Food Traditions: Then and Now

Turkey dinner with all the trimmings is a tradition I grew up on. Mom would be in the kitchen by 3:00 a.m., stuffing the turkey and getting it into the oven for the noon meal. We kids would wake on Christmas morning to The Singalong Jubilee's It's Christmas Day blaring from the record player and the distinct pungent aroma of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. And it was wonderful! We carried on this tradition—and a few from hubby's family—as young adults, starting our own family.

However, when we clued in that our firstborn, by the age of 3, was vegetarian, we began to rethink the whole traditional dinner thing. Why turkey?—when there were so many other great foods that would take just as much effort to prepare, ensuring that you would only to want to bother with it for a very special occasion (just in case that was the point).

So, we switched out the Christmas Day turkey dinner for wareneki—a favourite Mennonite meal of cottage cheese-filled perogies served with cream gravy and (since our budding vegetarian found the aroma, if not the texture, unoffensive) Mennonite-style farmer sausage.

Then a few years later, when our kids were old enough to appreciate both the process and the gravity of sitting around a pot of hot oil to cook your own food, we included a Christmas Eve fondue in our new repertoire. Add to this at least one turkey dinner with extended family, a rich dessert with every meal, and all the chocolate, peanuts, and candies consumed over the course of a few days, and I honestly felt a loathing of food, while at the same time being pulled back into the mania by all the leftovers calling my name from the overstuffed refrigerator! It was not pretty.

But over the past few years, our holiday traditions around food have taken yet another turn. For one thing, our son married a sweet gal who can flat-out cook. I mean, the first time she ever made wareneki on her own, they were the best I'd ever eaten! And she enjoyed it, into the bargain. So why in the world would I put myself through that any longer? Exactly!!

We dropped the fondue, as well, once my aging mom was no longer able to join in, and replaced it with a simple meal—like pizza; at her request—that we could take along to enjoy with her in her tiny apartment. Now Mom is in a full-care home, and while our Christmas Eve tradition still includes spending the evening with her, it no longer includes a meal.

Simple food, though.

It's key to avoiding both bulging bellies and refrigerators around here. And it practically ensures that I will wake on December 27 feeling hungry for lunch (after a good sleep in, of course :) So, I figured I'd share a couple of recipes from this year's Christmas menu; one old and one new.

Our daughter-in-law made this Plumi Moos (fruit soup) for Christmas Eve. It's a Mennonite dish that goes way back in both our families, and I've included this simple recipe, below.


2 quarts water

3 cups mixed dried fruit (we use apples, apricots, raisins, and prune plums)

½ cup sugar

2 ½ Tbsp. cornstarch

½ a small box cherry Jello powder

Cut fruit into 1” pieces. Cook in the water till well done. Mix cornstarch and sugar with just enough water to make a thin paste. Add gradually to fruit mixture while cooking, stirring constantly; this will thicken up the liquid. Continue cooking for a few more minutes to take away the starchy taste. Remove from heat and stir in the cherry jello. Refrigerate and serve cold.

She adds a tin of fruit cocktail to her recipe—yummy!

In hubby's family, the plumi moos was an Easter tradition, served alongside baked ham and potato salad, while my family made it more sporadically and I would usually choose to eat it as dessert.

For our Christmas Day dinner this year, I tried this Slow Cooker Vegetable Bean Soup*. It appealed to me for several reasons: a) it's easy b) it's healthy c) my sister is gluten-free and my daughter, vegetarian and d) it's easy.

We served it up with a Mennonite-style farmer sausage and home-baked whole wheat dinner buns—Mmmm! Good! This soup, while not likely to become a holiday tradition for us, has most definitely made our favourites!

*I switched out the sage for oregano and cumin, just for preference sake.