I was listening to the radio today while baking and there was some sort of debate about the political correctness of Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays. It struck me that what is universal is that whatever we celebrate as humans, it is a reason to gather and eat. Society has spread out. Most of us don’t live in very small towns with our extended family all around so the holidays give us a reason to gather. Whether you celebrate Hanukah or Christmas or Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice everyone makes a meal and it is usually a whole lot fancier than a quick something in front of the TV.
I was chatting with my neighbor, Tom, the other day and he was telling me how their family worked out the dilemma that most families face-how to please everyone. They drew straws for time slots and his family got Christmas Eve morning. He was initially mad. It seemed like the worst. WHAT- no dinner??? Tom is a great cook from a family of cooks so he improvised. He and Vicki make breakfast for all the kids, grandkids, adult kids, in laws, out laws- whoever is there. They do it short -order style with menus and everyone gets to choose what they want. They have fancy breakfast cocktails for the adults and fun beverages for the underage. It sounds like a blast and I secretly wanted an invite.
It inspired me to offer up some different options for the blog the next few weeks. Today I am featuring dessert, next week a fancy dinner idea and lastly, brunch and a breakfast cocktail.
I made a Yule Log Cake with Raspberry Filling-something I have wanted to do for years. This will work for those celebrating Christmas or just gathering for any winter holiday dinner.
I also made a Hanukah cake. I read an article in this weeks Relish, an insert in the Wednesday paper, from a food writer named Tamar Haspel. It told the story of Hanukah and the reason Latkes (potato pancakes fried in oil) are a tradition. It is all about the oil that never ran out. This writer posited that since the oil was the point, making an olive oil cake for dessert in place of the fried potato pancakes could serve as a kind of riff on tradition.
Not being Jewish, I’m not sure it would fly in serious traditional households but it sounded good to me, so I made an Olive Oil Cake Topped with Poached Plums. It is fragrant with oranges and the texture is lovely. I happened to have a menorah because my youngest daughter, Allison, went through a “world religions” phase when she was around 10. Our neighbors were Jewish and she insisted on celebrating Hanukah for years, right alongside Christmas.
That is my definition of politically correct.
Tags: Holiday traditions, Orange Olive Oil Cake, poached plums, Raspberry Filling, Yule Log Cake