Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas traditions

When I was a kid, the one thing that signaled Christmas more than any other -- more than the tree, more than the onslaught of Christmas specials on TV, even more than the pile of presents -- was Mom breaking out the ingredients to make peanut brittle. She used a recipe given to her by my paternal grandmother.

It was quite a production: bags of raw peanuts, boxes of baking soda, piles of sugar, bottles of corn syrup, sticks of butter, the candy thermometer and her trusty heavy-bottom pan. My brothers and I would stand near the stove as Mom stirred what seemed like a magic potion, waiting impatiently for the moment when she added the baking soda, and the syrupy concoction would turn into fluffy, gooey peanut brittle.

She would pour the molten mixture out on a metal slab in the middle of our huge kitchen table. We four kids would gather round with our buttered fingers and start pulling the edges of the peanut brittle to stretch it thin -- to Mom's cries of "Wait! It's still too hot! Wait!"

But we couldn't wait. The sooner we pulled the peanut brittle out into thin segments, the sooner we could start eating it -- and the sooner Christmas could really get started.

I don't remember a year without this tradition while Mom was alive. She carried on even after all of her children had moved out. She would spend days making batch after batch because I wasn't the only person who thought it wasn't Christmas without Mom's peanut brittle.

Since Mom died, no one has carried on the tradition. But this year, my lovely culinary friend mentioned wanting to make something homemade for family. I shared Mom's peanut brittle recipe with her, and joined her this weekend to oversee and help with its creation. Honestly, I was afraid to try this recipe myself. I worried about having the right equipment. I worried that my inherent lack of patience would cause me to a scalding sugar mess across my kitchen. I worried that no matter what I did, it would never in a million years live up to my memories.

Yet, standing in my friend's kitchen, sipping hot spiced cider, watching her add the baking soda at just the right time, then stretching the candy with her, her husband and the S.O. really did feel right. And the first batch of peanut brittle -- when pulled thin and cooled -- was perfect. It was exactly the way Mom made it.

And it was exactly what I needed to make it really feel like Christmas.


  1. WOW I am beyond I am wondering will I receive a package this year???? Just kidding. Boy this motherhood thing has got you doing all kinds of strange things!!! LOL I am very proud of you!!! ♥ U Melinda :)

  2. How wonderful! Now THAT'S what friends are for! Very cool ... and yummy, I'm sure. Merry Christmas, finally!

  3. Melinda,
    It wasn't terribly hard because my friend did most of the work and has a good kitchen. She also paid for everything so she kept the majority of it. Next year, I may have to try it myself. If I do, I will definitely send some your way. <3 you too!

  4. Man, it's soooo yummy. Sorry to be a pig and keep it all, but I don't regret it one bit!

  5. @Kate, You did most of the work. Besides you've got a few decades of catching up to do. :)