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!
1 Lb Whole Milk Ricotta – drained
4 Eggs – separated
4 Tbs Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1 tsp Almond Extract
1 tsp Cinnamon Oil – or to taste
3 Tbs Rum – or your favorite liqueur
Zest of 1 Lemon
Pinch of Salt
Powdered Sugar – for dusting
Beat ricotta and egg yolks until light and fluffy in a large bowl. Add flour, salt, sugar, almond
extract, cinnamon, rum (or your preferred liqueur) and lemon zest. Mix well making sure all is
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff; then gently fold in the ricotta mixture. Pour
batter into a buttered and floured 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 45 minutes at 350º.
Let cool completely on a wire rack before removing from pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar
Note: Instead of rum I have used Grand Marnier or Amaretto.