One of my fondest Christmas memories growing up was spending time in the kitchen with my mother making Christmas recipe memories.
Okay, not counting the opening presents experience.
A few weeks before Christmas, she would pull out the holiday recipe cards from the box stored on the top shelf of the cabinet. She removed the traditional recipes, and returned the “maybe next year” stack to the shelf.
As a child, I remember watching with anticipation to see which delicious treat would win the prize as the first recipe of the season. Mother made her selection based on the amount of time available to spend in the kitchen. She also took into consideration if she needed or wanted assistance from one or all three of her young children.
I volunteered to help the most. As the only girl and youngest child, I usually ended up being the kitchen assistant. I looked forward to seeing the ingredients placed on the counter as an indication of the treat for the day.
The popular recipes were written on small index cards, complete with smudges and spills. Her recipe collection had built up over several decades through exchanges with family and friends, church cookbooks, magazines, and her creations.
She made sweet and savory holiday treats. However, sweet desserts won the popularity contest with family and friends.
When she would pull out my favorite recipe, I remember thinking, “Yeah, she is making chocolate patties.”
Knowing how much I enjoyed the confection, she allowed me to help. Before getting started, she put an oversized, “down to the knees” smock on me to keep my regular clothes from getting too messy.
Or at least attempt to keep me from wearing too many ingredients.
Then I was ready for action. Butter, sugar, vanilla, mint extract, and a little milk were placed in the mixing bowl. Part of the sugar usually missed the bowl and landed on the counter, because of my unsteady, excited hands.
After the mixture reached the correct consistency, forming quarter-size patties came next. I didn’t mind this tedious part, because I knew chocolate was not far behind. Plus, it provided an opportunity to taste the sugary batter.
The patties were placed on wax paper waiting for chocolate to be poured over them. There was an art to the process, and I was in awe of how quickly mother could place the patty on a fork, spoon chocolate glaze over it until completely covered, slide the patty back onto the wax paper, and pick up the next one.
When she allowed me to help, her almost perfect rhythm as a candy maker came to a halt. Placing a patty on the fork wasn’t too hard, but how did she distribute the chocolate so evenly?
No matter how gently I tried, numerous patties would drop into the bowl of chocolate. Mother would teach me how to retrieve the drowned treat without creating too much of a mess.
She was not always successful. If the patty did not meet her standards, I was right there to claim it.
“This one doesn’t look good. I’ll eat it.” Before she could say no, the treat was in my mouth.
After the candies received their chocolate bath and allowed time to dry, mother placed the sweets in a sealed container.
If time allowed, we worked on another confectionery recipe. After all, if in the sugar mode, might as well stay there. The cheese and sausage biscuits had to wait for another day.
As I grew older, I started to understand the deeper meaning of spending time with mother in the kitchen. She enjoyed making specialty candies. But there was so much more to her actions.
And the candies she dropped into the chocolate were not always a mistake.
Making the edible treats created the opportunity.
However, the true recipe was about love.
Nancy Frantel: I am an author of three nonfiction history books, published by Heritage Books, Inc. I have spoken at the Anacostia Smithsonian Museum and several conferences across the country as a result of the research conducted for the books. Prior to becoming a writer, I worked in management in the corporate world, including Walt Disney World. While working on the fourth book, I was hit by a distracted driver and received a traumatic brain injury. Seven years have passed, and I am back to writing again. Due to the “life interruption” I am working on my new website, which is in the design process.