Christmastime brings with it all sorts of feelings and all manner of events.
There are family get togethers, there are work Christmas parties, and there is seemingly everything else in between.
It really is a magical time of the year.
But aside from the gifts, the booze, and the many, many miles logged in all sorts of travel, there is but one constant that everyone can agree in - the foods at Christmas are all sorts of amazing.
It's perhaps the one universal thing that everyone around the world can agree on. The foods, the meals, the desserts, the dips, and all of the cuisine creations that are served around the world at this time of the year are nothing short of incredible. When you add in the fact that so many particular dishes may invoke some sort of memory or feeling, then in my mind, that only adds to their overall deliciousness.
Hey, I'm not talking out of my backside here. There are feelings that come from food, and there are memories that we may associate with a particular dish or two.
Take the many birds that we consume at this time of year, whether it's turkeys or chicken.
My family always cooked a big turkey for Christmas, but I can also remember a few Christmases where we substituted chicken for turkey, and it still always came out fantastic. I can remember sitting down with my brothers, my dad and my mom to enjoy a bountiful meal each year. The bird would be centered in the middle of the table, which would be covered with my mom's favorite Christmas table cloth. She'd have a glass of her favorite raspberry non-alcoholic champagne and the table would be covered with food; mashed potatoes over here, fresh homemade buns over there. Peas and carrots in one bowl, gravy in another. Man, my family always found a way to be spoiled when it came to holiday meals.
I have fond memories of cooking Christmas dinner, including in 2004 when my mom was away out in Calgary, helping my brother and my sister-in-law with the birth of my nephew, Curtis. With that, it was just Dad and I in the kitchen manning our duties, with shake n' bake chicken and potatoes on the menu. Dad peeled the spuds and got them in a pot while I prepped the chicken. He helped me do the 'shake n' bake' part with the meat and was hoping to God that we didn't screw anything up, because undercooked poultry was one of the things that terrified Jack Ruttle. Fortunately, there were no upset stomaches that evening and the chicken dinner turned out just fine.
Sometimes a meal during the holiday season isn't even enjoyed at home. I remember in 2018 when my family spent Christmas up at Candle Lake, and we arrived in the afternoon. We spent the remainder of the day decorating the cabin and before anyone knew it, it was approaching 6:00 with no immediate plans for supper. I told everyone that there was actually a smorg going on at one of the restaurants, so we all went over there to eat. Afterward, we drove around Candle Lake, checking out how people up there did their Christmas decorations. I got to say, they do it right up in the North!
Of course, Christmas dinner in that cabin was all kinds of magical, too. The turkey turned out great, the potatoes were fluffy forkfuls of heaven, and the pie just hit the spot afterwards. Enjoying all of it in a gorgeous cabin up at Candle Lake was just the best part of all of it. Deer frolicked outside, and we even had a temporary "pet" in the form of a fox who kept coming around every day to visit. Well, visit and get some free food in the form of a few dry ribs, some chicken, and some cheese puffs.
Do you and your family have any kind of culinary staples or traditions? I know that I do. What I did for my family on Christmas Eve, for example, is I would cook up a bunch of finger foods for everyone to enjoy. The idea was to keep it kind of light because everyone knew that "the main event meal" was to come to next day. So with that, Christmas Eve was a time to play cards, watch movies, and enjoy things like chicken wings, shrimp, meat balls, and potato chips.
That's one of the things I'm looking forward to this year. See, this will actually be the first time I've spent Christmas Eve and part of Christmas Day in Outlook, because although I was moved over here last year, my brother and I drove up to Saskatoon to spend the holidays up there. This year, we'll be at home on December 24, so I'm looking forward to some finger foods, some movies, some drinks, and of course, some memories that will undoubtedly produce a tear or two.
This year, I'm planning to cook up some shrimp, stir fry noodles, chicken wings, and meat balls, and if I'm being 100% honest, there is absolutely no set time table for any of it. If everything is prepped and cooked by 3:00 in the afternoon, that's cool with me! Just means that we can start watching some Christmas classics early, and we'll probably be digging on leftovers by 6:00 anyway! The following day, we're set to drive out to the family farm and enjoy Christmas with visiting family, and I'm really looking forward to it. There's just something about the idea of spending Christmas Day at the generational farm where my mom and her family grew up. There's something very "it all comes back around" to all of it, and the fact that it's happening at Christmas only makes it more magical.
The food we eat at Christmas brings up all sorts of feelings. For some it's joy, for others it's pain, and for some, it might be a mixed bag comprised of both emotions. But I think what's most important is that we at least feel something, because if you're tucking into your turkey supper or slicing into a piece of pie and you can't conjure up a memory or two from years gone by, well, I think that's one of the saddest things I've ever heard. Food has a memory, and we have memories with food.
Those memories can only help some of us this holiday season.
For this week, that's been the Ruttle Report.