“My Favorite Christmas Treat,” Dec. 13, 2016

What’s your favorite Christmas treat? Close your eyes and think of it _ one taste that says to you, “Merry Christmas!”

Gingerbread? Eggnog? Sugar cookies? I bet it’s not fruitcake. I’d love to hear your answer. 

Treats in my childhood were simple. My mother’s peach cobbler was a feast, the best you ever put in your mouth. Her mother made banana pudding for Sunday dinners. And my dad’s mother, a farm wife, who cooked three meals on a wood stove most every day of her life, seldom saw the need for sweets.

But when I came to visit, she would make my favorite dessert: Homemade biscuits left over from breakfast, split in half, slathered with butter, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, drizzled with cream and heated to bubbling in the warmer on the stove. Oh my.

Sorry. I tend to go on a bit when I start talking about food.

All those tastes speak of love, but they don’t say “Christmas.” For that, I need a tangerine.

The year my stepfather was out of work with a broken ankle, he limped home Christmas Eve with a box of tangerines, put it under the tree and said, “Merry Christmas.”

That was our only gift, except for a canned ham from some people at church.

Even now after all these years, one taste of a tangerine brings to mind my mother’s words as she fried up a few slices of what my stepfather called _ and refused to eat _ charity.

“Life,” she said, “is a bank. Sometimes you put into it. Other times you take out. But you need to remember how hard it is to take, because one day, you will do the giving.”

Why do I prefer tangerines to ham? The ham was a gift from good people who meant well. Their kindness was a blessing.

But the tangerines were a gift from someone who would have given us the world, if he could, but had nothing else to offer.

Which gift would you prefer? I thought so. Me, too.

My husband loves snickerdoodles. He loves them anytime, day or night, but especially around Christmas. He also loves the chocolate crinkles his mother, rest her soul, used to make for him.

I have tried both recipes with mixed success. But I am far better at snickers than at crinkles. And as it turns out, my husband prefers them. Or so he says. And so do I.

Every Christmas in our almost 12 years of marriage, I’ve baked a batch of snickerdoodles just for him.

OK, I eat them, too. But mostly, they are for him.

Today _ after my recent surgery to repair a broken ankle _ my husband decided to make the snickerdoodles himself.

I’ll say this. He’s a great cook. We usually share meal prep, or did until I broke my ankle. I often prefer his cooking to mine, especially if I don’t have to clean up the mess. For all his culinary expertise, his baking experience has been somewhat limited to microwaving a pizza. But he was not about to let that stop him.

“You’ll need the mixer,” I said.

He raised his eyebrows.

I pointed to the cupboard. “It’s got beaters and a power cord.”

He held up a block of butter. “How much is half a cup?”

“Half a cup,” I said.

“The labels are worn off the measuring spoons. How do you know which one’s a teaspoon?”

“I’m smart,” I said. “I just guess. Try the middle one.”

Then I watched, laughing through a cloud of flour dust, as a man who would give me the world, if he could, baked up a fine batch of snickerdoodles.

I wish you could taste them.

The kitchen, of course, is a disaster. No matter. Cookies are like companions. Even the best ones tend to leave a few crumbs.

Tomorrow, he says, he’ll go shopping for tangerines.

Maybe next Christmas I’ll make chocolate crinkles.

From our kitchen to yours, here’s wishing you your favorite taste of Christmas, shared with someone who is your world.

Comments

  1. Jann Knighten says:

    Happy Holidays Sharon;

    Regarding your Chocolate Crinkles::::::

    I found a box of cookie mix at Safeway made by GHIRARDELLI. They are called Chocolate Cringels ?, Taste exactly like my Grand Mother made years ago. Bake for 8 mins. leave on cookie sheet 4 mins to cool then with spatula move to cooling rack. YUMMY.

    Enjoy,

    Jann

  2. Shashi says:

    Hope you are feeling better. Best wishes for recovery !
    You and family have a blessed Christmas !!

  3. Deanne Sims says:

    You’ve done it again. Made me cry tears of a type of longing to go back in time. I also loved the one about your favorite Christmas tree.
    My favorite Christmas memory treat was the gumdrop tree that my grandmother made from a thorn branch she cut in the East Texas woods by her house placed in a decorated tin can with rocks to hold in place. My cousin’s and I would get to eat one when we asked permission. It was wonderful! I did it for my kids one year but it was never the same. You can’t go back. Looking back to precious memories will have to do. 😊

  4. Carol Hofacre says:

    I’ve looked high and low for real, old fashioned gingerbread men cookies. I finally found them at Universal City Walk mall at the Coffee Bean in southern CA. The only problem is I live in northern CA. I tried making my own but couldn’t come close to those.

  5. Lydia says:

    Cut-out sugar cookies. I remember decorating them so carefully as a child. Now I just toss on the colored sugar, bake them and call it a day. I have my favorite little cookie cutters that were my Moms from when we were growing up. And I still make them. It’s not Christmas until the cut-out cookies are done!

  6. Judy says:

    Fruitcake has been in my family as long as I can remember. Good, moist fruitcake.YUM. Dad would go after Christmas and stock up on the ones that were reduced. To this date I still love it and so does my husband and son.

