Home (food) for the holidays

FSD’s editors share their holiday food traditions.

Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

This week I head home to Kansas City for the holidays. What is waiting for me—foodwise— might surprise you. This is because my family decided, about six or seven years ago, that we were done with “traditional” Christmas Day meals. Instead we gather together to enjoy a feast designed around a theme.

This year is a taco bar. Last year was an Italian feast. Two years ago it was breakfast for dinner. We’ve done baseball game themes, barbecue and comfort food. Usually appropriate dress is encouraged. For example, for the year we did breakfast for dinner, everyone was allowed to wear his/her pajamas. Every year at Thanksgiving, my sister and cousin sit down to decide the year’s theme.

In preparation for this year’s festivity, I made a trial run of slow-cooked carnitas. I was pretty happy with the results and hope my family appreciates the new dish in my very limited cooking repertoire. I love holiday traditions like this, mostly because it seems everyone has one and usually people have different ones. I thought it would be fun to hear from our staff about their holiday food traditions and then invite our readers to share theirs in the comment section below or on Facebook.

Paul King, editor: My sons insist on my making creamed onions at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Peeling the onions can be a lot of work, but no matter how many I make there are never leftovers. My mother's recipe for pumpkin pie, including fresh pumpkin, lives on at our holiday gatherings. I usually make my own flavored whipped cream to go with it. My wife, Karen, has brought with her the tradition of her mother's lemon loaf.

Becky Schilling, managing editor, FSD print: My mom's mom was a great cook. She had a cooking show (I want to say in the '60s) called Looking and Cooking. My grandparents lived in Oklahoma, so food was simple, nothing fancy. Her food was homey, in a good way. My grandma starting a tradition on Christmas Eve that my family still celebrates. Instead of making a traditional meal, with an entrée and sides, we have Christmas Eats, which amounts to a table full of dips, meats, cheeses, chips, crackers, fudge and four or five Christmas cookies. The name of the game is comfort food; health freaks need not show up. Of course, being in Texas for the holidays, my family will often sip on dad's famous frozen margaritas as well.

Peter Romeo, VP content: Present-day acquaintances will be shocked by the revelation, but I had a pie problem as a youngster. I lived, breathed and dreamed pies—apple, blueberry, cherry, peach and, right through the holidays, pumpkin and mincemeat. I didn’t know the special deal about Christmas was getting gads of presents. I thought all the hoopla was due to parents’ indulgence of kids’ pie yearnings. But I was living on borrowed time; pies proved to be a gateway treat to the harder stuff. One day it was an innocent slice of pumpkin. Then I moved up to some ice cream on the side, a short pony glass of eggnog to wash it down. Before long I was wolfing sugar cookies and biting the chimneys off gingerbread houses.

But I was one of the fortunates. My sister-in-law, refusing to flinch after seeing me dig into some pecan pie, suggested I try an airy alternative she’d just made on a special press-like device. “It’s called a pizzelle,” she said as she took away my pie fork and put one of the patterned Italian cookies into my hand. It saved my holidays from being one long pie chase. Indeed, it might have saved my life. I’ve lapsed back into my pie habit from time to time, but all it takes is a good batch of pizzelles to set me right again.

Bill Anderson, publisher: I married into a family that must have pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day for good luck in the new year! Guess it's an Ohio thing.

We here at FSD wish everyone a very happy and safe holidays and a great new year. Also, please note, there will be only one FSD Update next week, which will be delivered on Dec. 27th. Be sure to check it out though! It’s a look at the most popular online stories of 2012. 

menu development

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation

When it comes to sustainability, sometimes the smallest kitchen changes can make the biggest difference. When Chris Henning, senior assistant director of dining services for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, switched from standard latex gloves to nitrile gloves, he also set up a recycling program. Once recycled, the gloves are turned into playground equipment, bike racks and park benches.

Henning says the nitrile gloves have been a good fit for his department, both in terms of durability and cost. “Participating in the campus buying program reduces the cost, as [our]...

Ideas and Innovation
elderly old hands

A family’s request for at-home meal support for a patient at Lee Memorial in Fort Myers, Fla., led System Director of Food & Nutrition Services Larry Altier to uncover a gap in care. He saw that only 1% of patients had been coded (diagnosed and labeled for billing purposes) as malnourished, while more than 60% of all Lee Memorial patients are over 65 years or older, a population that experiences the issue at a higher rate.

His discovery helped more rigorously identify malnutrition, but it also strengthened Lee Memorial’s community connection. The hospital launched a delivery...

Ideas and Innovation
nutrition facts label

Despite operators’ attempts to communicate nutrition information to guests via cards and labels on the food line, many guests still feel they have no clue what’s in their food. University of Illinois food economist Brenna Ellison shares a few guesses as to why consumers ignore these signs following a recent study on their placement in dining halls.

Q: Who is most likely to read the cards?

A: Students who were already exhibiting more healthy behaviors. So those were the students who track their intake using an app or a food diary. After the first week, we found the rates of people...

Managing Your Business
studient orientation

When an alma mater and an employer are one in the same, it can be a win-win for both the employee and the school. Here’s how two students’ experiences with campus dining—one positive and the other negative—led them on a path to their current jobs.

A Feast to Remember

NC State University’s main campus in Raleigh, N.C. was built on farmland given to the state by Richard Stanhope Pullen; every spring, students gather to celebrate those agricultural roots through Farm Feast, an outdoor celebration with food and music. Design major Christin King remembers her first Farm Feast vividly: “...

FSD Resources