About a week before Christmas my mother asked how she met my father.
I told her the well-worn tale of friends who wanted to set him up on a blind date. They gave him a choice: blonde or brunette? He picked blonde…and the rest, well, is my history. She was teaching high school art and he was launching the State College office of a Lehigh Valley construction company. It was a whirlwind romance that resulted in a marriage of 56 wonderful years.
When I finished the story, my mother said, “I’m so glad you remember, even if you weren’t there.”
It got me thinking. She’s lost her place in the world. So many memories, names, and faces have vanished. She fills the airwaves by reading roadside signs and asking repetitive questions like a drowning person struggling to keep her head above water. Her sense of time is a jumble. Did we have Christmas yet? Happy Easter! When will it be January? Is today someone’s birthday? What day is today?
Maybe, we could remember Christmas for her.
So, I sent an email to my four sisters and spouses, and to Nonna’s 12 grandchildren, asking everyone to send holiday memories. Marina was here to help so we scoured some old albums of really embarrassing photos— the flannel-phase, the disco-phase, the perm-phase—we got holiday stickers, a few current photos fresh off Facebook, and a hardbound sketchbook to create “Remembering Christmas.”
The collection of stories, letters (the farthest came from Shanghai), and snapshots in time was wrapped and placed in Nonna’s stocking. It was a gift from all of us and for all of us. Best of all, she loves it. Laurie Lynch
Christmas Recipe 2012: Although our family holidays are steeped in tradition, I often like to mix things up a bit, try a new recipe or add a new dish. It’s not a “Fedon” Christmas Eve unless there’s a bowl of hand-made tortellini in warm broth at each place. For years, I’ve made the family tradition my own by tossing a handful of bright green peas and chopped red pepper into the soup pot for holiday cheer.
This year, while sorting through recipe cards, I found one from Pat Snyder of Kutztown for Castagnioli (almond macaroons) that I had tasted and loved, but never baked. This was the year:
1 kilo (4½ cups) crushed almonds or almond meal (available at health food stores, Echo Hill, etc.)
4 eggs (5 if small)
2½ cups sugar
2 grated lemons (Pat uses limes)
Mix finely ground almonds, sugar, and citrus rind. Make a well in the mixture and put in eggs, stirring in from the sides. Mix well and roll into 1-inch balls. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes on parchment paper-covered baking sheets.
One batch of these cookies got a little too brown, so instead of packing them away in a tin, I placed them in a bowl for snackers and left them on the kitchen table…
Meanwhile, I had a pot of tomato sauce bubbling on the stove for dinner. I was setting the table in the dining room when Richard walked into the kitchen.
“Should I put these meatballs in the sauce?” he called out.
I freaked out, started screaming, and ran to the kitchen.
Just a joke, Mom.
My nickname for this treat will forever be “Meatball Cookies”.
Gonna Miss Him: Richard has transferred from Penn State to Vesalius College and will move to Brussels this month.
Christmas Lesson 2012: Another Christmas Eve tradition that I made my own is accompanying tortellini soup with a mixed greens salad topped with pistachios and pomegranate seeds (green-and-red theme repeated) with Sweet Fruit Dressing. Shelling the pistachios is the easy part; separating each pomegranate ruby from its casing is messy and time-consuming.
Enter Marina, fresh from grad school in London where her flat seems to be a center of culinary exchange. (One friend, Catie, is studying the Anthropology of Food, no less!) To easily remove the seeds from a pomegranate:
- Slice off the “crown” end of the fruit.
- Cut into the skin making four quarters and gently break apart.
- Place the seed side in the palm of your hand and use a wooden spoon to whack the back skin side. This releases the seeds from the membrane and into your hand, and you can easily drop them into a container.
Voila! Happy 2013.