My Christian roots are damn glad Hanukkah starts on Christmas Eve this year! Almost every year I get blindsided by an early Hanukkah, and my internal clock is, like, WTF? Are you kidding me? I have no gift ideas and no holiday spirit yet! Luckily, the Jewish folks in my world are pretty low key about that holiday. They get their groove on hardcore for the high holidays like Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur, but for Hanukkah we just get together as a family on one day during the eight and exchange gifts. Of course, over-achiever mother-of Jews that I am, I try to have a gift for the kids to open every night. Basically, that means I rush out to buy gifts last minute, and then rush to wrap one for each kid each night. I’m going on year 15 of that ridiculous behavior, but at least this year Thanksgiving and Hanukkah don’t collide because THAT was a huge surprise. Or maybe, I’ll change my procrastinating ways. I have a list going. It could happen.
But no matter when Hanukkah happens, I can’t quite shake the urge to give gifts to all the people I love at Christmas time. Even though it drives me up a wall. And costs a mint. Even though we don’t celebrate Christmas, and every year I think to myself, “Self, get your act together and give all of these people gifts at Thanksgiving. Because you are grateful for them.” Even if I did get my act together in time, which I won’t, I’d still catch the Christmas fever and drive myself nuts anyway. *groan*
I can’t help it! It doesn’t smell like Christmas without baking fruitcakes. I baked my first fruitcake a LONG time ago in an effort to give my father something he might actually like for Christmas. Now it’s tradition, and I bake four batches, roughly 28 mini loaves. Everyone who tastes one wants one, and once you get on the fruitcake list, you pretty much have to perish to get off of it. If you would like to make YOUR house smell like Christmas heaven and have a small pile of delightful fruitcakes to give as gifts, here’s the recipe for Grandpa Baker’s Amazing Fruitcake, a little Christmas gift from me to you.
And for my Jewish friends, a latke cooking tip. The other night, my husband made latkes for dinner, and he tried something new. He grated the potatoes and onion, and then he blanched them, cooking almost fully but not falling apart, before he drained them. (Next time he said he would omit the onion because he didn’t like it with the sour cream and apple sauce. I put ketchup on mine, lol, so all good.) He cooled them and squeezed them dry before proceeding with a latke recipe. At least, you would proceed with a latke recipe. He just made it up, but he has a lot of cooking experience and probably a latke shared genetic memory or something. THEY WERE SO AMAZING. Less starchy. Without that “is it done or not?” texture. Insanely good with all the usual accoutrements like sour cream and apple sauce. Also good with ketchup and Sriracha and a fried egg on top. Super good leftover the next day on a sandwich… So, latke makers, please try cooking your grated potatoes first and tell me how it turns out for you!
Lastly, a gift for all the faiths! Because this Christmas story written by a nice Jewish girl is a treat for anyone. I love my pal Jessica Topper’s books, and she’s offering a FREE short story to her newsletter subscribers. It’s totally worth signing up for her (very occasional) newsletter to get this heartwarming Love & Steel short story (KAT AND ADRIAN!) and to be alerted when her books come out. Because I have no words for how beautiful HER words are. You don’t want to miss out on this amazing author.
Enjoy the holi-craze, my friends! And if you don’t celebrate anything in this month, enjoy the contact high! 🙂