For the past six years, Christmas has been fairly traditional: my mother and I spend Christmas Eve at my Aunt Sue's house in Silver Creek, everyone comes to our place on Christmas Day. One doesn't need a silver fork to eat good food in our family: lasagna, Buffalo chicken wing and spinach artichoke dips, tortellini alfredo with shrimp, turkey with gravy, potato rolls, and a smorgasbord of holiday cookies
But food for the body is not enough there must be a course for the soul as well.
"What did Santa bring you Sarahbelle?" my mother's high-pitched voice sang from the kitchen Tuesday morning. She says this every year when she hears my footsteps creaking down the staircase. As always I ignored her, wiped the sleep from my eyes and poured myself a much-needed cup of black coffee. "It's a mother's job to annoy her children," she said with a smile. She has reminded me this every year since I was 13.
She usually bakes coffee cake for breakfast it was my father's favorite. This year she made mine: Upside down orange biscuits.
After eating and exchanging gifts, my mother went back to the kitchen to finish the day's feast. I kept the wood-burning fireplace roaring. Guests arrived at 2 o'clock I also collected coats and made sure drinks were full.
I see my family (we consider friends and neighbors a part of our family also) twice a year: in the winter, and around my birthday in April. We speak with one another throughout. But it's usually through the perforations of a telephone receiver, as if through the screen of a confessional. This is too disembodied for me, too much like yelling into the wind. Nothing beats catching up with a loved one in person.
The buffet table was set with dinner promptly at 3 o'clock.
Every culture uses food as a sign of commemoration. Some foods are even credited with supernatural powers. Others are eaten symbolically or ritualistically: Catholics and Anglicans take a communion of wine and wafer; Jews attending a Seder eat a horseradish dish to symbolize the tears shed by their ancestors when they were slaves in Egypt; the ancient Egyptians thought onions symbolized the many-layered universe, and swore oaths on the vegetable as some might the Bible
Taste is a kind of intimacy we can't taste things at a distance. We can't fully connect with people from a distance either. That's why when we gather together, we offer one another drink, food. It is a symbolic act, a gesture that says: This food will nourish your body as I will nourish your soul.
When my dad was alive, he would say a prayer before we ate, thanking God for everything our family had. He'd also give a verbal nod to Jesus for spreading the word of love.
"Would you say a little prayer this year," my mother asked me earlier that morning. She normally doesn't - she knows I'm not religious.
But I agreed.
I like to think that I'm a spiritual person. I believe we're all connected; I believe in positive energy; I believe in putting good out into the world; I believe in taking care of one another. This was my prayer to my family, and is my hope for all families throughout each year.
To spread our family's love, my mother and I would like to offer you our Upside Down Orange Biscuit recipe. Happy New Year!
Upside Down Orange Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tablespoon melted butter
2 teaspoon grated orange peel
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in milk just until moistened. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 15-in. x 15-in. rectangle. Spread with butter. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over butter. Roll up jellyroll-style. Cut into 12 equal slices. Place in a greased 9-inch round baking pan. Combine topping ingredients and pour over biscuits. Bake at 450 degrees for 20-25 min., or until light brown. Cool in pan for 5 min. Serve warm.
Sarah T. Schwab is a Sunday OBSERVER contributor and Fredonia State graduate. Send comments to
or view her Web site at www.SarahTSchwab.com