Most people who love to cook can trace the roots of their passion back to someone in their lives. I learned to love cooking from my mother and father, as well as my maternal grandmother. Traditions handed down are, in my opinion, the best inheritance a person could receive. I cherish all of my familial cooking memories, especially those that include loved ones that are no longer here.
My mother’s family has had a Christmas tradition that dates back over 50 years called ‘Belch and Holler.’ It is a holiday cookie party with plenty of libations and a stationary caroling element. I have hosted a Belch and Holler for the last 8 years in Minnesota. Other than the traditional Christmas Caroling books my mother photo copied for me, it is a secular event. Last year the music was accompanied by a tuba, a guitar, and an accordion. The downstairs neighbors were warned ahead of time, and of course, invited. My partner conveniently had to work that evening. Needless to say, Belch and Holler isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.
What should be for everyone is my grandmother’s recipe from chocolate bottomed Florentines. These lacy cookies are studded with nuts and candied fruit. The batter is cooked on a stove and is made up mostly of butter and honey. Once they are cooked and cooled, the bottoms are painted with bittersweet chocolate. As a child, I considered this a magical food. My grandma, Mutsi, would bake hundreds of cookies. Some were not magical, like her Danish ‘rocks.’ My siblings and I got to create the cookie trays that were placed throughout the entertaining rooms. There were usually less Florentines than Mutsi remembered baking. She was a benevolent woman with a generous heart, and wouldn’t scold us too much for chowing down on her bounty before the party began.
This year, I am going to serve hot chicken broth instead of hot cider at Belch and Holler. I had this idea a while back and haven’t tried it out yet. Hopefully, this new tradition will go over well. I will also make hundreds of Florentines to honor Mutsi’s memory. There will be some emotional moments as I make this magical food, my hands being an extension of her legacy. My hope is that you are able to reflect, with love and gratitude, on your family traditions this December as well.