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The taste of Christmas in Chilliwack
For many, the holiday season is filled with long-held traditions of family and friends, decorated trees and wrapping paper, Santa visits and candy canes. And food.
Lots of food.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert traditions. Must-have turkey, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, yams, mashed potatoes, gravy and more – all cooked in a specific way, some by one specific person, and all filled with memories.
The Chilliwack Progress asked several community members to share their favourite food memories of the holidays. These were their responses:
Steve Anderson, Chilliwack secondary school teacher
My Favorite food over the holiday besides … ummmm food in general, has to be stuffing! Seriously, stuffing, not the new fangled, “I picked the recipe out of a Martha Stewart magazine type of stuffing,” but the good ole fashioned made up and stuffed in the bird Martha didn’t mess with it regular stuffing. The kind of stuffing that is making your mouth water even right now as I talk about it. The kind of stuffing that Guy Fietti would call the “bullet Train from Flavor Town” on his Triple D food show.
I worked for a catering company in Vancouver for many years beginning when I was about 13-14 and soon had the company’s chef teach me how to effectively and quickly carve a turkey, this talent soon became my ticket into the kitchen at home where dad found that he could visit and share in the “Christmas cheer” while I cut the bird. It was here that I quickly found a way to get some of that wonderful stuffing that always ran out while the bowl was being passed around the table ………. I munched it while “I” was taking it out of the bird!!! Eureka!!! Who would have thought that heaven could look like ripping the stuffing out of a bird’s carcass, but there it was one spoon for the bowl and one for me, one for the bowl and…. Oops did that fall on the counter? Now my boys have observed the cutting technique and try and help me out at Christmas dinner but I always respond with love and good cheer “No, you visit, I’ll handle this.” From the Anderson family “Merry Christmas People of the WACK!”
Kyle Williams, Downtown Chilliwack Business Improvement Association,
I love the fact that the holiday season brings out some of the best food you’ll have all year, and much more of it! The family dinners, the extra restaurant outings and the appy parties are always great, but I enjoy the simplicities of the season. A candy cane or a box of chocolates around every corner, and Mandarin oranges are everywhere! I always enjoy that first orange in late November to remind me how close we are to the holidays, and they seem to have a bit more of that “Christmas” flavour as we get deeper into December.
When I was a kid, Santa placed an orange in the toe of my stocking each year that served as an early breakfast for my brother and I well before others in the family woke up. After eating the orange, it seemed acceptable to eat the chocolate!
I still start every Christmas morning with a Mandarin orange.
Rod Hudson, executive director of the Chilliwack Community Arts Council
Rum Butter is a Christmas memory of Rod Hudson, executive director of the Chilliwack Community Arts Council, who is retiring soon after 25 years of service.
"The one thing that I always look forward to having over the Christmas season is lots of Rum Butter.
"This is a traditional spread from the North of England that my grandma used to make, then later when my grandma passed away, my mom carried on with the tradition and now it’s fallen onto my shoulders.
"It’s real yummy!
"I haven’t made it yet but I will be making some this coming weekend with the help of my granddaughters. I remember helping my grandma mix it when I was a little boy, there’s a lot of beating with a wooden spoon involved. We use the family recipe but there is a good recipe for Cumberland Rum Butter online that tastes great and it’s very similar to our family recipe.
"It’s a delicious spread that can be put on toast, pancakes, scones or even traditional Christmas pudding. It can also be made with sherry, but for us rum is the best."
Clint Johnston, Chilliwack Teachers’ Association President
Above all the other delicious holiday food that floats around the house during this time, pumpkin pie encapsulates the season in one dish. Why? Well, the spices in a good pumpkin pie invade the senses and imprint themselves firmly into mind to create a lasting memory. And the spices in a good pumpkin pie are the spices of Christmas. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice & ginger. These spices are in so many holiday treats that they hang on the periphery of your mind for two straight weeks. But the pumpkin pie brings them all together in delicious perfection.
