Posts tagged with: holiday food


I’ve been a little down lately. 

Not depressed or anything, just a touch…blue.  

I won’t bore you with the details; suffice it to say that I–like many of us this time of year–am taking a routine visit to the Pit of Despair.  

I suspect it has something to do with this being an “At Home Year” in terms of holiday travel.   Now don’t misunderstand.  I dearly adore the years we don’t take this circus on the road for the holidays.  But I have to admit it–I miss my family something terrible.  I was the only sister who missed Thanksgiving this year & I had kind of a hard time with it.

I’m not an amateur, though.  I’ve lived far from my family for years & I know a thing or two about clawing my way out of the Pit of Despair.  And since I have to assume that you lovely people also visit the holiday-themed PoD on occasion, I’m going to do you a solid.  I’m going to share with you my time-honored recipe for busting out.

First, you need a treat.  For me, this takes the form of a large bowl of ice cream.  Typically the ice cream is shoveled into my mouth on frozen cookies, which serve as a spoon & therefore don’t count as the treat itself.  Cookies & ice cream is my particular treat; you can scoop up whatever makes you happy.  But you must take care to indulge in this treat alone.  If other people are around they might A) judge you on the cookies-as-a-spoon thing, or B) talk to you.  Neither is acceptable in my mind.  Ice cream requires solitude.

Second, you need a juicy book.  I’m indulging in one of Victoria Dahl’s contemporaries right now–Start Me Up.  Love her.  She’s so fast-paced & funny & deliciously dirty. (Not makes-you-feel-dirty dirty.  Just makes-you-feel-naughty dirty.  That’s the good kind of dirty, in case you were wondering.) For maximum effect,I recommend reading the book while eating the ice cream.  Now that I have an e-reader, I can put the book on the stand & use both hands to eat.  This is wonderfully convenient.

Now usually this is enough but sometimes I’m really deep in there & need an additional boost.  If this is the case, I take Emergency Measures.  This is generally Diet Coke, a hot bath, lunch out, or some combination of the three.  Just something I usually deny myself.

Now I understand some women shop.  This doesn’t work for me, as I’m  not sized/shaped to feel validated by a trip to the mall.  (I can’t even do shoes; I have thick ankles.  It’s awful.)  However, if that’s your thing, go for it. 

I understand some women cook or bake.  I don’t do this either, sadly.  I used to but when I’m in the Pit of Despair, I need to feel indulged. Pampered.  Appreciated.  And nothing kills my self-esteem more than putting a delicious dinner on the table only to have my fussy little eaters sigh & ask if they can have a bowl of cereal.   

This photo is several years old, but that’s my youngest up there, approaching dinner in protective goggles.  As if my carefully and lovingly prepared meal were out to get her or something.  And, yeah, that’s a bowl of cereal in front of her.

Is it any wonder I end up in the Pit of Despair so routinely?

So what about you?  What do you do to shake the holiday blues?  Or do you wait until the holidays are over to visit the Pit of Despair?  What’s your recipe for busting out?  Believe me when I say, I would love to hear all about it. 




Holiday Food Favorites, 4th of July Style!

by Caren Crane

At work recently, they posted a survey on our Intranet site asking what peoples’ must-have food item was for Independence Day. Our headquarters are in Raleigh, North Carolina, where we don’t have genteel picnics like the lovely Regency/Victorian affair pictured here. There are never footmen waiting to fetch the hampers and no one ever clears up the mess left behind except the picnickers themselves. When we have a cookout, we do it Southern style. For that reason, the choices on our workplace survey had a distinctly Southern flare. In the South there is nothing we love better than a cookout (or any other affair involving food), so this survey attracted a lot of responses. I did not agree with all the choices presented, but managed to choose one. The choices were:

1. Southern-style BBQ – I could see where they got this one, but I’ve never considered BBQ a necessity at the 4th of July festivities. North Carolina, though, is the leading hog producer in the United States so I know that many here take their pork products very seriously. They have a tradition here called a “pig picking”. They roast a whole pig on a spit over a fire (or on a smoker if they have one for the purpose) and people literally pick the meat off the pig once it’s done. I find this a barbaric and unappealing pasttime despite the 28 years I’ve lived in North Carolina. This one did not get my vote.

2. Corn on the cob – This was more like it. I remember many a family reunion at my paternal grandfather’s farm (it was a hobby farm on his timber property) where corn was wrapped in foil and roasted on the grill, as God intended. It wasn’t just any old corn, either. It was sweet, white Silver Queen corn that had just been picked from the fields near the house. Best. Corn. Ever! I seriously considered voting for the corn because of my fond memories of the Crane family reunions, but I did not vote for this one.

