The Gift of Food
The table is set: a fancy tablecloth, my best china set, candles, and flowers complementing the color of the tablecloth. Aromas from the kitchen are filling up every corner of the house. Luckily, the dish in the oven looks perfect. I turn the oven off, then I fix my hair with a few quick strokes of the brush, and try to reassure my impatient children that it is almost time: shortly the doorbell will ring and the guests will arrive… It is holiday season.
At this time of the year we are especially aware of the social aspect of our culinary activities. We gather together to celebrate, and while sharing the same physical space we also share food, rituals, our stories, our lives.
Cooking and eating has always been a social act. Growing food and cooking was traditionally a communal activity, an affair usually involving multiple generations. While cooking together or waiting at the communal oven for the bread to bake, women shared news from the community, but often also joys and pains of their private lives. They were taking home loaves of bread and with them maybe a few slices of hope that life can be good.
Although we no longer gather around a communal oven and discuss our lives while waiting for our bread to bake, cooking together remains a great opportunity to connect or reconnect with people around us. Sharing the work itself brings us together, but even more importantly, the kitchen often becomes a safe place to discuss troubles, disappointments and share our personal stories.
When it comes to food, late fall and early winter was always a season of abundance and time for celebration before the hard, hungry winter season. Traditional holiday dishes nourished the body, while rituals provided nourishment for the soul during the darkest part of the year.
The ways we celebrate may have changed, and we definitely no longer need to gain several pounds during the season of abundance in order to survive the harsh winter that is ahead. Of course, we still enjoy traditional holiday dishes, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t. Food is often the only connection to our religious, ethnic or old family traditions. Food becomes more than physical sustenance, it is a reconnection with the past, our roots, but also with family members and friends.
The most we can give, especially to our children, is to share with them our time, our memories, and our experience. Spending a quiet afternoon together preparing food or making small gifts is a great opportunity to do so. Last Sunday afternoon, we used oats, coconut, almonds, raisins, and canned sour cherries to make small no-bake treats.They can be enjoyed at teatime with a cup of tea or hot chocolate. Nicely packaged, they make an edible homemade gift. Together with the gift of food you will be giving a gift of love and care.
You will need:
1 cup quick oats
1 can sour cherries/pitted (you will need 15-20 canned sour cherries and about ½ cup of the liquid)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup raisins
½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut, plus extra to cover the surface of the treats
½ cup chopped almonds
½ cup mini chocolate chips
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Soak the oats in the sour cherry liquid for about 20 minutes. Add all the other ingredients to the softened oats, except for the sour cherries. Mix well. Take a small amount of the mixture (about the size of a walnut), flatten it and put a sour cherry in the middle. Form a small ball. Roll the ball in shredded coconut to cover. Proceed the same way with the rest of the mixture. You may need to wash your hands often as they will get sticky and you won’t be able to form the balls properly.
This recipe makes 15-20 walnut-sized treats.
The doorbell is ringing, the guests have arrived. The celebration can begin….
For this holiday season, I wish you all special moments that will stay with your children in the years to come and will be cherished as memories of magical times.
Eva Szigeti operates Pinebrook Garden Day Care, child-care centered around hands-on homesteading activities and free creative play. She also offers cooking and fiber craft classes for children and programs for homeschoolers. For the past three summers Eva has been teaching cooking at the Nature Place Day Camp.