Chef Bob Aylwin
Now that Christmas time is upon us once again, I have been literally pouring over hundreds of my Christmas time recipes for this article. As a result, I suddenly found myself less interested in recipes and party ideas and more interested in what Christmas really is, or should be about, namely family, friends and love.
As I sat at the computer getting ready to embark on some “Holiday Good Mood Food” ideas I began to drift back in time, to my early childhood days growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts. In my imagination, I can still see my mother in the kitchen, singing Christmas tunes as she prepared every detail of our family Christmas dinner get together. I can’t recall ever seeing the holiday stress that runs people ragged ever bothering my mom. She always seemed delighted in the hustle and bustle of Christmas. She always seemed thankful.
I was a lucky kid because being the oldest meant that I was allowed to toil along with Mom as she went about the business of making all kinds of Christmas culinary delights from our modest little kitchen. I can still smell the apple cider steaming on the stove and can remember the delight I would get when Mom would let me drop a little candy cane into it for that pepperminty touch that she loved so. I can still see the ham glistening with brown sugar, corn syrup and toasty cloves. I can see my mother now, mashing the sweet potatoes with honey and butter as the sweet aromas of nutmeg, cinnamon and happiness filled the air. Every now and again she would call for me to either grab a couple of eggs from the refrigerator or to pass her the eggnog for her delicious eggnog creme brulee. I would smile as I watched this incredible woman enjoying every moment of every detail of the holiday season.
Later on Mom would sit down in our living room and rest a bit as Christmas music filled the air and we waited for family and friends to arrive. Soon I would be pinched and hugged endlessly by relatives and friends whom I wish I had seen more of throughout the year. Mom would insist that my younger brothers and sisters line up at the front door and smile and say “Merry Christmas” to all of our arriving guests, a tradition as old as the sugar cookie itself.
I would settle in with cousins my age and we would watch as everyone seemed to put the troubles of the world behind them and make the simple decision just to cherish the good things in life. Yes, Christmas time in our home brought family and friends together like no other time of the year. Joy filled our home as we all found our places at the table to eat and enjoy the fruits of Mom’s labor.
There was to be no doubt we loved each other. It was a real love that may have been unnoticeable throughout the busy year and the daily family grind. For the brief moment called Christmas, we all looked at each other and knew it was there, and it was very very real. Mom would give out instructions to her new, older and more experienced kitchen helpers. Aunt Barbara would grab the apricot stuffing, Gram would grab the homemade cranberry sauce and Dad would get his cutting board ready for the turkey and glazed ham. Being a culinary professional in the making, I would watch and learn. And like a symphony in perfect harmony, our Christmas buffet would come together and we would laugh and eat until our bellies were ready to burst.
I love Christmas and all that comes with it, the lights, the songs, the great food and drink, all of it. But most of all I love the fact that for just a brief moment we feel real love, a love so strong that it washes over us, it cleanses us. It makes me thankful for family, thankful for friends, thankful for the life that our great Lord above has blessed us with. I’m also thankful that my parents and family taught me that Christmas is not about presents and candy but about thanks and love. Maybe that is why I pay little attention to the commercialized version of the Christmas holiday and I feel sad when I see people rushing around in a frenzied panic trying to make everything perfect. Nothing is perfect in this world but if we let our troubles subside and open our hearts to the love that is all around us then maybe we can all have a perfect Christmas.
Classic Christmas Sugar Cookie
No matter how busy we are around the holidays we can always make time for the classic Sugar Cookie.
Ingredients: (yield 10 cookies)
• 2 cups all purpose flour
• 1/2 tsp. baking powder
• Pinch of salt
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 2 eggs beaten
• 2 tbsp. of milk
• Powdered sugar for rolling
Sift flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
• Place butter and sugar in mixing bowl and whisk vigorously until light in color.
• Add egg and milk and beat to combine.
• Put in an electric mixer (optional, can continue by hand as well.)
• Set mixer on low speed and gradually add flour and beat until mixture pulls away from the sides.
• Divide mixture in 1/2, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for 2 hours.
• Preheat oven to 375.
• Sprinkle the surface you will be using to roll out dough with powdered sugar (sprinkle your rolling pin as well.)
• Roll out dough to desired thickness and cut into rounds.
• Place on baking sheet about an inch apart.
• Bake at 375 until lightly browned on edges.
Chef Bob Aylwin is the Owner/Operator of “Premier Catering”, you can reach him at (239) 200-8407.