Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kitchen Gifts Remembered

I've been thinking lately about gifts from the kitchen. I'll write more about this and post recipes at a later date. Kitchen gifts come from the giver's heart and also from the heart of the home. When I was growing up, our family always gave away lots of cookies, fudge, and yeast breads at Christmas time. We were also the recipients of some kitchen gifts, and I'm going to share a few of those memories this morning.

Aunt Bessie always made large batches of Chex Mix and gave tins of it to everyone on her list.
I've done a bit of research to try and find the recipe Bessie would have used. It's somewhat different from the Chex Mix of today. I seem to recall that there were short, thin pretzel sticks in it, peanuts, and Cheerios. I definitely remember fighting with my siblings over the Cheerios. These seemed to absorb the butter and seasonings better than anything else, and were really tasty. Somewhere I can picture the recipe, written in Bessie's handwriting on Ralston Purina letterhead (her late husband had worked for Ralston, and they were also the company Chex cereal was originally made by, so this was quite meaningful) but I haven't been able to find that paper. Bessie would pack the mix in recycled cans which she covered with Con-Tact™ paper.

In later years, my grandmother also had a traditional homemade gift which she would give -- large jars of creamy hot chocolate mix. She would stir all the ingredients up in a gigantic bowl and then transfer the mix to jars for giving. It made a very rich-tasting cup of hot chocolate, so
we kids were always happy to see that jar! Recently, my mom reminded me that Gram also traditionally made a special kind of fudge. I think it was basically the "Five-Minute Fudge" and that she used to use both chocolate chips and butterscotch chips in it.

Neighbors also shared kitchen gifts with our family. There was a German family who always brought an assortment of delectable homemade cookies. Another neighbor traditionally made a pear quick bread. And another delivered her gift on New Year's Day -- a dessert called Pumpkin Snow (made from her own pumpkins) with an accompanying jar of custard sauce.

What fun it all was! Wouldn't it be nice to get back to those simpler times? Let's try it this Christmas. Maybe we'll start a trend...

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