On a Farm in Indiana

A Kinder, Gentler Holiday

By • December 14, 2011 • 22 Comments

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This is the fifteenth in a series of farm reports from our own Tom Hirschfeld, complete with recipes, cooking and gardening tips, and wisdom dispensed.

This week: Tom's Cratchit armor gives way to holiday cheer.

Cookies

A Kinder, Gentler Holiday

I have never been much for tradition. One might call me a “bah humbugger” of sorts.

In truth, if it weren’t for my wife, there would have been no tree. There would have been nary a string of lights. I am not so sure if there would have even been presents present. For most of my adult life, I just didn’t care.

Then we had kids.

 

You see, before we had kids, Amy and I managed to have Christmas Eve together, just the two of us -- a five or six course dinner affair, one that changed every year in accordance to our whims and was always served with a bottle or two of La Grande Dame who was, quite honestly, the only visitor we wanted.

But remember, we had kids.

I thought I should write out a list of traditions we wanted to have -- because, you see, I realized that I either had to get into the holidays or give an Oscar-winning performance. Kids demand it, and they should; it is the one time of year they get to play the trump card and make you, as an adult, remember how it felt to be a kid. (Albeit you do want a five ace deck for when you need to play the naughty or nice list hand, or the Christmas Royal Flush as I like to think of it.)

Santa Cookie

So now as each year passes since Vivian was born and Lynnie came into our life, I feel the spirit of Christmas growing stronger and stronger. On a cold morning, with the sun streaming in through the kitchen windows, you might even hear me humming a Christmas carol while I sip my coffee -- yes, there I said it, humming.   No words, though, because I haven’t come that far and I’m sure I wouldn’t know the lyrics.

Gingerbread

So in this moment of tidings and joy and in the spirit of all holidays I must thank the FOOD52 community, a community I have come to rely on.   It has become a place I come to for seriously good holiday recipes, and for what will become heirloom recipes once my kids come of age. Yes, if you hadn’t thought about it, the recipes here are going to become heirloom recipes.  

I mean, quite simply, that my Christmas cookie plate wouldn’t be the same without TasteFood’s Ginger Spiced Molasses Cookies, or KelseyTheNaptimeChef’s Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies, or mrslarkin’s Sugar Cookies #2, tucked in between other classic cookie recipes I have collected.

So I would love to hear everyone’s favorite FOOD52 cookie recipe and any other recipe that has become a holiday standard. What are your holiday traditions?

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My traditions:

1. We have cookie day when we make our Christmas cookies and decorate them.  The girls get to make trays of cookies for their teachers.

2. I cook different dishes throughout the year, rarely cooking the same thing twice, so on holidays I always cook the same dinners each year.   For Christmas it is a roast duck a la David Bouley in his book East of Paris.  It is wonderful and very Christmas-y.

3. I have planted thirty pine trees over the years knowing they will mature at different times so we can walk out and cut our tree from the farm for our house.  I plan on continuing to plant them for lots more years in hopes of having a Christmas tree cutting party each year.

4. Amy always takes the girls to the state museum where they have recreated a downtown Indianapolis tradition.  They have rebuilt the tea room from the LS Ayres department store and each year they recreate Santa Claus-land with trains and Santa.  The girls get all dressed up, have tea and get to see Santa.  Me, I get quiet time.

Quiet Time

Want more Tom? See his latest dispatch: Chocolate Persimmon Muffins & Finding the Perfect Fruit


Jump to Comments (22)

Comments (22)

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almost 3 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

Tom you inspired me to quit moaning, get off my weary backside and not only decorate our Christmas tree yesterday, but plan a cookie baking fest today. See, we moved home 4 months ago and I'm just about getting into a grrove - I was prepared to abandon all my festive cheer at home, as we're going away for the holidays but you filled my heart with love and promise....and my bones with strength. Thank you. It was the pictures of your kids and the words that got me. Lots of love, have a wonderful holiday and may we continue to inspire one another as a community in 2012.