  7. Patsy Barton says:

    Sharon, my favorite treat at Christmas was my Granny’s fruitcake. It was delicious, moist and I haven’t had anything come close to it since she passed away. We traveled from Ohio to her home in Kentucky every year. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  8. Cheryl Radich says:

    My 8 siblings and I always got a tangerine in each of our stockings..and an apple, an orange, a small bag of Planters peanuts, plain M&Ms and peanut M&Ms. always, every year. Great article to awaken our tastes and smells of Christmas. Thank you!

  9. Kate Sciacca says:

    Well, when I was a kid it was oranges… we always had an orange in our stockings 😀 But now… it’s Prime Rib with horseradish cream…. ahhhh yes…. that’s Christmas…. 👍🏻

  10. Bebee Dillard says:

    Yes, it’s true…fruitcake…Claxton fruitcake.
    Merry Christmas from North Carolina!

  11. Lydia says:

    Tangerines mean Christmas to me, too! When we were growing up, our grandfather (Poppaw) bought boxes of fruit, nuts and candy for the grandkids for Christmas. Of course, all fruits weren’t available year-round in the 1960s. Getting to go to Granny and Poppaw’s during the holidays and eat citrus fruit was a real treat. Every time I smell a tangerine, it takes me back to Christmas.

  12. Linda Foy says:

    Sorry to hear about your ankle. Patience and healing don’t always go together!

    For me, definitely ginger cookies or the anise cookies my neighbor, Mrs. Leoni, made every Christmas. For my husband, it’s always been fruitcake with lots of pecans, the kind my mother used to make.

  13. Jan says:

    Oh, definitely lebkuchen and springele – anise cookies too! Everyone, have. blessed Christmas!

  14. Sharon says:

    Anise cookies. Christmas means anise cookies, dozens and dozens of them. The recipe came from a WWII cookbook, except instead of the listed vanilla extract, my mother would substitute anise extract, with its unmistakable licorice-like aroma. I don’t know where she learned to do that, and now she’s gone so I can’t ask, but from the time we could stand on a chair, we would spend a winter afternoon rolling and cutting Santas and stars and bells and trees and stockings. My mother would handle the actual baking, and as she would take the cookies from the pan and line them up on clean kitchen towels, she would tell us…”I need more bells.” Or stars or camels. But never reindeer. The reindeer were always done by her; the cookie cutter had an impossibly slender neck and the nose always stuck in the cutter! One day to bake them all, and then a day to frost them with frosting flavored with the same anise extract. Colored sugars, cinnamon dots, pastel nonpareils, silver dragees…
    I’ve continued the tradition with my three children, and now with my six grandchildren. As a matter of fact, there’s a bowl of dough chilling in my refrigerator right now, for a weekend of baking with the grands. I can’t wait. Nothing says Christmas to me like the scent of baking anise cookies.

  15. Hmmm. Hard tack candy, peanut butter fudge, peanut butter candy (I don’t know what it’s called, and potato candy. I don’t much care for lots of candy now, but they still taste like Christmas. And snowball kisses (a cookie my mommy makes). That, plus family, makes for an awfully sweet Christmas. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  16. Heather says:

    I’ve been craving ginger snap cookies the kind rolled in sugar mmm hold a ginger snap cookie over a big glass of milk… Dip until bubbles stop then eat carefully and after a whole batch of cookies drink the sugar milk. Yes a guilty holiday pleasure. Sharon I am so thankful I get to read your column I cherish it and you sharing your family stories I have followed you for years and once our local newspaper your column had changed I googled you to see if I could find a city you were publishing a weekly column! Thank God for google I found your site. This year I am facing a diagnosis with breast cancer it was caught early so I will be ok but I’m facing a mastectomy and reconstruction. So your prayers would be appreciated 🙂 I’m so happy your surgery on your ankle is done wishing you a speedy recovery and some yummy cookies your husband is learning how to make 😉

  17. Debbie says:

    Nuts in their shells. Pecans, filberts, almonds, etc. In a lovely wooden bowl with nutcracker & little picks to get out every piece. Merry Christmas!

  18. Polly Caudle says:

    My favorite that my mother made was the very thin Moravian Ginger Cookies that she would carefully roll out. They are a favorite with many people in Winston-Salem along with the
    Moravian Sugar Cake.

  19. Ginny says:

    Ah, tangerines! I know this tale of your from long ago visits and it has become a part of me. When I see tangerines come into the market, I think of you and of Christmas!

  20. Sheila says:

    Sugar cookies! And eggnog…or custard as we called it in Missouri! (Homemade! Which required hours of stirring over a double boiler so the mixture would turn out creamy smooth.)

    My recipe is sour cream sugar cookies with colored sugar. No frosting for us! 😊 I got the recipe from a friend more than forty years ago & I think I have made them every year since.

    Those snicker doodles sound delicious! Which I had a cup of Mom’s custard to go along with them. I need to bake!

    Merry Christmas to you & yours!

  21. Linda Jones says:

    My mother made a Icbox Fruit Cake every year atChrristmas. It was made from graham cracker crumbs, marshmallows, candied fruit, pecans and Carnation milk. It was so “Christmas”……oh how I looked forward to that wonderful treat.

  22. Pamela Dailey says:

    I love your column. It always touches me and makes me cry sometimes. I love the stories and the love that you can feel in each word in the story. I so look forward each week to reading your wonderful words of wisdom and love.

  23. Peter Rankin says:

    Sharon for me it’s Pumpkin Pie and Sussex Ginger ale. Merry Christmas from the Rankin family in Pictou Nova Scotia

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