Sunday, December 27, 2009

Really? Out of a jar?

Occasionally some childhood illusions are destroyed and it's not the end of the world, it just leaves ya scratching your head muttering, "Really? Are you serious? Really? Don't kid me, now. Really?"

Christmas is a time of family traditions, or it used to be for our family but some of those have gone by the way side, again, not the end of the world, but just different. When we were kids we could always go to my Grandma F's house (Daddy-O's mom) on Christmas Day afternoon. As my childhood mind recalls, we would have snacks and open gifts and then eat dinner later. Okay, makes sense.

One thing I always remember that we had at Grandma F's house was hot wassail in a big white soup tureen. We even would sing the Wassail song. Then it was served in pedestal tea cups with red cardinals on them, with a cinnamon stick. There was also a plate of cheese and crackers. The crackers were ones we never had any other time of the year- like vegetable crackers or cracked wheat. This was back in the late 70s and early 80s when there weren't 9000 kinds of crackers in the cracker aisle at the store; we had Ritz and Saltines, maybe Triscuts if the store was large enough. So at Christmas 'special holiday crackers' were available and Grandma F always had them. Now we would just call 'em wheat thins. The cheese ball was fancy looking and rolled in nuts, placed on a fancy plate with a paper doily. It had a good taste but nothing like I ever had anywhere else or any other time of year. And she was a doily sorta lady.

Well, Grandma F passed away about 16 years ago and recently I've come to figure out that the magical Christmas snacks of her house were completely and utterly NON-fancy. As Daddy-O said, "she wasn't much of a cook but she was all about presentation." The table was always glorious, we always had special holiday napkins and table favors, the food was always good but very simple.

The special cheese ball? Well, apparently the old gal would buy a few jars Kraft Pimento Cheese (I never knew there was such a thing until I saw it for myself in the grocery store!), chill it, and then form it into a ball and roll it through some chopped nuts: viola! A "homemade" cheese ball! And the wassail? Simply heated up apple cider from a local orchard that she threw some Cinnamon sticks into.

And do I even want to explain that her hamloaf, which was amazingly delicious, came from the butcher but all she did was bake it and dump pineapple over it? I don't even want to know if she really made the corn casserole or if it was 'fake' as well.

It has just made me laugh every time of think of these things because all these years I thought she made some secret special recipes that could never be duplicated yet the items have been on my local grocery stores shelves for years. I've a a good giggle all Christmas season about it; man did she have the wool pulled over my eyes! A few years ago I looked up how to make Wassail and I couldn't believe she would go to all that work and no wonder it was so yummy! Geez!

So I think New Year's Eve, I might make some of Grandma F's very special cheese ball and Wassail. I don't think it'll be too difficult.



Curley said...

I think what makes it special is the fact that Grandma was "cooking" something special for you. And don't forget you were young and didn't know much about cooking yet. As for the cheeseball, I think I will have to try that for Computerman. As much as he loves cheese, he should really like that. My sister makes corn casserole all the time. It is really simple with cream corn and kernal corn and corn meal.

Maggie said...

Curley- the cheese ball is good stuff. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I just buy a jar of the Pimento Kraft Cheese spread and spear it on crackers and forgo the "ball" part. it's still yummy! Computerman will LOVE it since he's a cheese-a-holic like me!

I should get your recipe. Daddy-O told me GrandmaF used saltines and creamed corn- ugh! will it never end? ;)

Kelly G. said...

Love it! It reminds me of my favorite story that my mom used to tell about my brother.

I was either a baby or not born yet, and the whole family was at my Great Grandmother's house for Christmas (She hosted every year until she died). She had made her famous homemade mashed potatoes that were always a favorite. My brother devoured them and remarked, "These are delicious! They're almost as good as instant!!"