Don’t call us the Scrooges of the kitchen, but over the last couple of years, our family embraced the fact that there are some traditional holiday foods that simply are not our favorite things to eat. Gingerbread? No thanks. Give Lisa chocolate any day. Eggnog? Pour John a sangria instead. And don’t get us started on fruitcake.
During our childhoods and for years after, guilt motivated many of our holiday food choices. We felt compelled to please and fit the traditional, cookie-cutter holiday food mold, loading our plates with ethnic specialties we couldn’t pronounce or dishes we simply didn’t care for and smiled as well-intended relatives asked for confirmation.
As we came of age into adulthood, motivated by the fact that our waistlines clearly indicated we had a finite daily calorie-count allotment, holiday priorities changed. The more we wrote about and advocated within the food scene, the more we rekindled the celebratory side of food. Eat to enjoy, share and make merry—not because Grandma spent all day making Baltic blood sausage.
Don’t get us wrong. We love the Christmas season with all the sugarcoated trimmings. We realize the importance of placing holiday food traditions on the celebratory pedestal—but now we base them on our family’s own terms. Take a twist on tradition this season and form your own fresh holiday-food memories. Here are four tips to get you cooking:
1. Start Fresh
Take full stock of all the foods you eat during the holidays and rank them based on the simple question: How much do you love this? If it doesn’t earn high, over-the-top marks, just skip it and move on.
2. Think Creatively …Outside the Cookie Box
One of our first questions we talk about as a family as we prepare for the holidays is what are we going to eat special for the month of December. But we take it a step further and really think about what it is we crave. What have we not eaten in a while that we’d love to savor again? Egg rolls, chicken satay and spring rolls—recipes from our Farmstead Chef cookbook that we haven’t made in a while—were high on our family’s list this year. Apparently we’re going through an Asian food craving, but that’s just the point of the holidays: indulging in and celebrating those things we don’t do—or eat—every day. The holiday season gives us reason to prioritize and make fun, different foods we just haven’t made in a long while.
3. Get Real (Ingredients)
Akin to the roots of the Winter Solstice, a dark time of year when a burst of indulgence went a long way in getting through the long, cold season, this is the time of year to pamper your palette. Just remember when indulging, be authentic. We pour the local, real cream in our cocktails, indulge in local Wisconsin handcrafted cheese and mix fair-trade chocolate into our hot cocoa. Whatever your food passion, savor authentic ingredients and enjoy.
4. Take Your Time
Running a bed-and-breakfast on our Wisconsin farm, Inn Serendipity, we relish the slower winter season to refresh our cooking engines. After a busy summer season of pumping out muffins every morning, it’s nice to have the time to linger in the kitchen and try something new, not worrying about if it will work out to serve B&B guests. What’s our holiday experiment this season? Nailing how to make a crusty, authentic sourdough bread. It’s been on our “backburner cooking bucket list” for a while, but we just haven’t had time to experiment and learn the process.
Enjoy what’s on your plate this holiday season.