Did your family or ancestors serve traditional dishes for the holidays? Was there one dish that was unusual?
Year after year, Mom served the same foods for our family’s Christmas suppers. There was the obligatory roast turkey, with a simple bread, onion and celery stuffing, homemade gravy, mashed potatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts (sometimes broccoli), and tourtière.
Tourtière, or meat pie, is a traditional, French-Canadian dish served at Christmas. It’s a shallow, double-crust pie filled with ground pork, minced onion and cloves. There are different versions of tourtière: some cooks combine beef with ground pork, others add potatoes to the pork filling, while still others use game meat or even salmon; it all depends where your roots are in the province of Quebec. (My brother-in-law Gabriel is originally from the Lac St-Jean region and his mother adds cubed potatoes to her meat pie.)
Tourtière is not only served at supper on Christmas day, but also at the Réveillon (French for awakening), when family (close and extended) gathers after Midnight Mass for a few hours of feasting and partying. There’s lots of food with many of the same dishes we’ll have later at supper (except for the turkey), with some extras like ham, baked beans, macaroni and potato salads.
|Mom making her turkey gravy, Christmas 2006.|
Dessert followed the Réveillon and Christmas supper. Mom always did her Christmas baking in October and November (and stored it all in the deep freezer) so that she’d have time for other tasks during the days leading up to Christmas. Everything was made from scratch; nothing store bought for Mom. There might be a gâteau de Noël (fruitcake), but there would always be everyday favourites like chocolate chip cookies, as well as holiday specials like fudge, butter tarts, cake doughnuts (powdered with sugar and cinnamon), refrigerator (ice box) cookies, and shaped cookies (using a bell, star, tree and Santa cookie cutters and decorated with red or green frosting).
I love all these holiday dishes; they're wonderful and comforting. My family has changed homes and provinces over the years, but Mom’s Christmas cooking and baking has remained a constant in our lives.
Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.