Whole Living Gal

Family Holiday Traditions: The Food Version

I was thinking I should title this post, “In Case You Saw Me Buying Sugar & Marshmallow Fluff Today.” But I changed my mind because this post isn’t really about the ingredients. This time.

Everyone has that one recipe that when you make it, you say, “Okay, NOW it feels like the holidays.”

Chances are, that recipe is a hand-me-down from your mother, who got it from her mother or mother-in-law and now you are making it in your kitchen for your family and your children.

For me, this recipe is my Grandma Eileen’s shortbread.

I loved my Grandma Eileen. She was about 5-feet tall and never weighed over 100 lbs and also refused to wear anything but a skirt (never a pair of pants). She taught me to knit and croche and the importance of Bisto gravy to make the perfect roast. Her husband also brought her and their two children over from Northern Ireland, and I think she lived the rest of her life wanting to go back. And though she would spend a pretty penny on her wardrobe, she only wore the diamond necklace my grandfather gave her once. I have that necklace now.

So when I soften a pound of butter into sugar and mix it with flour, I think of my Grandma Eileen. When I press the corners of the dough into the pan, I remember going for walks with her and eating off her good china.

These holiday family traditions in the kitchen are not necessarily about the food – or the sugar or the butter – but they’re about the people we’ve loved and lost and those who have taught us about life.

I was given a recipe from my husband’s grandma for fudge last week. I never met her; she passed away before I met my husband. And this is the only recipe that I have ever seen of hers – though the legend of her miracles in the kitchen still permeates the family.

When I looked at this peanut butter fudge recipe, the first thing I saw was not the memories of my husband and his childhood with his grandmother. No, I only saw marshmallow fluff. And evaporated milk. And sugar. Among other things.

After I got over myself and the fear of being spotted purchasing these items, I made the dang fudge.

And as I stirred the pan so the candy wouldn’t burn, I thought of the legacy of the women in my family. I thought of this great-grandmother that my daughters will never know, but will inherit parts of her personality, her gifts, and hopefully her prowess in the kitchen.

Christmastime is about legacy, after all. We remember this king that was born, into whose family we are grafted and adopted.

Now, I’m not saying cook up some white sugar and think of the Christ-child. But go about your business, making those family recipes, participating in those cooky family traditions, and remember where you came from. And don’t think too much about the ingredients. That peanut butter fudge is pretty darn good.


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  1. Tweets that mention Family Holiday Traditions: The Food Version « Whole Living Gal -- Topsy.com pingbacked on 7 years, 3 months ago


  1. * jean says:

    Mmmmmmmm shortbread!! I’m making some tonight as well (have my butter softening on the counter as I type). My mom taught me how to make it last Christmas as did my dad’s mom to my mom over in N. Ireland. 🙂

    And Bisto? I don’t even look at the ingredients it contains, but enjoy it for the fond memories and smells it emulates every time I add it to shepherd’s pie.

    Merry Christmas Heather!

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 3 months ago
    • Jean – you’re my soul food sister! 🙂

      | Reply Posted 7 years, 3 months ago
  2. * Molly says:

    I too wonder who will see me buying something un-characteristic of my heathy usuals….love your blog, Heather!!

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 3 months ago
  3. * susan says:

    loved this story – you are so right, food brings up memories and it is a good thing! Don’t worry, I am probably the one fighting over the last jar of marshmallow fluff on the shelf.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 3 months ago
  4. * carrie says:

    I’be now shared this post with my whole family and cried everytime I read it!

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 3 months ago

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