Recipe for Nostalgia


Holidays. The two sided coin of family joy and pain all wrapped up in one wild package of food, memories and (dys)function. Combine all the normal chaos of the holidays, add together a generous splash of high expectations and a side of nostalgia and you can bake up a piping hot anxiety soufflé.

I am given to extreme bouts of nostalgia around Thanksgiving and Christmas. So much of how I celebrate as an adult was formed by how I learned to celebrate as a kid. And much of each holiday focuses on food. When I opened my recipe binder on Thanksgiving to make my husbands favorite dessert, I saw my grandma in her flouncy apron and olive-colored hand mixer. I saw my mom cracking open her worn Joy of Cooking, splattered and stained. I heard my extended family laughing at the dining a room table amidst the aftermath of another meal.

Many of my recipes are handwritten, like this one. This one is particularly special to me; it’s written in my mother-in-law’s elegant handwriting. She passed away in 2005 and I miss her. I don’t love the dessert, but she made it for her son, my husband. It’s basically pudding. Instant pudding at that! Layered with whipped topping and crust, it strikes me as rather inelegant. I like to bust out all the pans for holiday baking. I like to go to three stores to get specialty ingredients for an ambitious cake or torte. He? He likes pudding.

And I make it. Because his mom made it. Because he likes it. Because that’s part of how he celebrates. I’ll be sharing other special, handwritten recipes in the days leading up to Christmas.

What’s your go to dessert for special days?