Each year after the stockings were emptied and the presents all opened, my weary parents would clean up the mounds and mounds of wrapping paper gathered in the living room. My mom would inevitably make the Christmas Tree Coffee Cake for breakfast (a recipe that will have to wait for posting....sorry, Mom.) We would then all retreat to our respective rooms to get dressed in our Christmas outfits. You see, in the later years of my childhood, Christmas Day would always be spent with the Italian side of the family. After we were dressed, my father would pile all of us, including the trunk full of gifts and cookie platters, into the car for the 15 minute journey to my grandparents house.
Once at their house, we would always find my grandmother in the kitchen with the meatballs and sauce. My father would walk in and greet his mother and immediately snatch a meatball when her back was turned. Her meatballs were the best. You never knew the exact amount of any of the ingredients but the taste was the same time and time again. For us kids, the first stop was the living room to view the pile of presents. The living room was like that of most Italian families in the 70's, complete with white furniture covered in plastic and the green metal Christmas tree that played music and slowly turned in a circle.
My grandmother would spend hours in the kitchen each year preparing meatballs, sauce, mostaccioli or lasagna, breaded chicken, green beans with bread crumbs, red, white and green Jello mold and ALWAYS the "Honey Roast." This was a beef roast injected with a special honey marinade from what used to be Phil and Dave's Gourmet Meats. From research done on the Internet, the shop is now called Honey Baked Ham Company. Her roast always came out perfectly. A juicy medium rare. She would happily give you her "secret" for the preparation of the roast, however, she always accidentally left out a step in the process. To this day, our family is in debate over her true method of cooking.
For the longest time my sister and I were the only grandchildren and we were allowed to sit at the dining room table. In all, about 12 people were around that large table. At one end of the table sat my great-grandfather who spoke very little and at the other end, my grandfather, who was a character himself (Teeth should stay in the mouth at the table.) The meal went on for hours. In fact, other than opening presents, we really never left the table. Once the presents were opened, back around that table everyone went for desserts, cookies and fruits.
Christmas Day was completely centered around a dining room table full of the most wonderful tasting dishes prepared lovingly by one woman. This remarkable woman could always be found in her kitchen humming as she prepared the feasts that kept her family going. In an earlier post, I talked about traditions. This was another of those traditions that has left a memory for all of us. My grandmother suffered for many years from Alzheimer's Disease and finally passed this past year. As I type this post, the tears are gently rolling down my face, I think back each year to those happy times and urge everyone, again, to keep old traditions alive! For me, food always seems to be the key!