Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Days of wonder

Christmas has always been a time of wonder for me. The sound of Angels We Have Heard on High, the scent of peppermint, the taste of Orange Danish rolls, the prickly feel of spruce needles as we trim the tree, and the sight of that tree glowing in the darkness as we creep down the stairs on Christmas morning.

When we were trying to figure out what Christmas traditions we should continue as our kids brought first their spouses and then their children into the family, one daughter explained that it didn't matter where Christmas was or even when, what mattered was that sense of wonder on Christmas morning. Sometimes we celebrate over Thanksgiving weekend,  sometimes over President's Day, and sometimes, like this year, at the farm on December 25.

This year we have two four year olds and an almost two year old celebrating Christmas. The kids are learning about not touching the ornaments on the tree and not opening presents until after breakfast on Christmas morning. It is sometimes so hard to wait.

One day I heard  four year old Jasper say "I'm sad."

He was sad because of a story that his mom told him, a story that has now been in our family for five generations.

When my great grandmother was a little girl, she woke up in the middle of the night and crept downstairs to see if Santa Claus had come.
Her stocking was full.
She unpacked it and found a silver ring in the very toe of the stocking, the very ring she had been hoping for.
She put everything back and returned to bed.
The next morning when she opened her stocking, the ring was gone.

My great grandmother told the that morality tale to her daughter, who told the story to my mother who told the story to me. But my mother added her own experiences to the story. She told me about the Christmas eve when she heard the sound of reindeer hooves on the roof of their house. That was a really wondrous story because my mother became deaf when she was three years old.

One winter day, when my small daughters were wanting to search through closets and peek into the gifts under the tree, I told both the stories to them. I wanted them to know that it was better to wait for your presents, but also that the wonder of Christmas was real.

Part of the joy of the season is wondering what you will find in your stocking or under the tree on Christmas morning, part is the wonder on the faces of children as they tear into their so carefully wrapped gifts. Part of the wonder is teaching the children to make presents for the people they love, and part is eating the cookies we make together. But mostly, the days of wonder are wonderful because we spend them together.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Putting food by; putting memories by

Last night we had winter squash, lamb sausage, and wild rice for supper, made from food we had put up ourselves.

The squash and sausage was a recipe my mom used to make - just cooked sausage and onions  mixed with a baked buttercup squash. Definitely comfort food.

The wild rice dish was from Many Cultures, One Community:a book of stories and recipes thanks to Carol Zielinski. It calls for fresh wild mushrooms and wild rice. Several years ago in late October, I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The book inspired me to cook with as much local food as possible. My next trip to the grocery store after reading the book was sobering. The only local foods I could find were winter squash, eggs and dried shitaki mushrooms. I bought all three. We love the wild flavor of the shitaki mushrooms and I buy them preferentially now. Maybe one of these years we'll learn to grow our own.

We have learned to harvest wild rice. It is a slow process, that involves paddling a river for six or eight hours in late August or early September. Dave paddles and I sit in the bottom of the canoe and using a long stick, bend the rice stalks over the canoe and then hit the stalks to dislodge the rice grains. We enjoy the ducks and swans flying overhead, the insects crawling along the rice stalks and this last year, the enthusiasm and questions of our grandson, Jasper. It took twice as long to harvest the rice because we stopped every once in awhile for a snack, securely lodged amongst the rice stalks, but it was a delightful day.

In the cold of winter, when I bake a squash, fry our sausage, and cook up a dish of wild rice, we are grateful for the food we have put by, and for the memories of summer.