Monday, December 20, 2010

For the Holidays, You Can't Beat Home Sweet Home!

Merry Christmas Week all!  Hopefully, the tree is trimmed, gifts are bought and maybe wrapped, and your holiday food plans are coming together.  Christmas is a season rich in family traditions, and my family is no exception.  My family's ethnic background is Hungarian and Slovak.  Our main Christmas meal is on Christmas Eve before heading to Midnight (ok, 10 p.m.) Mass at St. John's Cathedral.  I would have to describe the meal itself as a nice blend of both old and new traditions.  The menu changes slightly with each year by taking a bit of the old and adding in something new.  Dinner starts with a traditional bowl of mushroom soup, which is made from dried mushrooms and sauerkraut juice.        

Nana would be so proud we are carrying on this tradition, despite the jokes and comments from the sour taste.  To counter the sour soup, we have the oplatky wafer with honey on it.  Oplatky are Christmas wafers usually with an image of the Nativity on them.  They are very similar to the Communion wafers used during Catholic Mass.  We also have shrimp cocktail with our homemade "octopus sauce".  Octopus sauce has nothing to do with octopus, it is just a name I came up with as a little girl for the shrimp cocktail sauce Nana made for Christmas Eve.  We have shrimp because Christmas Eve was my late Uncle Jack's birthday.  Growing up, Nana would prepare whatever my mom and uncle wanted for their birthdays, but Uncle Jack had limited options since Catholics would not have meat on Christmas.  
The main dish is always some form of breaded fish.  In past Christmases, Nana would deep fry ocean perch, however our new tradition is making an oven-fried tilapia, coated in panko and herbs.  I am looking forward to going to the West Side Market with my brother Friday morning to get the fish.  We also would have homemade french fries, cole-slaw, and bobalky which are little bread balls cooked in either sauerkraut or honey and poppyseed.  For dessert we have Christmas cookies and Malley's chocolates.  Overall, that is my traditional Cleveland Christmas, and I would not trade it for anything, even and Italian Christmas Eve with the seven fishes.

One of many things I love about Cleveland is how we exemplify the idea of a Melting Pot.  At Christmas and many other holidays, age old traditions are celebrated and made new again.  And now I will take this moment to ask you: What are your family Christmas/holiday traditions?

Until next time....follow your heart, fulfill your hunger.        


  1. We have some similar traditions (I'm Czech and Polish). We have the Oplatky (which I had to explain to CLEguy). We do the breaded and fried perch, with mashed potatoes and creamed peas. I used to hate the peas as a kid, but now I actually look forward to them.

    Dessert is an assortment of cookies I make - everyone gets to choose their favorite kind. Then, lots of coffee so we can stay awake for Midnight Mass.

    Your Nana would definitely be proud of all the traditions you maintain and your love of cooking in general!

  2. I only wish I could carry on the 7 fishes of Christmas like my grandma used to! I put that in on twitter for Chef Symon to come to my house and help me cook! :-)

  3. Wow, what a celebration!! Our traditions aren't so specific, but we do make chocolate covered pretzel, cookies, and buckeyes on Christmas Eve when my sis comes home (she lives in Chicago). I can't wait! :)

  4. Hi another Clevelander ( or should I say suburban clevelander here) your xmas celebration sounds much like my father's family celebrated...Ukrainian heritage. Today we celebrate with my husbands family with sort of traditional Polish meal on Xmas eve.

    come visit my food blog!