I Smell a Memory – Christmas Day Then and Now



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My memories of Christmas long ago

are those of a feast of aromas. Always, there was the
crisp cold blast of fresh air when I left the warmth of our house to go visit Grandma across the street. It wasn’t exactly going to Alaska, but Mom made sure I was bundled up like a little Eskimo, which made it a bit shaky waddling through the snow piled up at the curbs when you crossed the streets, but I could still breathe the intoxicating air deep into my lungs. It never seemed quite so clean and fresh as it did right after the first snowfall.

Christmas also meant the scent of evergreen in the house. There were no ‘forever’ Christmas trees in those days, just the fragrant, fresh cut tree (we always got a short needle, easier to trim) that stood in our front window. We did use electric lights, though…I’m not quite old enough to remember candlelit trees…I think. It does get a bit harder to remember each year.

Naturally, as soon as we were up, doing the
gift scramble on Christmas morning, we’d be smelling peppermint candy sticks that had found their way between the packages. Mom always said that Santa’s Elves had left them, just because we’d been extra good that year. If you were sitting on the floor, fairly close to the coffee table, you would also get a good whiff of the fudge that sat on a tiered tray there. Homemade, too!

Not too long after we were involved in giftdom, Mom would escape out into the kitchen and the Maxwell House Coffee song would come bubbling in on a beckoning tune of fragrance. Soon it was followed by the aroma of toast and, all our gifts opened, we’d trot out to the kitchen to breakfast on fresh sliced ham, Dad’s Italian sausage, Mom’s bread toasted, with a jar of her orange marmalade to go with, and cheeses and olive salad left from the Christmas Eve extravaganza. You could bet that in just a few moments, the door would open and Uncle Al from across the street would be bouncing in to have
some breakfast and a Café Sport with Dad. Uncle Al always smoked a pipe, and at Christmas time you could count on him trying out some new exoticblend he’d received. I never was much for the scent of any tobaccos, but that pipe is still one of my memories of the Scents of Christmas, like it or not.

As soon as breakfast was over, Mom got another big turkey ready and popped it into the oven. Thanksgiving and Christmas, our big turkey days,
meant a house full of the scents of spices and mince, fruit pies and quince and of course the promise of the roasted bird to come!

Once all the preparations for dinner were done, I’d usually get dressed up in my new outfit – there was always something taffeta that rustled, a frilly slip, and new Mary Jane shoes to wear for the holidays, along with my usual stash of skirts, blouses and sweaters to wear until spring. All dressed up, my
dad would take me over to visit Grandpa Tony, Aunts Lucy and Angeline and Uncles John and Rocky, my dad’s family who lived next door to us. (Didn’t have to bundle up so much, this time, because Dad carried me through the yard and over
the snow!)

They would have a great tree in their living room, also. Aunt Lucy was a whiz with angel hair. The blue lights peeping out from behind the veil of white fluff, placed expertly all over the tree, looked etherally beautiful. Dad’s family was much more simplified in their Christmas celebrations. Grandma died before I was born, and most of the fixing and doing was in the hands of the kids, so it was simple. Not that they weren’t great cooks, though! Aunt Lucy made cavatelli to die for, and Grandpa had a greens and beans minestrone that made your mouth water just to smell it; not to mention his goat cheese, made from the milk of his own goats.

So, the scents from their Christmas house in my memory are the sharp smell of cheese curing in cheese cloth hung from a rack in the kitchen,
coffee simmering forever in a big steel pot on the back of their stove, sauce bubbling away to cover their cavatelli dinner, fresh rolls baking in the oven
and the piney, fragrance of a Christmas tree, weaving its way into the kitchen from the parlor.

The Four Tree Christmas
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Christmas 1980 was probably our last ‘real tree’ year. We ended up
with 3 big trees and a small live table tree you can see right behind the
“Frosty” Cake.

Things are just abit different on Christmas Days in the later 1990’s for my family. For years we did the big turkey dinner, after the Christmas Eve feast, but several years ago we thought we’d try something different.

We’ve been spending Christmas Day at daughter Lori’s ever since the grandchildren got big enough to open presents. It’s great fun taking all our exchanges to the one house and watching each other open gifts ‘one by one’. The kids take turns being “Santa” and selecting a gift from under the tree for everybody in turn, and we all ‘watch’ as the gift is opened before someone else’s gift is selected. That usually lasts from around 9 a.m. till noon — what can I say, we are all so good, Santa is extra generous with us! Lori always has a buffet breakfast for us to nibble at, as we see fit during the gift opening. Plenty of Eve leftovers, just as in the olden days, find their way up to the house and serve as lunch. Again, catch as catch can.

What’s really new, though, is that early in the a.m. I set enough dough to raise to make about six pizzas for our Christmas Day Supper. Lori gets a big pot of chicken soup started, so that we can put together a great wedding soup and of course, a monster salad is mandatory. There’s always plenty of cookies, nut roll and pies for dessert, and we may even have some punch left from the night before. A bit of wine or beer, some hot coffee or cold soda and ahhhhhhh.

