Rolling out pie crust for my mother, crumbling bread crumbs into the pan for stuffing: This is what I remember about the holidays. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family where household economics lent themselves to conservation, and the essence of thrift was homemade- everything. Countless hours were spent in the kitchen with my mother, dining room chair pulled up the the counter, awaiting a task suited to my… age. By twelve, I was making pizza on Saturday evening while my mom was away, working at the church nursery. By twenty- two, hosting dinner parties featuring smoked gouda and turkey crostini, homemade bread and desserts. Friends crowded into small kitchens during college years, each offering a dish to contribute for a holiday feast. It was an introduction to varied cuisines and a window into the families and homes of good friends: Homemade pies with a mid-western twist, squash with kale, or chocolate beet cake. Of course, the reason for the gathering was always to spend time with friends and family, but the richness was always the food. Taking time to prepare food in the presence of loved ones is a tradition worth continuing.
In this era of box stores and convenience food, we’re all about making dinners easier. This season, I challenge all the cooks and hosts to make it harder.With family coming from near and far, this season, let them see the stuffing being made. Encourage the kids to help smash a pie crust into the plate or teach them to safely baste the turkey. My brother always loved mashing the potatoes and, truly, no one could make them as smooth as Kyle did. Before that, Grandma asked my Dad or Uncle to mash the giant pot of spuds, only stopping them to add enough butter to make the potatoes glow. Cultivating tradition in the kitchen will not only pass on the skills essential for culinary exploration, but will create memories that can last as long as Grandma’s kitchen table.