Professor J. Miller
September 8, 2015
English 110 Section F
Every year my grandparents make the seven hour drive down to Haverhill, Massachusetts. This usually happens around the second week in December. They’re from a small town in Northern Maine called East Machias, which is basically an hour away from Canada. Living in New England, the weather could go one of two ways. We either have a warm, sunny day with green grass still on our lawns, or we have a nor’easter snow storm hit to the point no one could drive up or down our street (although, we lived on the steepest hill in our city, so most people who lived up there with us would have to leave their cars at the bottom of the hill and walk to their houses during the winter). Regardless of the weather, my Grampie’s countless injuries from work, my Grammie’s back pain, or my brother and I getting sick since we were allergic to spruce trees, our celebration of “early” Christmas always happened, no matter what.
I always got to help my mom and Grammie cook our dinner, waking up bright and early for the occasion. First, we marinate pork with apple cider and cinnamon. Depending on how many people we were expecting, we cooked the pork for thirty minutes per pound in a roaster oven. The smell of apples radiated throughout the house.
My grandparents would always bring fresh vegetables like squash for us and we’d boil it for twenty minutes. We’d then drain them then mash it up with butter. Potatoes and peas were on the menu as well, we boiled those both then mashed up the potatoes until there were no chunks left. To make yeast rolls we combined flour, warm water, yeast, and sugar. We then raised the dough just to punch it down to shape them into little balls. They were then covered with cups and raised for another hour until they were then put in the oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit for forty minutes.
For desserts we made chocolate pudding mix with milk, adding homemade whipped cream as a topping. To do this we used heavy whipping cream, one teaspoon of vanilla, and a half cup of powdered sugar mixed on medium until the cream was stiff. The whole thing would set for two hours. For another dessert, using crisco and water, my mom would make pie crust which she then rolled out. She then chopped fifteen cortland apples and added nutmeg, a half teaspoon of cinnamon, and a half cup of sugar for a filling. That was then covered by a second crust, which after adding butter and a couple of slits created an apple pie. My mom always adored mincemeat pie too. She made even more pie crust and for a filling added dear meat, apples, and raisins along with a secret family spice that I still don’t know about to this day. She poured that into the crust which was then folded over to make a turnover and each pie was cooked in an oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour.
I always had looked forward to this meal every year. It gave me a chance to spend time with my family, especially my grandparents who I only got to see every so often. My aunts, my dad’s parents, and some cousins would come as well. It rarely felt like we got true family time, but on this day each year it always did.
One year in fourth grade, 2007, was different. My mom had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and was due to go to surgery a few days later. The feel that year was a little sad. I took more of a cooking role that year to try to show her that I could take care of things since she wouldn’t be able to for a while. My whole family was worried and scared for her, probably more so than she was. Ever since then, you learn to be grateful with every day you get to enjoy with your loved ones together. It made me appreciate this meal more than ever.
There was only one year that we didn’t have early Christmas, and that was in 2013. My mom and dad were in the process of a divorce, and my grandparents wanted nothing to do with it. My family had never felt more broken. My mom and I hosted the event this past year in 2014. We had a tiny, real Christmas tree for the first time in a while. And when I say tiny, I mean probably only a few feet tall. It was more cramped in our new apartment, and it felt like half my family was missing. What I would give to go back to those old times, yet I still enjoy this meal to this day. I hope, that in some way, as time goes on my family will continue this. As amazing as the food is, the moments creating it with your family are invaluable to me, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.