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Foodie tidbits: Christmas exhilaration remembered

updated: 12/29/2020 12:03 PM

Once again COVID-19 has reared its ugly head and affected our plans for the holidays.

My Christmas Eve seafood dinner has been canceled because we now have COVID in the family. December, January, and February are our "Sanders Family Birthdays," and we are going to probably celebrate our Christmas Eve activities at one of our birthday parties. Hopefully, everyone will be well or been vaccinated by then.

My dad loved the Christmas holidays and loved buying for family and making it a surprise event. He would absolutely shudder at the thought of our drawing names and would throw a fit if he knew we would sometimes trade off names that we had drawn with someone else. He thought everyone should get something no matter how large or small, but it would be a surprise for that person receiving it. Mom usually took care of the shopping, but Dad would also do something out of the ordinary. He loved the exhilaration when the gift was opened and the surprise on that person's face. He truly got so much satisfaction at that wonderful moment.

I remember one year when I was in high school, he asked me to help find a gift for mom. We made a terrible mistake when buying her clothes and they were all wrong for mom and that included the color. I look back at that time and wondered why he asked me and how it could have gone so wrong. He never said anything to me, and I remember the outfit hanging in the closet with the tags on it for a lot of years and never worn.

Our greatest Christmas surprise came the year after my youngest brother graduated from Murray State University. Dad obviously had planned this for months and worked at getting it coordinated for the holidays. He and mom argued about the money and timing but never told her what the expense or surprise was.

On Christmas Day when he gave his gift to me and my three siblings, he monitored our reactions and was so pleased and teary eyed at that moment. He had given us class rings from each of our colleges from which we graduated. Going to college was an important event in our lives and he wanted us to know how proud he was that we had all graduated. Dad had always wanted to go to college but never got the opportunity. I knew this, and several times after he retired, I brought up to him people I had been in contact with who were attending SIC tuition-free as retirees. He never followed through on this and I never forgot how important the concept of college was to him. He felt for the times it was the only way to truly experience this special event in life that so few people had the opportunity to attempt. Going to college back then was expensive but with scholarships, loans and mom and dad's help we all four made it. Dad lived through the Great Depression and prior to entering the Army and serving during World War II, he worked different jobs, but the family needed one less mouth to feed at home. He served his time but was one of the first sent to Italy after Pearl Harbor. When he returned home, he again had issues with finding gainful employment but married and left home for the last time. This story makes me proud of who I am and where I came from. I am a willful and stubborn person and I definitely gave my parents reasons to fret, but on that special Christmas Day, I realize I had finally done something for them to be proud of and to see me in a different light.

Merry Christmas everyone!

I have never been much of a baker, but my friend Cindy Hughes gave me this easy pie recipe many years ago when we both attended a Paul Simon Fundraiser at the American Legion in Shawneetown. (Probably in the '80s. What a blast from the past!) Nobody can mess this up.

Mix 1 c. of sugar, C (1.5 sticks) melted butter, 2 beaten eggs. Mix well, then add c of coconut, c of raisins, and c of chopped pecans. Pour into a 9-inch unbaked pie shell. Bake at 35-40 mins. at 375 degrees. If the outer crust edges are browning too fast lay a sheet of tin foil on the top of the pie until it is done. This is a great pecan pie with a few extra goodies. My husband loves it! I hope you do too.