This time of year I’m reminded of a quote from Herb Caen, the late columnist from the San Francisco Chronicle, “I tend to live in the past because most of my life is there.”
In your mind it always seems better than it probably was and things were simpler. I have always like celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah with our family, grand kids and friends. I like putting up and even taking down the ornaments and decorations. When you take them out it’s like seeing old friends and when you put them away you say goodbye for another year. It’s always been comforting to me.
I get nostalgic this time of year when I cook and bake recipes that were made and given to me by my family and friends. I can do a pretty good job with my mom’s Hungarian Coffee cake but can’t come close to my Aunt Helen’s ravioli’s or Auntie Margret’s sourdough flapjacks. They are recipes of a time and era long gone. You can no longer get sheep brains for the ravioli and maintaining the sourdough starter is more than I want to do. I’m happy with my homemade buttermilk pancakes and so are all my grand kids.
I sometimes wish that Mrs. Long was still bringing in her homemade fudge to all her favorite waitresses that worked at the Ormsby House and I long for Alice Hardgrave’s Cardamon Bread sliced and toasted with some butter. I make Mary Marrone’s Italian Nut Sticks and have for going on 40 years now. I figured I’ve made more than 100,000 of those cookies. Somehow Christmas just wouldn’t seem complete without a batch of Laura Oswald’s mothers little Tea Cookies which are like a snowball but even better or my friend Laura Vance’s famous Bear Claws. She has a Hanukkah bush and I know it sounds strange but it works for her. We always try and plan a Hanukkah dinner every year with a brisket, potato latkes, kugel and a challah. It is one of my favorite dinners. It’s a lot of work and makes a big mess which is why once a year is enough.
I know a lot of people don’t really care for the holidays but even if you don’t believe Jesus is the reason for the season I think it’s a good time for reflection and spreading good will. We can all be on our better behavior not because anyone is looking over our shoulder but because it’s the right thing to do. Try and have a little more patience, understanding, empathy and lets all be more giving because you really do reap what you sow. Think kindness and pass it on.
This recipe I’m going to share with you is truly a gift. It’s Mary Marrone’s Italian Nut Sticks. They are like a biscotti because they are twice baked but not as hard. These cookies are easy to whip out and they make a great homemade gift. Make them part of your holiday tradition.
Italian Nut Sticks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup salad oil
1/2 cup chopped almonds
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon anise
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (scant)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Beat eggs until light, then add remaining ingredients except flour. Stir together, then add flour to form stiff dough. Divide the dough into thirds and shape the dough to form rectangles the length of your baking sheet and about 3 inches wide. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake at 350-375 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from sheet and slice into 1/2-inch slices and place cut side down on cookie sheets and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture. Return to oven and toast for 10 minutes. Makes 4-5 dozen.
Linda Marrone is a longtime Carson resident, manages the 3rd & Curry Street Farmers Market and is the director of Nevada Certified Farmers Market Association.