Christmas and the holiday season is a very busy time of year for many of us personally and as business people. If I close my eyes and think about the holiday season, a slideshow of images starts to roll by my mind’s eye. Primarily, I see my smiling family, followed by plates and platters layered with goodies galore. Taking time to spend with family and friends, for me, creates the centerpieces of the holiday season. The traditions that weave them together are captured in treasured photographs, scribbled recipes and wonderful memories. Since my mother passed away over a year ago, every feeling and memory is intensified and I feel the responsibility to continue these traditions she was so much a part. I will be more careful this year in teaching my daughter, nieces and nephews about the details of our family traditions.
When I think about my childhood and our family customs, there are many: Cutting down the Christmas tree; decorating a tree for every bedroom and common room in the house; making cannoli shells with my grandmother, using her secret measuring methods that we try to duplicate today (sometimes not successfully), assembling a gingerbread house complete with lights and furniture. Lastly baking cookies, lots and lots of cookies!
One of our favorite traditions is celebrating the Feast of the Seven Fishes, which is part of an Italian-American Christmas Eve Celebration. We have already started planning the menu, with great anticipation. Christmas Eve is still weeks away and doesn’t change much from year to year. The evening begins with the 24 of us crowding into my father’s Revere kitchen as he fries up Zeppoles — a fried dough with a sardine cooked inside. Stuffed clams and calamari salad accompany the zeppoles until dinner is served. The dinner feast consists of plenty of homemade pasta with a variety of sauces including lobster, clam and basic tomato sauce, baked stuffed shrimp, and baccala salad. Over the years, I have grown to appreciate the time spent preparing the feast and sharing it with my loved ones.
Finally dessert arrives with an array of homemade holiday cookies. It warms my heart to see my daughter Alexa, a recent Union College graduate, who has just entered the financial planning business, sharing some of my passions as she spends much of her free time baking outside of her professional career. She does so by personally delivering cookies to loved ones and getting us into the giving spirit of the holiday season, another beloved family tradition. Everybody in the Steriti, Sacco and Periwinkles families urge our friends to slow down and enjoy their own special family traditions.
Here’s my grandmother’s recipe for “Melt-Away” cookies:
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen balls.
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons of confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
1 cup sifted flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
- Cream butter with sugar in medium-size bowl;gradually add flour, mixing in thoroughly; stir in nuts; chill.
- Form teaspoons of dough into marble-size balls by rolling lightly between palms of hands, place on ungreased cookie sheets.
- Bake in moderate oven 350° for 20 minutes, or until pale golden.
- Remove from cookie sheet with a spatula; while still hot, roll in additional confectioners’ (powdered) sugar; cool on wire cake rack.
Enjoy and Happy Holidays!