I am not known as a chef. To the best of my knowledge, none of my recipes will wind up in a prized cookbook. But I grew up in a household where both parents worked, and among my earliest kitchen obligations were ensuring that the rice did not boil over or the meat did not overcook. In short, essential duties. An ability to wash dishes, cook, and do my laundry made me an acceptable housemate in later years.
My wife is grateful. She works nights, loves to cook for her family, but acknowledges that sometimes it’s all just a bit too much. That’s where I come in. In any household, it’s worthwhile having a second cook.
In our home, that’s especially true during the holiday season when she rarely gets home on time, works double shifts, or is so bone tired that diner will be very late. So I am the holiday cook with an assist from my children.
The herald of the season is Thanksgiving. The stuffing for the bird is pretty much the same as that which my mother taught me to make. Starting at age three when I was too young to help, her running commentary helped prepare me for assisting in later years. The turnip comes from my wife’s grandmother, and I make it as she did. Otherwise, I keep things simple -steamed broccoli and baked sweet potatoes.
Now the sweet potatoes are as simple as possible: washed, cut open, and baked. But in their last few minutes, they are covered in my homemade maple syrup and lightly broiled before heading towards the table.
After dinner, the desserts come out: the Pumpkin pies my son made and the cookies or buns my daughter made, and then comes the unwrapping of the first fruitcake of the season. I’ve been making the rum-soaked fruitcakes for so long that it’s not entirely clear what year I started. Of course, you could develop a real schism by picking a year and arguing for it. But it’s close to fifty years.
Currently, I am avoiding any extra food. Christmas is coming, and I have to save myself for my grandmother’s Hungarian Poppyseed bread.