriting. He assured me it was part of my wedding vows.

I don’t like fish. They are slimy and stink. Oysters are the worst of all. The first year, I wasn’t even sure how to buy them. I discovered they come in a jar. I carefully followed my predecessor’s instructions. But she failed to mention how small to make the pieces of oyster. So I cut them up into little chunks. I thought they would go down easier.

Wrong. Please, next year, make the oyster pieces bigger.

Each year I followed the hand-written recipe…and made the oyster chunks larger. Finally, after several years of trying to get it right, John said, “Just don’t cut them up at all. Leave them whole.” How gross!

Oyster dressing truly was a gift of love. I couldn’t seem to wash the slime off my hands, and I carried the odor of oysters for hours. And he was the only one who liked it!

But it was his chosen dish. No complaining.

A long-standing tradition involved the making of Christmas cookies. We made all kinds. Snickerdoodles were rolled in red and green sugars. Candy cane cookies were time consuming to make. Half the dough had to be mixed with red food coloring. Then a white strip and a red strip of dough had to be twisted with the top curved down, to make a cane. While they were baking, the peppermint pieces were broken up to drop on the hot canes from the oven, melting the peppermint into the dough.

Of course we made sugar cookies cut in various shapes and frosted in red and green and covered with sprinkles and sugars.

The wonderful fragrance of cookies lingered in the house for days.

Then came the years of the Atkins diet. No more old tradition. The turkey could remain, but scalloped potatoes and my home-made angel rolls were a thing of the past. Instead of potato salad, we had “unpotato” salad, replacing the potatoes with cauliflower. Deviled eggs could stay, but the green bean casserole was no more. I baked some kind of a sweet potato casserole. Dessert was layers of Jell-O and low-fat yogurt or pumpkin pie without a crust.

Now it is just the “two of us”. And Atkins is still with us. So last year we made reservations to partake of the holiday brunch at the Red Lion. When word got out that we were eating alone, one of our “Starbucks Gang” friends would have none of that. We were invited to spend the day at his cabin in the mountains with his family.

Our contribution was a flower arrangement.

What a delightful time! Snow on the ground…so much that we got stuck. Entering the cabin, we were greeted by old friends…and new. The aroma of a holiday meal filled the air.

Just like home.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Connie Dixon10/23/08
Cool story, I especially loved the part about the oysters. My dad loved creamed corn and oysters so that was a tradition for us. What a great idea to let everyone choose their favorite to build a tradition. Why not?
Angela M. Baker-Bridge10/28/08
Very nontraditional tradition, which is why it sounds like everyone loved the holidays so much. Your husband was lucky to find you!