My Mom will tell you that she is not a baker. She did not dream of opening her own bakery or spend hours curating dishes in our kitchen.
My Mom does make the best sugar cookies.
For almost every holiday my Mom made these cookies. Easter, Halloween, Valentines Day, St. Patrick's Day but the best ones were the Christmas cookies. She will tell you that the recipe does not change from season to season. Maybe it was "Christmas magic" or the cinnamon candies on Rudolph's nose but they were different.
I always remember she would make them toward the middle of December. You would see the baking sheets that only came out when she was making the cookies and this red rolling pin that the paint was coming off the handles with this cloth cover that she put on it, in my mind I can still see it.
Only after I got the recipe for the first time, I found out that the cookies were a two-day process. Make the dough the night before to chill and cut the cookies the next day.
My Mom had these bags of cookie cutters. According to her, there were various levels of difficulty of each cutter with the metal ones with wood handles being the "expert" level because they always got stuck.
She would spend hours in that kitchen and when that smell spread through our house in West Toledo, and you were occupied watching Frosty the Snowman, that is when you knew Santa was right around the corner. You would sneak a peek in the kitchen to see her mixing the food coloring to get Santa's suit the right shade of red, but not too much red because then you would taste the food coloring.
When completed these cookies looked like they were out of Better Homes and Gardens. mentioned the Rudolphs but there were trees with ornaments, snowman with carrot noses (i later learned these were just the leftovers from the Easter cookies) and that "expert" level cookie cutter that said Merry Christmas with the perfect amount of sugar sprinkles on it.
When completed they would go in this huge flat Tupperware container and when you opened it the smell still takes me back. That first bite was something that words cannot
My parents opened a restaurant when I was 12. It was a deli/bakery inside a local mall, and our menu featured French pastries. Before too long, we branched out into catering events, and that became a very, very popular for all sorts of occasions.
And when you’re 12 and your parents open a restaurant, you don’t think about where the menu came from. How it was created, what thoughts went into each item or the history of the dishes was never discussed. Or should I say: I didn’t ask.
A popular item was a crab dip bread. Basically crab, cream cheese mixed with some garlic, onion, and other ingredients. It was served in a fresh baked sourdough boule, with bread cubes for dipping. Don’t remember the day it showed up on the menu, how it got there or where it came from. I do remember cubing a lot of bread over the years. I also made crab dip for my speech class in high school. It was easy to do and demonstrate after making them for five years by that point.
When we launched the Dishtory project, it was one of the first recipes I asked my mom to add to the app. It was then I learned the recipe had been in my family for generations.
Turns out it was something my grandmother used to make for holidays and special occasions. She used little shrimps and they used potato chips It was modified for the family restaurant and became one our most popular items – and made every catering event special.
Like any family restaurant, seemingly every brother, sister, cousin, aunt and uncle spent some time working there. That includes my grandmother.
Kind of ironic that she would stand in the kitchen and make pounds and pounds and pounds of the stuff. In fact, if you look at the recipe on Dishtory, there’s a photo of the recipe card we had at the restaurant, and it is caked with dip. Looking back, I wonder what memories went through her head as she was elbow-deep in crab dip. I’d like to think they were happy and made her smile.
While I’ll never know, I do like having the story of our crab dip recipe preserved in the voice of my mom. That brings back memories that make me smile. And that’s my Dishtory.
"A recipe is a story that ends with a great meal."