Seems like a lot of holiday traditions revolve around food. One of my favorites is Christmas cookies. In the weeks before Christmas, I made crullers – donuts deep-fried in lard, a recipe passed down from my maternal great-grandmother's side of the family; pecan fingers and Scotch shortbreads, passed down from my paternal great-grandmother; and cookie-cutter, icing-and-sprinkle-decorated sugar cookies to please my 5-year-old (who would rather make them than eat them). I ran out of time to make rum balls, a recipe from my stepmother that makes me smile every time I read the recipe card and it instructs the cook to drink some of the rum and dance around the kitchen.
If you read my essay in the December/January issue of the new Lipstick magazine, you will have discovered that I have occasionally found holiday dinners challenging. While this year wasn't as bad as the year I tried to make Frank Stitt's famous grits appetizer, we did have a slight snafu. We had two separate family dinners planned, one for Christmas Eve and one for Christmas Day. We decided to get a big boneless ribeye roast, cook it Christmas Eve and have plenty left for Christmas Day. So, we thought, we have Evan, myself, my sister, her husband, our daughter, and Evan's mom and dad. We ordered 6.5 pounds, enough for a pound each (half for the 5-year-old). Have you figured it out yet? We forgot to figure in the fact that Evan and I and our daughter were eating TWICE! So we cut the leftovers thin and turned them into open-faced prime rib sandwiches, with sauteed mushrooms and shallots, topped with provolone cheese. There was enough -- barely!
I also received a few food-related gifts this Christmas. The folks over at Primavera Coffee Roasters in Cahaba Heights sent us a half-pound of one of their "Cup of Excellence" coffees, from a small Brazilian coffee farm that has been in the family since 1890. We drink pretty decent coffee (Starbucks or Whole Foods' house brand or O'Henry's), but this made our normal coffee seem like Maxwell House! Also, a dear friend gave me the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook. It is a blast to read the brothers' tales of their experiences spending their formative years in Charleston, trying to sell boiled peanuts in New York, and the many interesting characters they have met in the South. The recipes range from basic fried chicken to corncob wine.