Last year, on December 23rd, eSS&SC asked members of our ad hoc Facebook community to share their most closely held and unswerving holiday food traditions. The response was surprisingly diverse, heartfelt, and funny, with must-serve items running the gamut from Thai curry to chocolate truffles.
Ancestral foods like latkes, tourtière, and steamed puddings ranked high, even among readers who otherwise rarely cook from their own ethnic recipe box. For example, a Fairhaven reader invests several days in marinating and slow-cooking cacoila for her Christmas party each year, but says it’s essentially her sole foray into her Azorean culinary heritage.
It is clear that how readers serve their favorite holiday dishes reflects the specific way their households live now: who they are themselves and who they have welcomed into their families over the generations, as well as what they love to eat on a special day. Susannah Locketti’s latke recipe faithfully reproduces the traditional Hanukkah offering, but her family tradition features them as the highlight of a decidedly unkosher Christmas brunch menu.
Likewise, Amy Cortwright gives her dad’s lush recipe for cacciatore, telling us that her family has chosen to trade in the sprawling and demanding Italian Christmas Eve cooking tradition for something relaxed and accommodating, yet special, for three generations to gather around and enjoy together each year.
Some readers clearly work hard to offer their guests a signature holiday specialty, refined and improved year on year. A Pembroke reader shares his recipe for a fabulous labor of love, a ganache-filled chocolate bûche de Noël. Lavish home-made sweets will always have a home on the holiday table.
And, for some readers, the rejection of tradition constitutes the only tradition. Sara Valero told us about the witty and delicious-sounding holiday parties she and her mum put on. They select a theme, quite possibly quirky, and pursue it across global traditions, surprising guests at an annual party that always features a novel and fresh menu.
We are grateful to readers for participating in the social media conversation. We learned a great deal and had a lot of fun doing it! Special thanks to Amy Cortwright, Susannah Locketti, George Stanchfield, and Sara Valero for sharing their recipes to adapt into print.