By Jenny Timberlake Bellamy
At Christmastime, my mind swirls with a lifelong collection of sights, scents, sounds, and flavors that are unique unto this season. I remember childhood Christmases when our table was crowded with many family members now long gone. I vividly recall the first time I was old enough to hold my own flame in the sanctuary at midnight service on Christmas Eve, the way my father tipped his candle to mine, sharing his light with me, the most tender smile spread across his face. Now that I have children of my own, my dear parents elderly, under my roof and in my care, my three sisters’ children grown and launching lives, I find myself smack in the middle of the generations, holding guard over the time spent, the time remaining, keeping old memories alive, eager to make more, all the while keenly aware that this Christmas, like everything else in 2020, will be different. Finding ways to still share special traditions and make memories is more important this year than maybe ever before. To be together, even apart. Looking to the past for ways to mark the present is an easy way to do just that.
When my sisters and I found ourselves grown, we rang Marmie, our mother, incessantly for her recipes. And so, began The Daughters’ Dish Directions Diary. It started one Christmas with binders for each of us filled with eighty pages of family recipes. My mother gifted us with stories, memories, bits of wisdom, pro tips, and inside jokes sprinkled between the ingredients and directions for our most favorite foods, from our grandfather’s icebox cookies to my botched sweet potato Mackey. The following Christmas, Marmie added to it, and now every year for more than twenty Christmases, my sisters and I find our pages stacked neatly, bound with ribbon and a sprig of rosemary from our mother’s garden, and we add them to our now bulging binders. This year, we might not be together traditionally, but we will no less all pull from these same pages, and know that we are together in spirit, sharing the meal we would have enjoyed together across the miles, knowing all the good, bad, and hilarious of what they’ve meant to us all.
Typically, my sisters and I have a bake off each holiday, and force our father to choose between us. The winner takes bragging rights and makes it into next year’s pages. Even though there will be no taste tests this year, we compete no less. The next best thing is picture perfect presentations, may the best sister win. These are the ways that we can be together and use our memories to create something still special in these uncertain times. This is how we share our light. I encourage you to go back to gifts of the heart, dig into your family traditions, find a way to adapt them to whatever circumstance you find yourself in, and share them however possible, however safely. I wish you all the thrill of hope that can be found this season.
Marmie’s Christmas Goose
One good goose – eight to ten pounds will do.
One orange, one apple – quarter them both.
One orange – sliced nice.
One pomegranate – halved.
Three stalks of celery and two small bundles of flat-leaf parsley
One entire stick of butter, plus a pat or two for the slather
Healthy pinches, a few of each – salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 350°. Rinse your goose good. You’ll need to pat it dry but do not use your best dishtowel, get the ugly one — salt and pepper inside
Pack with the quartered orange and apple, then put your parsley and that whole stick of butter in there, too.
Cross his ankles and tie them together with kitchen twine. Place in a baking pan, slather the outside in butter, then sprinkle with salt and pepper, rub it in.
Put your goose in that preheated oven (or wait with regret for skipping my first instruction, tsk), and bake for two hours. After two hours, pull out and dress the top up with your strips of bacon, don’t be lazy, make it pretty.
Return to the oven for 30 minutes. Remove your goose, allow it to rest for
15 to 20 minutes.
Place on a platter, festoon with the nice sliced orange and pomegranate, tuck the remaining parsley underneath and feel just so festive and fine. It’s delicious every time.