This much simpler supper instead of a huge Christmas dinner, is easier on the cooks, better for the diners and leaves a lot of time to play cards or games, or just nap a bit after lunch. Of course, it suffices to say that these goodies lend a whole new adventure to our Scents of Christmas Day
memories. That’s the best part!









Wedding Soup

Large 6-Qt Soup Pot
2 lb+/- Chicken–4 Qt Water–3T Chicken Base–1 Medium UN-peeled Onion
3 Eggs–2 Carrots–1/4C Chopped Parsley–2 Stalks Celery with Leaves
¼ C Romano Cheese–¼ tsp Black Pepper–1 Head Escarole, Wash, Chop
1/2 lb ground beef
½ lb Fine Pastini, Cooked According to Recipe on Box
Bring Chicken, Water, Base, Celery, Whole Onion and Carrots just to a boil in pot. Lower heat immediately and simmer slowly 2 hours. Do not boil. Skim as


Make tiny meatballs with the ground beef by adding salt, pepper, grated Parmesean, breadcrumbs, 1 egg and 1 tsp dry beef boullion. Mix all together and roll meatballs about the size of a penny.

Remove the Chicken to cool so that it can be handled. Add the meatballs to the hot broth to simmer. When chicken is cool, remove the skin and bones and chop Chicken bite size. Return to pot. Add the Chopped Escarole and continue cooking very low until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, stir in the cooked Pastini, mixing well.Whisk together well
the Eggs, Romano Cheese, Black Pepper and Chopped Parsley. Bring Soup to the
simmer and stir Beaten Eggs into soup in a steady thin stream. Cook about five minutes more, or until egg sets up. Serve with extra Romano and Pepper
to taste.

Tossed Salad

Your preference of
lettuce and greens, vegetables or a variety of each. Anything goes with this
Italian dressing.

Italian Dressing

Blender or Large Bowl and Mixer
2 C Red Wine Vinegar — ½ C Cold Water — 2 T Balsamic Vinegar
½ C Olive Oil — 3 T Sugar — 1 T Garlic Granules
3 T Onion Flakes — 1 T Parsley Flakes — 1 T Oregano — 1 T Basil–3 T Salt — 2 T Brown Mustard — 1 T Black Pepper
Blend well in blender or mixer. Makes about 1 Quart. May be stored in refrigerator.
Serve at ROOM TEMPERATURE, Shaking well before

Pizza Platter Recipes

Pizza DoughLarge Bowl for Mixing and Raising
6 Large Cookie Sheets or Large Round Pizza
Corn Oil for coating pans
2 Packs Instant Fast-Rising Yeast — ½ C Very Warm Water — 1 T Sugar
Dissolve Yeast in Water. Add Sugar; stir until
dissolved. Set aside.
4 C Hot Water–1 C Milk Warmed–2 T Corn Oil–1 T
Sugar–1 T Salt
About 5 lb. All Purpose Flour

Dissolve Sugar in Warm Milk. When Yeast mixture bubbles, add to Milk. Add the oil to Hot Water in a
large bowl. Pour in Milk/Yeast mixture. Whisk in Flour, 2 C at a time. Add Salt with the first addition.
Whisk well after each addition.

When you can no longer use the whisk, switch to a heavy wooden spoon. Continue adding flour and mixing until a stiff dough forms.

Flour work counter/board very well and turn out dough onto board. Continue folding over and working in flour until it starts to spring back.
Add a bit more flour to the board and knead for about 5 minutes, until dough is very springy and does not stick to board.

Oil a large bowl that will allow the dough to raise double. Form a big ball with the dough and put it into oiled bowl. Punch down a bit and flip over, oiled side up. Cover with clean towel, set in a warm place and let raise until double.

Punch down, turn over and let raise until double
again.Dough is now ready to make pizzas, rolls or

Pizzas (Use about 450-475 degree oven to bake pizzas to insure crispness. Slip off pan last few minutes to further brown the bottom.)

Cut six balls of dough, big enough to spread to about ¼ inch thickness on an oiled pizza pan or cookie sheet. Place each ball onto a tray and proceed to spread dough, letting it rest a few minutes every so often, until all sheets are covered.

Left over tomato sauce for Pasta makes a great pizza sauce. Just add more oregano to your taste. Spread over pizza shell; add toppings of your choice.
(Always pre-cook loose sausage or ground beef before using in a pizza. Pepperoni should be placed beneath the cheese so that it doesn’t burn in the baking.)

A “White” Pizza can be made by beating eggs
together with Romano Cheese, parsley, garlic salt, and pepper, then spreading it over the pizza dough. Add slices of provolone or grated mozzarella before

A “Greens” Pizza can be made by frying spinach or escarole greens (that have been boiled or thawed and squeezed of all water) in olive oil, minced
garlic, crushed red peppers and salt. Spread over pizza shell. Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese. Roll up like a Jelly Roll.Let raise until double.
Brush with oil, sprinkle with Coarse Salt. Bake at 350 until golden brown.

Isn’t that just like a big family? Going off and making NEW
TRADITIONS? You’ve got to love it!


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