Guest Blog: Christine Kish is a passionate lover of food and author of MyMothersSecrets.com, a website with recipes and tips for cooking and living a delicious life.
I just absolutely love this time of year. As a child I loved knowing that there would be a warm loving hug and a cup of hot lemonade or chocolate waiting for me after walking home from school. Every once in a while I was also greeted by the wonderful smell of my mother baking her grandmother’s nut roll. I marveled at the fact that it was always coming out of the oven within minutes of my arrival. In my mind, I can still taste the warm flakey layers and see my mother’s smile with delight.
There’s no doubt that holiday treats and feasts become ingrained in our memories and create traditions that are part of this special time of year. The cooking, decorating and delicious delicacies are integral parts of family celebrations; They keep us connected to the generations before and after, and binds us together through time.
Now that my children are grown and I have more time to reflect on the holidays instead of planning the “perfect” Christmas I can clearly see a thread that runs thru all of my most treasured memories: It is trees!
No, not just the Christmas tree! A multitude of trees makes our favorite holiday traditions possible. Here are just a few holiday treats with ingredients from trees that make this the special time of year that it is.
- I love hot lemonade and my homemade gingerbread with lemon sauce.
- Pomegranates are tasty and their seeds look festive as they rise and fall in your guests’ champagne glasses. They also look great as the centerpiece of your dining room or adorning the buffet table.
- Walnuts and almonds are fabulous in crunchy cookies and flakey nut rolls.
- The favorite treasure in my family’s Christmas stocking is not candy or trinkets─It’s clementines and tangerines. Aside from being a refreshing snack while opening gifts, it also reminds us of the many pioneers in our family who set out into the great unknown and charted a new course for their life in the wilderness.
- Apple strudel is an essential dessert that has been a staple of our dessert table for generations.
Without trees I would not have my most favorite Christmas tradition─cinnamon for my freshly baked cinnamon rolls. In the 51 Christmas I have lived to see, there has not been a single one that did not begin with the warm gooey sweet-tasting goodness on a plate next to me as we unwrap the presents on Christmas morning.
I did not realize how important cinnamon rolls were to me until the Christmas of 1981. My mother had been quite ill and had come out of the hospital a few days earlier. As I went to bed Christmas Eve, my joy that she was home safely to celebrate the joy of Christmas with the health crisis behind her began to change to deep sadness that Christmas morning we would not have anything more than coffee and orange juice. I was disappointed with myself that I had not had the forethought to make the dough and prep the rolls on Christmas Eve and I cried myself to sleep.
When I woke up with crusty eyes Christmas morning I thought I smelled cinnamon rolls, but knew it was not possible because my father didn’t know how to make them. As I entered into the kitchen I saw my mother just pulling them out of the oven. She smiled and said that when she woke up in the middle of the night and came into the kitchen for a glass of water she decided to mix up the dough and let it proof. Then, when she woke up later to take her medication she rolled them out and let them rise in the pan. So all she had to do when she got up in the morning was to pop them in the oven.
Our house quickly filled with activity due to the arrival of my boyfriend (who is now my husband) and my sister and her family. That morning, as I sat back watching the activity while we unwrapped presents and I enjoyed my cinnamon roll, I began to contemplate the many changes that would come in the years ahead. That is when I decided that no matter what life looked like down the road the first gift of Christmas I would always enjoy was the love contained in a warm gooey cinnamon roll.
So as we end the year with our delicious treats and traditions and think about our new year resolutions, we should consider that trees are key ingredients in keeping our holiday traditions in place. And that we should invest in our local community trees which by cleaning our water, providing us with shade and wind cover, improving our health and much more, work hard the rest of the year to make the whole year as special as the holidays.