The Christmas Kitchen

Monday Author: Susanne Skinner

Kitchens are gathering places. This is true all year long in our home, but more so during December. I love all things Christmas. It’s a celebration I stretch through the entire month and I look forward to it every year. It’s like a gift I give myself.

I put Mom’s tree on top of the hoosier and added a few more decorations to kick off the Christmas Kitchen season at Casa Caron.

Decorations on the Hoosier cabinet

Many Christmas traditions originate in the kitchen and this year I decided to do a little kitchen decorating along with the baking. The inspiration came from a lighted tree my mom purchased many years ago in Germany. I kept it when I moved my Dad and it found a new home in our attic. This Christmas it’s on top of the Hoosier.

Our kitchen is home to a vintage Hoosier cabinet from the early 1900s since built-in cupboards were scarce. They went out of fashion in the 40s when built-in cabinets and drawers became part of every kitchen. Mine is complete with working flour sifter and antique glass storage jars, and I make good use of it inside and out.

I put Mom’s tree up there and added a few more items to kick off the Christmas Kitchen season at Casa Caron.

Christmas Traditions

Traditions are an important part of our lives. I see proof of this from our grown children, whose expectations for the holidays are rooted in our Christmas kitchen.  Just when you think nobody appreciates the effort that goes into those Christmas morning cinnamon rolls or the weekends spent mixing and baking cookies, someone says “Hey, we’re still doing that, right?”  My heart soars.

Christmas traditions are an important part of our lives.  I see proof of this from our grown children, whose expectations for the holidays are rooted in our Christmas kitchen.  Everyone can relate to holiday traditions. They are as diverse as the culture and religious practices of each and every country in the world. Since many of our families immigrated to this country our holidays reflect their country of origin.

Favorite recipes keep us centered, expressing the heart of our extended family. As people of a certain age, many of our traditions are the embodiment of loved ones no longer with us. We embrace their presence with shared family recipes.

We celebrate with a mix of sweet and savory dishes from both sides of our family and I always try a few new things, hoping they are well received and invited back.  We’ve also kicked a few to the curb. Not everything needs to live on in perpetuity!

Because…Cookies

Everybody loves cookies. A one- or two-bite dessert you can eat with your hands is the way to go. Cookies come in more flavors, textures, sizes, and shapes than any other dessert. There is no shortage of recipes, from the classics to the avant garde. Because they are bite-sized, you can have favorites, choose more than one, and you don’t have to share! At Christmas, we get to spoil ourselves with choices!

I love to relax with a cup of Christmas tea, a cookbook and my post-it flags; marking the recipes that speak to me. There are always too many but as December approaches I narrow down the list and buy a 25 pound bag of flour. My homemade vanilla, started in June, is ready! December means cookie mojo.

Everybody loves Christmas cookies.  A one or two bite dessert you can eat with your hands is the way to go.  Cookies in a jar make a great gift.  All you need is a good recipe and a one-quart glass jar and you’re in business.  Add a cute gift tag and you’ve got edible hostess or thank-you gifts.

I work for an Israeli company and two things often appear in their baked goods – dates and figs. I contribute a cookie platter to the office party and this year I’ve added these fig and date swirl cookies. Sucking up!

My mom’s mid-west prayer bars and my mother-in-law’s anise cookies make an appearance every year. A new cookie, called a split second, is from an antique shop I visited in Wisconsin this summer. Part of the store was a vintage kitchen with coffee and cookies!  The shop owner gave me the recipe (after I ate too many to count) and I am using Stonewall Kitchen’s holiday jam, found at my local Wegmans.

Something Old, Something New

Cookbooks, especially those that focus on baking, get center stage in my kitchen book case. I take great pleasure in reading them, especially if the backstory for the recipe is included. I am a visual person, and one photo is enough to inspire me.  I see it and I want to make it

Cooking inspires me and reminds me of my mom, who always seemed to be in the kitchen making something. Growing up in the military offered very few extended family celebrations, but Mom brought her family traditions to every holiday table.

Our sense of smell is linked to memories, if you grew up with holiday traditions those are the recipes that hold a special place in your adult life. It’s important to keep those alive, and equally important to establish your own traditions and hand them down.

I like the idea of something old, and something new pulls the current generation into the holiday mix. If there’s one thing my family has in common, it’s a love of food.

If you are short on time (who isn’t?) or not as obsessed as me, you can still bring a holiday vibe to the kitchen, or any part of your home using an empty glass jar and a few decorations.

It’s beginning to look—and taste—a lot like Christmas.

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