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Food of the season


December 24, 2012
Billie Shelton ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

Christmas has many facets. There's the music and the decorations, the Christmas trees and the gifts, shopping and planning, parties and religious celebrations, families and friends.

And, oh, the food. Who can forget the food that comes with all of this? I wonder when the gluttony that we associate with Christmas got its start? And why Christmas cookies, not to mention all the other rich baked treats that we make and share and enjoy at this time of year?

According to the source I checked, cakes of all shapes and sizes (including smaller items like cookies) have been part of festive holiday celebrations since long before Christmas. Christmas cookies, as we know them today, trace their roots to such Medieval European recipes. Settlers from Holland and Germany introduced cookie cutters, decorative molds, and festive decorations to America. German gingerbread was probably the first cake/cookie associated with Christmas. Sugar cookie type cookies descended from English traditions.

I know several families who honor their heritage today during the holidays with delicious traditional baked goods and dishes made from recipes that were brought by their family when they settled in America. Traditions remain strong that it just would not be Christmas without krumkaka or fruit soup, or maybe it's lefse. Somehow, though,I don't hear of a lot of people worrying that lutefisk might be forgotten.

Even if it's not a family ethnic dish, I still see many special holiday baked goods that are part of the Christmas for most of us. And, as it has probably been for generations, I still often hear women wondering just when they will have time to get their baking done. For some, I think that home-baked cookies are part of what Christmas has always been about, and they really want to continue that tradition. For others, baking might be more of a chore.

I guess I'm somewhere in the middle on that. I gave up on the fussy, fancy cookies early on-probably about the time I realized they were going for the chocolate chip cookies in the cookie jar rather than the festive decorated cookies we made together. Now I do make several kinds of special cookies we all like, but I enjoy the variety that comes on the plates of cookies that are passed at gatherings I attend during the holiday season.

Which gets me back to wondering why we have permission to overeat in oh, so many ways around Christmas. I'm sure it's part of socializing, which often centers around food at any time of the year. Besides, it's something we've always done, whether it's baked goods or a big meal--like the biscuits and gravy that's the Christmas morning breakfast at my house--or wonderful appetizers

It looks like there's no escaping it. So let the gluttony continue!



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