3. Ice cream – At the above-mentioned family reunion, as well as at reunions on the Dugger side of the family, there was always homemade ice cream. I remember when the ice cream churn had to be loaded with ice cubes and salt and hand-cranked for hours until the ice cream was done. Of course, Poppa Crane had an automatic ice cream maker as soon as they came on the market, which was a nice break for the young men in the family, but I remember the hand-cranked churns and the fresh peach ice cream with a sweet pang of nostalgia. Despite all those peach and vanilla memories, though, I did not vote for ice cream.

4. Hamburgers and hot dogs – The American favorites, burgers and dogs. I have so many memories of grilling hamburgers and hot dogs I have trouble singling any out. I have enjoyed grilled meats as centerpieces of cookouts in Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Alabama. I have eaten tons of burgers and dogs and enjoyed each and every carcinogen-laden mouthful. There are few pleasures greater than a hot dog grilled within an inch of its life, popped open at the ends, blackened at the grill marks, slathered in mustard and relish. Mm, mm good! Still, my family gave up beef and pork a couple of years ago and I don’t miss beef burgers much. All the hot dogs I’ve had have been chicken or turkey, which are good but just aren’t the same. So, I did not vote for burgers and dogs.

5. Watermelon – Aaah, watermelon. Nothing evokes images of summer quite like watermelon. Hefting a two-inch-thick slice from half a watermelon is one of life’s simple, sticky pleasures. As a kid, we always ate watermelon outside. We sprinkled it lightly with salt (no idea why) and spit seeds gleefully into the yard. By the time we reached the slightly-sour part next to the rind, our bare arms and legs were covered in juice. Watermelon eating was followed by turning on the hosepipe (which is what we called the garden hose) and washing the juice off our sun-kissed bodies with clear, cold water. Yes, watermelon means summer to me and watermelon got my Independence Day vote.

Of course, others did not agree with me. Hamburgers and hotdogs won by a landslide, with watermelon coming in a distant second. Corn on the cob was third, BBQ fourth and ice cream dead last, finishing with only 3% of the vote. Much as we all love ice cream, its life is fleeting in the Southern July heat and it simply couldn’t hold its own. My own Independence Day must-have is blueberry/blackberry cobbler. It didn’t even make the survey!

What are your Independence Day favorites? If you don’t celebrate Independence Day, what would you have chosen from our five survey items? Do any evoke splendid summer memories? We would love to hear them!

And for all of you in the United States, HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!!

Food Fight Day Two: The Sweeter Side

By Cassondra Murray and Jeanne Adams

Call the neighbors. Call the relatives. Even the ones you don’t like and haven’t seen for ten years. Rally EVERYONE. We need numbers people!
NUMBERS to vote for CAKE!!!!!

Yes, that’s right. Day two of the food fight is Cake vs. Pie for Christmas. And I fear I shall be in the minority. Jeanne, my Evil Twin, will call for numbers in favor of PIE, no doubt.

Jeanne (hollering from the Lair Kitchen): YES!! YES!!! All for Pie, stand up and say AYE!!!

Cassondra: I think, for purposes of fairness, that we should exclude Pumpkin Pie. I love Pumpkin Pie, but it’s not like any other pie really. Add another half cup of flour, and you’ve got a Pumpkin Roll, which is…..drum roll please…CAKE!!! BuAhahahahahaha.

Jeanne: Yeah, yeah and that’s cheating.

Cassondra: Whatever…

Jeanne: Okay, ground – or pie plate – rules. For the purposes of the food fight, pumpkin pie is rendered an “Ultimate Food” rather than be sullied by the cake/pie fight. Snork. (This should be fun)

Cassondra: Okay, fine, I’m good with that.

I also like other fruit pies. Apple, cherry, peach (cobbler is my fav treatment for these fruity concoctions),even Rhubarb. But there the interest in pie hits a hard holiday wall.

The normal seasonal pie-type desserts for the holidays……I don’t like those.

Jeanne: Yes, fruit pies are divine, but they’re more summery, I agree. Now, a good strawberry rhubarb? Oh, that’s Summer! :> However, you make them the dread CAKE when you add cobbler, you know. Hot pie w/ extra crust is waaaay too akin to cake for my taste, missy.

