My Mother's Cookbook's Holiday Desserts: Pumpkin and Pecan Pies, Gingerbread Men and Christmas Cookies
Food comes immediately to mind when reflecting on the holidays of my childhood. I remember sitting by a window near the kitchen stove, basking in the warmth of the winter sun behind me while playing with my most prized present that year, an oil painting set. Not old enough to be expected to help, I watched my mother preparing our Christmas dinner and asked her more than once how much longer until the special meal was ready.
Dad liked a bowl of mixed nuts in their shells — walnuts, almonds, hazel nuts and pecans — for snacks during the holidays. Sometimes we had Brazil nuts, their exotic shells so dark and oddly shaped that I thought them too strange to eat.
Mom would put the nut bowl in the library, with nut crackers and pickers at the ready. We children enjoyed the laborious task of cracking nuts, picking out the tasty meats and eating them. Pieces of shell must have been scattered on the floor, but we lived in a household where some messiness related to eating was tolerated.
Mother wasn’t big on desserts and didn’t serve them after every meal. She paid more attention to the savory dishes she created, although she was fond of pies. People usually excel at cooking what they like best to eat, and her pies proved that point. Pie almost always finished off our holiday meals.
Except for one unfortunate year, when Mom steamed carrot pudding on the stove for hours and served it with hard sauce. I didn’t like the dense sticky pudding or the sweet sauce. This must have been the family consensus, because the carrot pudding never showed up again.
Pumpkin pie is surely the most popular dessert served for Thanksgiving dinner in our country. The recipe Mom favored came from Bernice Lewis. A widow older by some years, she had been Mom’s closest friend from the time she first came to Harlan as a young bride. Bernice had an especially jolly sense of humor, and Mom loved to laugh.
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