Every Christmas my mom would make dinner from scratch, including the pies. This meant that for one whole day you would smell the rich aroma as they were mixed, baked and then cooled. By the time you actually got to eat a piece it was already the best thing you had ever tasted. I remember as we grew that the number of pies needed grew just as quickly. When you have teenagers who may eat an entire pie over the course of Christmas day (not saying it did or did not happen) it takes several to keep a crowd happy. This also meant that there were sure to be slices to be had for at least a couple of days afterward, and they only got better with age. The sign of a good food is one that you can eat plenty of and still want more—my mother’s pumpkin pie is still one of my favourite foods!
I have carried on the tradition with my family. I have even tweaked it by adding whipping cream instead of condensed milk (it makes it deliciously light and means I can eat more). We usually grow our own pumpkin, roast and mash it before baking the pies. I love showing the kids how an unassuming vegetable can become the most coveted food on the table! Our family and our food are inextricably linked, and the memories they create together can enrich our lives long after a holiday is gone. Thanks Mom.
Holly McKeen, Owner of Greendale Pottery and Country Guest House
It was hard to pick one favourite food for the Christmas season! But my daughter is home this weekend and she made an awesome breakfast this morning, just like I taught her (only better) and it made me think how fun, and special our Christmas breaky is.
Our tradition has always been that stockings can be opened first thing, but then all the presents must wait until after we enjoy a leisurely breakfast together, just like this one! Yes, it was torture for the kids for many years, but, Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict would make it (almost) worth the wait. Eggs fresh from our own backyard chickens, wild coho caught and smoked by Dad, with delicious hollandaise, on a bed of spinach. And of course served on hand-crafted pottery made by Mom.
And nowadays, it’s even better with our grown kids in the kitchen taking charge, and out-doing my breakfast creations!
Christopher Lister, Central elementary teacher
My favourite food of the holiday season would probably be my mum’s cold turkey sandwiches in the evening of Christmas Day. My family always had our main Christmas dinner at 3 p.m. so we could watch the Queen’s speech while we ate, so by 8 p.m. we were hungry again.
The sandwiches themselves were stuffed with all my favourite ingredients including stuffing and pickled onions.
At the time I probably did not always appreciate the significant of gathering to share food. When I reflect on my Christmas’ in England now, I realize it represented quality family time. I treasure those memories, and hope to continue many of them with my own family.
This time was also was the prelude to our evening of board games and the annual Only Fools and Horses Christmas special on the television.
Amber Short, Owner of The Bookman
With so many incredible delicacies making the rounds during the holidays, it’s hard to pick just one! I’d have to go with boxes of assorted Purdy’s Chocolates, a traditional gift from my much loved father. I like to make a cup of tea from the fine folks at Aromatica and choose two or three chocolates to enjoy by my fireplace and Christmas tree. There’s something so indulgent and fun about perusing the little index map that they include in the box and making the agonizing decision of which one to enjoy first, and which one to save until the very last. I also take a strange pleasure in taking a bite out of the ones I don’t like and putting them back in the box; Santa doesn’t count this as being naughty, does he? Uh oh.
Greg See, Vedder middle school principal
My favourite food during the holiday season is lemon meringue pie. I love the taste and texture of the lemon and the great crust. The pie reminds me of my youth when my mom used to bake it. We were not allowed to have dessert until we finished our meal – sometimes that meant eating brussel sprouts, which would make me gag. The lemon meringue pie was a welcome and wonderful taste after the brussel sprouts! My mother-in-law continues to make this awesome dessert, which I love at this time of year. It makes me think of my mom.
Glen Ringdal, President Chilliwack Chiefs
When we were children – and still when we were adults – my brother, sister and I could hardly wait for Christmas. Not for the gifts, not for the turkey, not for the lights and Santa. No, the big treat for us started about 10 days before Christmas when Mom would make her famous peppernuts.
