The holidays are behind us, and for the most part, that's okay. It's a flurry of parties, gift giving, cooking, and entertaining. At the same time – it is celebrating and contemplating the depth and meaning of Christmas day in all its wonder. The latter I yearn to savor on a daily basis, the former becomes hectic and tiring if kept up at such a pace for too long.
It was wonderful to be home. Celebrating our first Christmas as a married couple was monumental - a significant mile marker in my life and the life of my family (my husband and I kept saying "Have a Married Christmas!") It is so exciting to see how our family has grown this year with the addition of both my husband and my brother's fiancée.
Despite these big changes, I am happy to say many things remained the same - unchanged from the fond memories of my childhood. One essential: the Pies. Pecan Pie is made for one person in my family alone - my father. Others are certainly welcome to partake and enjoy, but my mother makes it simply to make my father happy - and he truly looks forward to it! My parents are not overly sentimental or publicly affectionate, but it warms me through and through when I see my mother again and again over the years making something so special and appreciated for my father. Often he will be the only one at the table who gets his served on a non-china, microwave-safe plate so that he can have it "warmed, served with vanilla ice cream on top!" I love seeing him pampered that way and how much he enjoys it.
The other essential Christmas pie is Molasses Pie, or as we call it "Shoo Fly Pie." My mother's is absolute perfection, the heavenly blend of buttery crust and crumb topping with moist molasses filling. No one makes it as good as my mother does, and I think my mom made her best yet this Christmas. This is always served with breakfast on Christmas morning, generally paired with Creamy Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Toast, and Grapefruit-Orange-Pomegranate fruit salad. I'm ready to eat it all over again.
One thing that certainly has changed is my puppy, Samantha. It is hard to see her aging (she's now 15!) and losing some her energy and stamina. However, she is still absolutely adorable and has not lost her personality. She used to help us open Christmas gifts by jumping right in and ripping off the paper. She preferred to watch this year.
A cherised moment from the Christmas trip home was an fireside evening of Raclette. If you are unfamiliar with raclette, is a cow's milk cheese from Switzerland. "Raclette" comes from the French verb racler, which means "to scrape." As this definition implies, the cheese is served by an open fire and is scraped off as the outside layer melts. It is then traditionally served on fingerling potatoes, and paired with pickled onions, gherkins, and white wine. I experienced raclette for the first time when living in France, and had wanted to share it with my family for quite some time.
My brother went to a local butcher that specializes in rare cheese, only to find their common raclette cheese sold out. Apparently some others had the same idea we did. The clerk then recommended a rare, artisan variety that he promised "tastes better than it smells." In short, the cheese was wildly smelly - it made Camembert seem shy and timid in comparison. Yet, I have to say, the clerk was right - it tasted delicious.
The company was even better - the evening was shared with my husband, brother and his fiancée. It was a perfect evening spent snuggling with loved ones, enjoying good wine and superb conversation for hours by the open fire.