Thinking of Dad

Laurie Williams

Choosing one favorite Christmas recipe is impossible.

It's the one time of year my mom makes home-canned mincemeat pie, tightly rolled anise cookies called cialde and my aunt's spicy cranberry-jalapeno salsa.

But this holiday I'm thinking of my dad's favorite Christmas foods. He died just before Thanksgiving this year.

One of the Kansas farmboy's holiday favorites was homemade buttermilk biscuits.

He loved to eat them steaming hot, topped with homemade apple butter or jam. But he got the most joy from teaching his kids and, later, his grandkids to make them. It was always a production getting out the ingredients, biscuit cutter and rolling pin.

And when it was done, there was always a dusting of flour on the floor and a little sticky clumps of dough left on the countertop.

The biscuits didn't always turn out perfect. But it was his perfect holiday breakfast.

And for dinner, a traditional turkey was our usual centerpiece. And while many stuffing recipes were tried over the years, my dad always came back to his favorite -- Brazil nut stuffing.

It wasn't the easiest to make. It could take days, in fact.

Of all the nuts in the world, Brazil nuts are the most frustratingly difficult to open. My dad roasted them a bit in the oven to loosen the shell, then when they were cool, began the painstaking process of cracking them open to get to the meat.

After all that work, he couldn't use store-bought bread cubes. Fresh bread was cut by hand into small pieces, then gently oven-toasted.

The bread and nuts were mixed with the fresh herbs, spices and butter-sauted onion and celery, making a heavenly mixture without even needing to be stuffed inside a raw bird.

My dad planned to make his special stuffing again this year. His cancer had worsened and it had become too painful for him to stand for more than a few minutes at a time.

But he insisted on perching on a stool in the kitchen, chopping nuts for my mom's holiday cookies -- and for a last batch of Brazil nut stuffing that he never got to finish.

Enjoy and cherish your holiday recipes. They're not just something to eat. They are memories to savor.