Do you have a traditional Christmas (holiday) dinner that you prepare year after year? If so, what is it?
In honor of Thanksgiving, I posted my family’s turkey and stuffing recipe, as invented and perfected by my grandfather. I’ve heard two stories about it’s origin, one that he invented it while overseas during WWII, when supplies couldn’t get through, the other that he created it much later. In either case, it’s the ultimate holiday flavor for me.
And yet, there are others. Pfefferneusse cookies were introduced to me by my mother, and at dinner, along side the turkey and cranberry sauce (always fresh, never from a can), there was always lasagna. It’s a rule, you know, that Italian families cannot have a big meal that doesn’t include pasta. My grandfather introduced me to coconut macaroons, and they’re still a favorite, and peppermint stick ice cream is just too cool to miss (no pun intended).
It’s aglio e olio, however, that brings back the most memory. Literally meaning garlic and oil, this is a pasta sauce of diced garlic and olive oil, sometimes with other herbs and lemon – but NOT a pesto – and NO pine nuts. It’s simple peasant food, and we always had it on Christmas Eve, and Easter. In my family, with their New Jersey Neapolitan accents, the Italian pronunciation has morphed to the very East Coast “Ahlya Awlya,” though the recipe has remained largely unchanged.
Food, like music, has the ability to transport me to different times, different places. Aglio e olio makes me an innocent seven-year-old, ice skating with my mother on weekends, or meeting her after school for cocoa in the vault-turned-sewing room at the back of her store. It is loud, boisterous family parties, and quiet contemplative evenings in the glow of the Christmas tree lights. Mostly, though, it is the warmth of my mother’s love, and her tireless work to make every Christmas magical.