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almost 3 years ago luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

When I was growing up, my mom did marathon Christmas. She double majored in math and chemistry in the 1940s, but when she got married succumbed to social pressures and became a demon housewife and cook. Every year we had beautiful cookies. One year we had a whole tree decorated with large gingerbread people. The gingerbread girls had yellow braids! She made fruitcake, the delicious kind, divinity, fondant, candied orange peel, candied kumquats... and on Christmas morning, either Danish pastry or croissants while we opened our Christmas gifts. We also had a tradition the seven days before Christmas. We children could pick our favorite meals so there was no scene while we sat in front of a cold plate of lima beans. On Christmas Eve, we had snack foods in front of the fire instead of dinner, another treat. And my parents always had a glogg party (don't know how to put the symbol on, it's Swedish mulled wine). Now I work, so I try to do a little of this and a little of that every year. We always have my brother in law and sister in law and their three kids for Christmas dinner and we have the snack food on Christmas Eve. We have champagne and the kids have sparkling apple juice in champagne glasses (sippy cups when they were smaller). We have dinner after Christmas Eve candlelight service. It's the day I can relax and remember The Reason for the Season (for me, the birth of the Christ Child), although I also celebrate the light with wild Dionysian excess during the dark days of winter!!

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almost 3 years ago vvvanessa

the christmas traditions i had when i was a kid seem to have fallen away, but i've started a new tradition for new year's day: a crêpe party. i made crêpes and all kinds of fillings sweet and savory and invite folks over for their first meal of the new year. i make ratatouille, lemon curd, dulce de leche, ricotta, bacon crumbles, caramelized onions and put out dishes of nutella, honey, peanut butter, and powdered sugar (to name just a few of the fillings). there are always informal competitions between people to see who can come up with the best filling combination. the other two must-makes for the day are miniature buttermilk cinnamon rolls and a black-eyed pea and kale salad (in place of hoppin' john).

i have so enjoyed reading this series, but i do have one complaint: not enough photos of those amazing kids! they make me beam every time i see them! : )

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almost 3 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

I so LOVEEEEEEEEEEE your idea of a crepe party. Wow. That's my idea of heaven, all the different fillings! Thank you for giving me an idea

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almost 3 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Thanks, thirschfeld, for including my #2 (as in sugar cookie) in your holiday cookie roundup. Back in the day (i.e. before kids and scones) when I had a near-empty freezer, I'd stock it with all kinds of holiday cookies weeks in advance. These days though, I look for simple, quick, easy and delicious recipes. Every year I make Soft Molasses Cookies from King Arthur Cookie Companion (p 86), and Mint Chocolate Cookies from Bon Appetit Dec 2000 http://www.epicurious.com... , and now this peanut butter one from food52 http://www.food52.com/recipes... p.s. your writing, recipes and photographs continue to inspire me. Thanks.

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almost 3 years ago erinmcdowell

When I was a kid, my mom would let both my brother and I invite 5 friends over and she would make a (relatively large) gingerbread house for each of us. We would all decorate our own, and then take them home. It was the hit of the school - everyone wanted to be invited. Nowadays, I share decorating duty with my nieces and nephew come Christmas, and turn to Food52 for gingerbread cookie recipes instead of a full house.

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almost 3 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

Thanks a'cooker - I promise myself and my kids to build a gingerbread house next year. I don't think we can wait till next Christmas though, we might have a crack at Easter. Thank a lot!

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almost 3 years ago dymnyno

This will be the first Christmas in years that Freddy and I will spend in California. Making cookies is a sweet(!) tradition, but my granddaughter lives in Baltimore. We will visit her and celebrate her Christmas present in January with a trip to Disney World. I think that I will be making your pheasant pie a tradition for Freddy and myself.

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Here's a great holiday cookie tradition, not my own, but one I witnessed yesterday, just by chance. While visiting a new client for the first time in their offices in the financial district of San Francisco, I noticed near the reception area a conference room whose table was covered with round holiday tins tied up with ribbons. By the wall were dozens of shipping boxes waiting to be filled. I asked an employee who passed by what was in the tins. He declared with real joy, "Cookies!" I asked him who made them, to which replied (also with joy), "We did!!" The 25 employees of this growing software (Saas) company had all gone over to a well-known soup kitchen the day before, for the purpose of rolling, cutting, baking and decorating sugar cookies, using dough made by the soup kitchen staff, and using their equipment and facilities, for which my client paid them, of course. I saw some of the cookies and they were wonderful! Instead of the usual Harry + David or other Corporate Gift Company, Inc. gifts, the company's clients will be getting homemade cookies, made with care and joy by people having a lot of fun (all the while supporting a great local charity). Love it!! ;o)

