No matter where you live or how old you are, at this season, Christmases from the past come to mind and have different meanings for each of us. For me it is mostly about family, food and traditions.
Growing up, we were a family of extremely modest means. We always had a tree (not always pretty but, indeed, a tree) and there were always presents underneath. Not the mammoth amount that is under the tree at our house (we have a generous amount of grandchildren) but there were presents. Usually one small special item for each of us and then mostly items you needed throughout the year, socks, slippers, maybe bubble bath, an orange, a few pieces of hard candy. But it was the foods that I remember the most. When the Panettone arrived home with my Father it was placed, for lack of space, on a radiator and the warmth sent the aroma around our small apartment. My Little Nonna, who lived next door, soaked bacala, a salted dried cod, (not particularly a good smell but one I associated with the fact that Christmas was near) for one part of our Christmas Eve fish dinner and then there were the wonderful foods that we had on Christmas Day. From mid-December, Christmas scents floated in the air and enchanted our home. These food traditions are recreated year after year at our house.
For my husband, Charlie, it was almost the same. Lots of family and traditional foods. I have learned many of them and we have carried them over into our family life.
For me the very thought of Christmas always warms my heart. I love all the hustle and bustle and music and Church pageantry that goes with this holy day. And when our grandchildren run in and see all the presents under the tree, the look on their faces reassures me that this overindulged reenactment of a time past is well worth it.
We are both heartened that our children and our grandchildren are anxious to see the traditional foods, always on the table. We incorporate foods from both of our pasts and along the way many new foods and traditions have been adopted. As a family, everyone travels, and we are always all together for Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, Charlie will recreate the exact fish dinner my Dad always prepared. Our Christmas Day dinner is a little of both families. Antipasto from the Sandroni side followed by a pasta from the Augello side and then a roast which we both remember having on our early tables and all the favorite side dishes. The children and grandchildren wouldn’t want it any other way. And here is where new traditions begin. They now request certain desserts, and requests are always granted and are many. And on Christmas night and for a few nights thereafter many are with us under the same roof. Christmas is extended.
Christmas is magical. For a few days everything is soft and beautiful and I am ever mindful of how fortunate my family is and how fortunate I am to have such a loving family. During the month of December, we’ll trim a tree with many treasured ornaments from our childhood, light candles, send cards and shop for presents. We’ll gather as a family, go to Church, sing carols, open presents and enjoy most of the same foods that Charlie and I did so many years ago. How fortunate we are to live in this great country. May God Bless America and May God Bless Our Troops.
Our wish for you this Christmas is:
The Joy of Family
The Happiness of Friends
And His Love at Christmas
Enjoy the splendor of the season. Make memories.
Merry Christmas, Buon Natale!
It wouldn’t be a holiday at our house without a Panettone.
If we are lucky enough to have some left over this is a great recipe.
6-8 slices of Panettone
2 Tsp Vanilla
2 Tbs Marsala or Vin Santo*
1 1/2Cups half and half
1 Cup Milk – not lo-fat
½ Tsp Cinnamon
Grated Zest from a small lemon
½ Cup sugar
4 large eggs
Butter to generously coat the baking dish.
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Cut the Panettone into thin slices. Sprinkle with Marsala or Vin Santo*.
Bring the half and half and milk to a near boil and add vanilla, lemon zest, cinnamon and sugar. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.
Lightly beat the eggs with a whisk and then pour into the cooled milk mixture whisking constantly until all incorporated and for a few minutes after.
Butter a casserole or oven proof bowl. Put the Panettone in it and pour the custard mixture over it. Put the dish in a roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come about two thirds up the side of the dish. Place carefully in the preheated oven and bake for 60 to 75 minutes depending on the depth of the baking dish you used and until it has set.
Remove from roasting pan and allow the Panettone Pudding to cool and set.
It can be served warm or refrigerated and served cold or at room temperature.
*Optional but if not using add one more Tsp of Vanilla.