Cassondra (ignoring her Evil Twin): Lessee…for the holidays there’s usually Chess Pie, Pecan Pie, Chocolate and Coconut and Derby Pie.

Nope. Don’t like any of ‘em.

Don’t much like dessert bar thingies either.

You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a layered dessert bar thingy at Christmas. As desserts go, these newfangled dessert-esque thingies remind me of lunch at a fast food place….it PRETENDS to be food, but really isn’t. Fills up your belly and all, but the rest of the experience is, well, lacking. Dessert bars are just that way. Sweet, but lacking the soft yummy goodness and satisfying slice-of-something-on-a-plate of an old-fashioned handmade scratch cake.

Jeanne: Just a note here, no cats were harmed in the making of this blog. And for the record, nobody better be swingin’ one in MY kitchen! Hahahah!

Cassondra: With Pumpkin Pie out of the equation, I fall solidly on the side of CAKE for the holidays. I love homemade cake of all kinds, and if it’s a fruitcake from the Collin Street Bakery in Texas, I can even manage to like THAT. Which is saying something, as I’m not a fruitcake fan.

Jeanne: Awww, c’mon now, no lemon meringue? No–

Cassondra (interrupting): Hey, hey hey! Lemon is a fruit. You said that makes it a summer pie. *flutters eyelashes*

Jeanne (raising one eyebrow): No Pecan? Oh my goodness me! What would Christmas be without Pecan pie, or better yet, CHOCOLATE pecan pie?

I once won a $25 bet that I wouldn’t eat a mess of collards, which at the time I despised. Since I still had pecan pie on my plate, I took the bet and ate them along with the pie. It was pretty gross, but hey, I won the bet all because of that sweeeeeet pecan pie!

Cassondra: Hey, 25 bucks is 25 bucks. Good job. *High fives Jeanne*

Jeanne: Oh, and fruit tarts and slurpy mince pies

Cassondra: Mince pies? GRRRRROOOOOSSSSSS!

Jeanne: Yes, they DO take some getting used to, I admit, and oh yes, indeed, chocolate meringue pie. Then there’s Ice cream pie. Yuuuummmmm!

Cassondra: I call foul on that one!

Jeanne (Ignoring the claim of foul): And those cookie bar thingies? Very pie-like – dense, yummy, multiple layers. Yep. (Excluding pumpkin bars on the Ultimate Food Exclusion) There’s 7-layer cookie bars, and blondies and lemon squares. Oh, yeah, pie-like, but still, second best to REAL pie!

Cassondra: Fine, fine. My favorite cake is homemade German Chocolate from my grandmother’s recipe, which took (hold onto your cholesterol levels) 18 eggs.

I love Red Velvet Cake too, and that’s a traditional Southern Christmas cake. Luscious moist deep red cake. Three awesome layers of it, with incredible rich cream cheese icing. Yummmmm….

Jeanne: Okay, okay, I’ll admit to loving those cakes, but really, for the holidays? Seriously? No way, man. It’s PIE!!! Say it with me people: PIE!!!! (And really, 18 eggs??? Yikes!)

Cassondra: The thing that tips the scales hard for CAKE, in my opinion, is CHEESECAKE YAY!

Cheesecake is the cake of all cakes. There’s raspberry swirl, turtle, and dark chocolate. There’s strawberry, chocolate swirl and tiramisu-style cheesecake. Cheesecake is the ultimate dessert.

WHY, with all of this gorgeous cake available, would a person fall on the side of PIE in the food wars? Why?

Jeanne: Oh, now, that’s just low. Cheesecake is cake in pie form. Doesn’t that make it a wanna-be pie, masquerade pie? I mean, it’s low, its dense, it’s pie-like. Seriously.

Cassondra: CheeseCAKE CheeseCAKE CheeseCAKE.

Jeanne: (Points at clock) Ahem…..

Cassondra: Oh, and I suppose I should give a nod to cookies. My husband, Steve, loves cookies. But I think cookies wanted to be cake, but fell short, and flat, and hard. Cookies dream of being cake.

Jeanne: Now there, we agree, but cookies might want to be pie too. They can have dreams of utmost perfection can’t they? Why would they settle for being CAKE when they could dream of being PIE!!!???

Cassondra: AAAAAHHHHH!

Okay Banditas and friends. You must settle the food fight once and for all.

Cake or Pie?

What’s your favorite kind?

No fence sitting allowed. Even if you like both, you gotta make a firm choice here. (So pick a side and let Day Two of the Food Fight begin!