Holidays are ripe with traditions, both of the larger-arching variety and the more intimate, familial sort. Often food-related traditions are so regional or based so much on heritage that it’s easy to forget that not everybody has the same ones. Some of my family friends throw a cookie exchange every year, something I was excited to bring to my friends here at my home away from home after learning that a lot of them had never even heard of the concept, let alone been to one. Another thing I was surprised to learn is that a relish tray isn’t just commonplace at major meals. My family always, and I mean always, has a plate of olives, pickles, and whatever other pickled vegetables we happen to have on hand. (Naturally, I killed two birds with one stone by merging these two traditions and serving a relish tray at my cookie exchange. I’m efficient like that.) My favorite food tradition is delicious, juicy Christmas ham. Heaven help me if I go home one year to find a turkey on the table instead.
I find the most fascinating thing to learn about other peoples’ food traditions is what the special dish is. There’s always at least one special dish that’s either a recipe passed down from generation to generation, or someone’s childhood favorite, or the one dish that someone likes so much that it HAS to be made every year. In my family, it is called “Pink Stuff.” It’s true, beloved as it is, no one could seem to bother to give it a real name. Full disclosure, I actually happen not to like Pink Stuff, but that is beside the point… This dish hits both the childhood favorite and must-make notes with certain family members, and they will literally fight over the last bowl. That’s love, man. Not for each other – clearly! – love for a dish so special that even though it could easily be made any other time of year, it is greatly anticipated in the holiday season and worth going head-to-head over.
Traditions seem to be abandoned more frequently than created, and it’s an intriguing thing that most of the time they are not started on purpose. In any case, I love that turning something into a tradition is entirely at one’s discretion, and perhaps this year I will find one to start, just because I can.
Just in case you would like to find out if your family takes to Pink Stuff, here’s the recipe:
1 package of fresh cranberries, frozen
2 pints heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 bag mini marshmallows
1. Chop cranberries in a food processor while still frozen.
2. Add sugar to chopped cranberries, set aside.
3. Whip the heavy whipping cream with a hand mixer until peaks hold.
4. Fold cranberry mixture into whipped cream.
5. Mix in mini marshmallows.
Keep refrigerated until serving.