Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sandra Boynton's Christmastime (Part Six)

Chapter Five
Good Things to Eat

"Imagine, for example, an apparently civilized country where the natives keep Christmas by eating the heads of wild boars, by drinking from ceremonial vessels a warm ale-and-egg brew, and by setting fire to sweetened mounds of beef loin fat and flour!  And yet, for all that, the British are probably people just like us."  --Sandra Boynton

Well, this chapter certainly seems inevitable.   What kind of book about the traditions of Christmas doesn't mention food?  Not a good one, that's for sure.  As always, Boynton approaches her chapter on the edible goodies of the seasons with just the right balance of wry humor and useful and/or interesting information.  Eating and drinking are wrapped up inextricably in almost every other Christmas tradition practiced around the world.  Think to your own favorite memories of Christmas.  How many of them involve sitting around a dinner table with your family, or a gathered group chatting together with some sort of holiday drinks in hand?  Breakfast is a big part too, of course, and usually comes into play somehow with the ritual of opening presents.  Then, of course, there are all of the goodies that suddenly appear everywhere you go this time of year.  Schools and offices are flooded with yummy baked goods.  Food is just part of this season.

Boynton embraces this wholeheartedly. She provides several recipes (three different kinds of cookies, Wassail Punch, plum pudding, and a very special post-holidays recipe).  For each she gives a little bit of background on the dish and its role in the season, along with some amusing little anecdotes.  I was even inspired to give one of the recipes a try for the first time ever this year.  I opted for the Rolled Lemon Cookies (page 95).  I even went out and bought a rolling pin and pastry mat especially for the occasion (okay, well I've been meaning to get those for ages anyway, but this was as good an excuse as any to finally do it). 

Note the traditional Christmas Squirrel, Mom.

I think they came out pretty well, actually.  They were very light and fluffy, and like a basic sugar cookie with just a hint of lemon.  Before I decided to ice them I didn't think they were quite sweet enough, but with the icing they are perfect (I used a basic powdered sugar/butter/vanilla extract icing).  Hubby and Baby Girl both seem to like them as well.  I halved the recipe, and it yielded just about three dozen cookies.  I got around two dozen cut out with cookie cutters and then divided the rest up into little balls, which I am calling "Lemon Drops."  I think the full recipe, primarily using cookie cutters would give you about five dozen cookies.  So kudos to Boynton on an awesome recipe.  Maybe next year I'll get brave and try the Pfeffernusse.  Then again, maybe not.

"Traditionally, families leave out homemade cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.  Some people leave him a whole fruitcake (see page 77), and his appreciation is such that he in turn leaves an identical cake under their tree."  --Sandra Boynton

I have to say, Boynton is definitely on to something here.  Even before I really started to get into doing a lot more baking again (I actually did bake quite a bit as a kid and teenager, but college killed the mojo until recently), around Christmastime I could always be counted on for at least a batch of cookies or a pineapple chess pie.  Yesterday, in addition to the lemon cookies, I made a few other goodies as well.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Fruity Rice Krispie Treats

The oatmeal cookies were the store-bought pre-cut "break apart and cook" dough kind, but, hey, I like those, and I figured now is as good a time as any to get them out of my freezer and in somebody's tummy.  The Rice Krispie treats have 2 parts Fruity Pebbles to 3 parts Rice Krispies.  It gives them a lot more flavor and a nice festive dash of color to boot.

Of course, as soon as Hubby got home, I gave him half of these goodies, all bagged up and ready to go to the office with him in the morning.  Just because I felt like making them doesn't mean I want to eat all of them.  Hmm.  We may need to try that special post-holidays recipe after all.  It's a pretty simple recipe, here, I'll share it with you:

Sandra Boynton's Karottenstickendietettisch

1.  Wash and peel:  24 carrots
2.  Slice lengthwise, and arrange appetizingly on a platter.

Bon appetit my friends!

Tomorrow:  Coming Down From Christmas

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