Passing on holiday food traditions

2008 family photo

Christmas 2008, at the nursing home

The holiday season always sparks conversations about traditions, often centered around food, among my friends. This Thanksgiving was no different. I find historic and regional eating habits fascinating.

After our conversation on Thursday, I found myself flipping through a cookbook my mom and grandma made for me a year or so after I moved up north. While there aren't stories accompanying the recipes, reading over many of the entries transported me back to our kitchen table. I've included a couple of recipes below.

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Long Boy Cheeseburger - These beauties were a Christmas Eve staple. They were sort of like an open-faced burger baked in the oven. Topped with ketchup, they were tasty and a quick fix before we began opening presents.

In a 2-qt bowl, mix the following ingredients: 1 lb ground beef, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 cup catsup or chili sauce, 1/4 chopped onion, 1/2 cup cornflakes, and 1/2 evaporated milk.

Cut three 6-inch Brown 'n Serve french rolls in half lengthwise. Put equal parts of the meat mixture on the cut side of each roll. Spread evenly.

Bake on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees about 20-25 minutes or until the beef is done. During the last 5 minutes of baking, top with a slice of American cheese. Serve.

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Cookie Logs - Charlie and I called these turds (because, let's face it, that's exactly what they looked like). Despite our disgusting nickname for them, they were my favorite Christmas treat. I'm pretty sure they made an appearance on every tray my grandma sent to my mom and grandpa's offices and to school.

1 lb powdered sugar, 1 cup chopped pecans, 1 cup chunky peanut butter, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 cup coconut, 1 cup crushed vanilla wafers, 1 cup melted margarine

Mix all together and roll into logs. Put in the refrigerator and chill. Then, melt chocolate bark with about 1 tbsp of shortening. Dips logs into the chocolate. Let set.

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I would love to start a collection of regional cookbooks. I've been kicking myself for passing up a cookbook of recipes from the Crooked Road, Virginia's scenic music trail. I spotted it a few weeks ago while in Rocky Mount on a work trip. If you're interested in regional food culture and oral histories, you should check out the new Foodways project in Texas.