For the past week, I have been “coaxing” Christmas songs to pop up on my iTunes. And finally here they are! Perfect timing, after the best of the 8 Christmas parties I have thrown. The food was a hit all around. I’m very pleased. Salad was killed, no one left a bite of dessert, and I have only half a lasagne left. Mrs. Desmond’s cheeseball was even better this year because I didn’t have Worcester sauce and replaced it with soy sauce and sriracha. Wonder if ol’ Mildred, from Richmond, Virginia, would approve. Well, my friends did. It was really good.
We didn’t eat dinner until nearly 10. Not because it wasn’t ready, but we were too busy chatting and opening gifts and telling stories and drinking champagne. Most people left at 12:30 which is impressive. I moved the party from Sunday night to Saturday, and it made a difference. I began this party the first year I lived alone, which was my last year at USF. There were six girls, and it was a white elephant. We had a silver madonna boob purse, a scary wooden cat with real human hair, lottery tickets, and giant underpants. I didn’t have the cheeseball. I had a store-bought cheeseball. Until I didn’t.
The story of the cheeseball is that the year before Gram died, I interviewed her about her recipes because I wanted to write a cookbook for all of us. It’s actually a beautiful book, filled with awesome pictures of my grandmother in the 50s and 60s and beyond, in her kitchen, in her apron. I asked her about family recipes that we grew up eating, most of which I already knew how to make by heart. Each recipe in the book comes with a story, of the reason behind the recipe.
We sat for hours in her small assisted living studio, only furnished with a microwave. She told me who her cooking partner was in 7th grade. She recited her recipe for Hermits from when she was five. This was the woman who at nearly 90, was slowly losing her mind. The stories I heard that day from a woman who had always been my hero, always been my best friend, amazed me. How she could remember that if your fruitcake was too moist, stick half an apple in the tin and put it in a dark cupboard? And that you always press down ginger cookies with a glass dipped in sugar?
Mildred Desmond, or Mrs. Desmond as I had always known her, was Gram’s next door neighbor when they moved down from Canada. She was a lovely woman. We always Continue reading