Holidays always meant lots of cooking in our families. I say families because my mom had two sisters nearby and we often did joint dinners but not always. Sometimes the out of state siblings came in as well. And Italians can be so noisy!
Christmas cookies were a must. Mom always made thumbprint cookies and sugar cookies and once again, I was begging her to teach me. I remember the first thing she let me do was put the thumbprint into the cookie where the jelly would be put. She made the thumbprint cookies with nuts. I would help with the Christmas cookies. One of my aunts made these Nut Crescent cookies and my other aunt or mom would make the ricotta cheese pie.
Of course, someone would make pizzelles. They always were done with the anise flavoring. They weren’t a favorite of mine until I moved to California and didn’t have them anymore. I bought a pizzelle pan and I found a recipe for Lemon Pizzelles and tried them. Mom and Aunt Louise loved them. Yeah!
After many years in California, I asked my aunt for her crescent cookie recipe. Having never seen her make them, I didn’t know how she did it. I guessed and I brought some back home one year for Christmas (along with my pizelles). My mom said I made them better than her sister and we could never tell her! Families!
Grandma would make gnocchi on some occasions. I would watch and Grandma would try to teach me how to roll the cavatilles (gnocchis) on the back of the fork to get that special design on it. I just couldn’t get it then but years later I did learn it. The thing about cavatilles, they tasted so good when you were eating them, then after a couple of hours your stomach felt like lead! You see when Grandma made gnocchis, it was just one of several courses. There was soup, the pasta course, then roasted meats, chicken, salad and potatoes followed by dessert!
Bread was also made. My favorite was at Easter time. It was braided and had hard boiled eggs woven into the top of the bread. Only once have I found a recipe that was like what they made. I’m still searching. It is a slightly sweet bread.
Years after my sister and I had grown up, we were talking to mom about Christmas and then mom mentioned she hated milk! We always put cookies and milk out for Santa. I asked if she just put the milk back into the frig once we went to bed. She said “No, I drank it”. I asked her why if she hated it. She said “Because you kids put it out for Santa so I had to drink it”. The cookies didn’t pose that problem for her!
Mom was a tough cookie. She didn’t like to show her feelings except from afar or when we were really little. She loved to curl our hair and put ribbons in them, too. As we grew older, she got more reticent in displaying affection. But she would do things that no one knew about. I wonder what else she may have done that we never knew about.