Thursday, October 25, 2018

Hostess with the Mostest

I took some time this week to get my Christmas cards addressed so that's out of the way other than like two or three I need to verify addresses on.  It was a little hard when I got to Grandma's on the spreadsheet and not writing her name down for the first time.  I didn't cry but I guess I just wasn't prepared either until it was upon me.  When we were antiquing last weekend even though my sense of smell was on the way out, I could still smell the faint smell of Christmas at my Grandma's sisters house which is weird because we only did that once or twice, I think.  None of us really wanted to be there because some of the distant cousins are, well, an acquired taste in one form or another.  I want to say I was maybe 10 or 11 so it was just me and one other of my closest cousins at that time so I was hanging with the adults.  I have no idea why that smell stuck with me or why the heck I was smelling it in an antique mall but it got to me in a back booth when I smelled it again and had a bit of a moment. 

It got me thinking about the holidays and how much Grandma loved hosting.  She loved having her house full even if she was a little stressed getting there.  I remember sometimes she could be a little snappy so I get it honestly.  (I think most women who host get a little frazzled.  My MIL is famous for it, so much so, that the Mr spent the night before our wedding with me on an air mattress on the empty floor of my old bedroom.  His mother was horrified "you can't spend the night before your wedding together!"  "Mom, you know how you get and I'm not starting my wedding day with you being like that."  It was the first real time he took a stand.) 

It's so strange someone that's the glue of your family really does hold together so much more than you think.  You kind of take for granted that they dictate the flow of family events until they are unable to do so because of disease or have passed.  What is also strange is how the next generation doesn't seem to be willing or able to step into that role.  I could and do in some ways because I make sure the Easter platter is there that she used to do.  I make sure the brown and serve rolls that she's done for ages are the ones people buy and if they don't, we have been known to have backups because it isn't the same when people try to go rogue with the rolls and everyone says it after the fact.  (They're $1 per package and available everywhere, how hard is this, people?)   These things I do to make sure her touches are still there are appreciated and mentioned so why am I the one that has to do most of them?  I'm grateful that my aunt still does her noodles but she doesn't have confidence in her ability so sometimes they are burnt from trying to rush it, sometimes they're slightly underdone from not having the broth boiling and other times, they're thankfully as close as they're going to get.  I can't even make them right but I suspect if they're that important to me (and they are to others as well), I'm going to have to learn.  Mom has suggested crappy egg noodles like pasta and we did that one year and EVERYONE complained.  Grandma had over 60 years experience with that noodle recipe which is literally no more than flour, egg, and salt made into a dough then cut into noodles with a knife, let 'em dry a little then pour them into boiling drippings.  There is no doubt in my mind her love was a big ingredient and is the missing component to why none of ours turn out quite the same but practice makes perfect.

I asked the Mr last weekend since we had our choice of what we could have for Christmas dinner, what did he want if he could have anything.  I didn't want to push my family's traditions on him if there was something he was missing from his own.  Or if he wanted a fancy pants dinner like, I don't know, Cornish Game Hens, Hasselback potatoes, Brussels sprouts with candied bacon and wine poached pears, I'm down to make that instead.  He said it would be sacrilege to not have a beef roast and mashed potatoes because that's what his family always had growing up too.  The noodles were introduced to him when he was 20 by my family and he said it's not the holidays without them as well as the brown and serve rolls.  He said the only thing he'd like are these little pecan rolls his grandma "used to make."  I suspected they might be pinwheels like we used to buy in the grocery store but he swore they were homemade.  I told him to email his mom and ask for the recipe and I would add them to the bread bowl this year.  Welp turns out grandma got them at a store but just doctored them a bit so they seemed more homemade.  ;-)  Just like my grandma used to say "you never know about us!"  Grandma's all have their secrets for making family holiday meals special and I do feel its important to honor those things especially when they're not there anymore.  It's those small touches that make them feel like they are still a part of the festivities.  It doesn't have to be a time-consuming dish but just getting the same rolls brings that comfort without breaking the bank.  God love her, my grandma's turkey was dry.  So. Dry.  For years I tried to tell her she only needed to follow the directions on the bag and it'd come out fine but her tradition from her mother was getting up at 4:30am to get the bird in.  We eat at 1pm...or used to.  (Don't get me started there.)

One year I offered to make a "leftovers" turkey because one branch of the family tree was multiplying like rabbits and one turkey was just enough for the dinner and no leftovers anymore.  When I brought it in, my uncle tasted it and switched out my bird for the main one.  I told him to just put the bastings over Grandma's and she was never the wiser.  I didn't get into that habit though because it was a lot to transport between that, mashed potatoes and pies.  I told them to just make sure to baste hers with some drippings on the platter before using the rest for the noodles and that worked pretty well.  I still smile when I think about having to take a drink of water after each bite if I didn't dunk her turkey in noodle broth.  Then after a while, to my family's horror, I would take everything on my plate and mix it all together so it looked like it'd already been eaten and add ketchup to the top.  I did it from maybe 13 to 23.  It was always funny to watch people look at me sideways, stop cutting their food to watch the Thanksgiving plate horror show and me take the first bite and laugh or shake their heads.  Sigh...I miss those days so much. 

Sorry, I went down memory lane a bit but with writing that Christmas card without her name on it for the first time, it obviously got me nostalgic.  I'll send them out Thanksgiving Eve as I've done for 22 years and I think I may take one to Grandma's "new condo" on Thanksgiving Day since we don't eat until 4pm now.  I'll have to laminate it or something to keep it weatherproof but I want to make sure she still gets her Christmas card right on time.

What traditions/food does your family do from your parents/grandparents days to keep the generations connected?

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  1. I am sorry you had to go through that but I know she is looking down and smiling because she got a sneak peek at what you're sending this year. Just glad you're moving forward with enjoying the season and not letting her absence get you down and ruin it for you because she would not want that for you.

  2. A tradition that I've done really started with me, but my mom was all about it because of the dogs. I read Twas The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve to the dogs with just the tree lit. I do the voices, the whole nine yards, while they look at me like I'm insane and just want Santa to speed it up. LOL As for food, we always do a beef roast of some kind (sometimes mom would do crown roasts with the little "hats"... so stinking cute), mashed potatoes, and all the bells and whistles. Her bruschetta is an annual thing (for me I make it multiple times a year), and really bad Christmas cookies. LOL God love her, but she's never mastered that "free form" style. LOL Oh, and Mint Meltaways from Fannie May while we open presents. The one thing I've never been able to do well is her stuffed mushrooms. She would stuff them with pepperoni and cheese and some other things and they are insanely good (like forget dinner, I'll have these kind of good)but I've never mastered it as well as her.


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