Peppernuts are, in fact, not nuts. They are made by rolling delicately spiced – nutmeg and cinnamon for sure, we never knew the full recipe – cookie dough into a long snake-like spiral. Then, holding it up by one end, Mom would use well-cleaned scissors to snip off just over half an inch of the ever-shortening “snake”- placing each piece on a greased cookie sheet which we then slipped into the heated oven. And waited while the sweet smell of heaven wafted through the kitchen. They were baked to a golden brown – maybe just a few minutes longer than “done” – but never burned. When they came out of the oven they were placed on a towel laid out on the counter until cool. Then, before we could snitch even one, Mom hid them away to “age” so they would be ready to be slipped into little bags and deposited with other special treats into our respective Christmas stockings. Having our own peppernuts on Christmas morning made the whole ritual of gift-opening just that much more special. By the time we all gathered for the big turnkey dinner later in the day, the remainder of the year’s peppernut crop was in bowls in the living room as our most treasured pre-dinner “appetizer”. Mom is long-gone to her reward and several next-generation Moms and cooks have tried to replicate our childhood treat. But, although their attempts are good and appreciated, I know they will never ever quite reproduce Mom’s Peppernuts.
Paula DeWit, music director, conductor, Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
My favorite food during the holiday season has to be our traditional fondue that our family does on New Year’s Eve. I love the atmosphere it creates and I love the social aspect of it as well.
Bruce Corbeil, Chef, culinary arts instructor at UFV
My favorite Christmas food is the hardest question.
It is not one type of food that makes to the top of my list -- it is the whole feast.
The turkey. The stuffing. The gravy and all the trimmings.
I guess it’s the stuffing. Mom made a plain bread stuffing that tasted great and I still make a version of it to this day, lots of butter, sage, thyme, marjoram, onions, celery, and bread that the whole family broke up. Roasted in the bird to get the turkey juices into it. Is there anything better?
Now as a chef I like to play around with it for my guests but at home for me I go back to Mom’s style for the memories.
But I still remember the little cream-filled chocolate bells we used to have in dishes all day long. There were lots of candies and other sweets but I loved those bells. Even after I moved out mom would send me the bells in my stocking every year. I can’t find them now and they were only around at Christmas but thinking about them helps me remember the carefree Christmases we had when I was a kid.
Len vanNieuwenhuizen, media relations, Upper Fraser Valley RCMP
Coming from a Dutch background my favorite holiday food is Oliebollen. This is like an apple and raisin fritter. It is traditionally made on New Year’s Eve. When made fresh they are wonderful.
Sprinkle some icing sugar prior to serving and they are heaven sent. New Year’s Eve was a very festive event for my family particularly as Jan. 1st was my mother’s birthday. Coupled with Christmas and New Year’s Eve this was a very special time of year and oliebollen brings back all those wonderful memories.
Ian Pratt, community ministries director at Chilliwack Salvation Army
My favorite food during the Christmas season is the generous food donations that go to make up the Christmas hampers we give out on behalf of the community to those in need. Accepting the food donations from those that want to make a difference then seeing the gratitude and smiles on those receiving the hamper gift, along with the festive cheerfulness of the volunteers helping to give out the food truly is the meaning of Christmas.
Chuck Stam, councillor, City of Chilliwack
City councillor Chuck Stam says stroopwafel is a family tradition.
My favourite treat during the Christmas season is a Dutch treat called a "Stroopwafel". My wife's Oma taught her how to make them and she has carried on the tradition in our family. It's always a happy day to come home to snack on the ones that didn't quite meet her perfection standards. According to Wikipedia; The traditional way to eat the stroopwafel is to place it atop of a drinking vessel slightly smaller in diameter than the waffle, and filled with a hot steaming beverage. The rising steam warms the waffle, slightly softens the inside, and makes the waffle soft on one side while still crispy on the other.