Bryn

almost 3 years ago BrynWrites4Food

Love the comment about L.S. Ayres tearoom ... I grew up in Indianapolis, and going to see Santa at Ayres tearoom downtown was always a highlight of the season. They've done a pretty good reproduction at the Indiana State Museum. How nice that your wife and daughters enjoy the tradition 30-some years after I did.

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almost 3 years ago Midge

What a lovely post. How cool that the museum recreated that tea room - reminds me of going to the walnut room at Marshall Fields in Chicago for lunch at Christmas-time when I was a kid. You never forget that kind of stuff.

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almost 3 years ago Fairmount_market

Lovely post. We always make Christmas stollen (Joy of Cooking recipe) and rugelach (gem of a recipe from MollieKatzen's Enchanted Broccoli Forest).

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almost 3 years ago Panfusine

Gorgeous Heartwarming post!.. Children truly teach you to enjoy life..Festivals get disassociated from their religious significances & one truly enjoys the spirit of joy & happiness that each & every religion preaches!

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almost 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

What gorgeous children you have. I also feel grateful to the Food52 community--I rely on you all as well.

We're Jewish, but always celebrated Christmas with a "Jingle Bells" party. Christmas morning my sister (now) makes brunch--traditionally corned beef hash and eggs. The party starts in the late afternoon. I've recycled/reinvented many of our recipes here-- Aunt Julie's meatballs, White Cookies, Pecan Dainties, Cheese Crispettes.

This year, my husband and I are not going to New Orleans for Christmas for the first time in a long time. So we'll follow the NY Jewish tradition of going to movies and eating Chinese food.

It happens that Chanukah falls during Christmas this year, and we'll be celebrating with latkes Monday night.

Happy holidays to you all!

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almost 3 years ago LLStone

Love the post and the pics! The girls are precious and so are the cookies. I absolutely love the mouths / lips on the cookies - they make me smile! As for our family, we make cookies but we no longer decorate them as the kids have other faves. We always have gumbo on Christmas Eve, though, and a big brunch on Christmas morning. This year we're having the Moroccan Merguez Ragout w/ poached eggs for brunch! Merry Christmas Tom, and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you Food52ers!

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almost 3 years ago TXExpatInBKK

Yes! My mom's Christmas Gumbo is one of our favorite traditions too and so of course I think hers is the best. And we always make eggless cookies and decorate them with icing. Merry Christmas all!

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almost 3 years ago TasteFood

I love this post, Tom. We have a similar evolution of family tradition shaped by the countries in which we've lived and the birth of our children. Time to get baking...

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almost 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

The cookies are beautiful and the children are adorable. What a wonderful tradition, I'm a sucker for holiday traditions. i make cookies every year and give as gifts to friends, the grand kids teachers etc.. this year its all food52. Double chocolate espresso, Mrs. Larkins chubby chewy chocolate chip, Tastefoods molasses spice cookies. I love the recipe for ribbon cookies and this year I am going to use that recipe to make shaped cookies to decorate with the kids. I am also going to attempt caramel for the first time, Plan on watching A Christmas Story and White Christmas decorate the house and bake lots of cookies. Happy Holidays to you Tom and your lovely family.

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almost 3 years ago EmilyC

Oh -- what a sweet, sweet post. Your daughters are adorable and that picture of all of those brightly decorated cookies could put the holiday spirit in anyone!

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almost 3 years ago mkefoodie

After requisite prime rib and brussel sprouts for luck on Christmas Eve, I make a baked Alaska. It is the only thing that is special enough to lead into the next tradition - reading "The Night Before Christmas."

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almost 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Love your tradition of cookie day, as it reminds me of my childhood. A favorite cookie recipe from food52 is sdebrango's ribbon cookies. They are delicious! http://www.food52.com/recipes...

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almost 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Thank you so much HLA! Although not cookies I dream about your caramels and candies!!