Foodie Underground: Celebrating Tradition

The past month has been a whirlwind, and I’m sure I’m not alone. The holidays have a knack for making a full month seem like only a week. But somehow we all find the time to cram in parties, celebrations and festive attire.

Staying far away from any commercial establishments, I’ve been able to avoid the general stress that most people associate with December. Instead, the last few weeks have been completely devoted to honoring childhood traditions that make December feel like December. And all of those traditions involve food. It might be because I’m from a family where eating well was always a priority, but much of the holiday season and the emotions that come from it are associated with specific dishes.

I’m not alone. This time of year there’s a resurgence of classics; taking us all back to our roots. Those recipes that evoke the feeling of being with family, being taken care of or even just enjoying a simply moment.

The New York Times Sunday magazine often features the Recipe Redux column, taking a classic (most often from sometime between the 50s and late 80s) and putting a new spin on it. We love these recipes because they’re a reminder of something. It’s not just about the food; it’s about the feelings that come from eating it.

So what are the tradition staples that have been gracing my apartment this month?

The best part about food traditions are that most of the time, it has nothing to do with fancy ingredients or underground methods of preparation. Think about it: how much do you love eating green bean casserole? Or your mother’s traditional meatballs? There’s nothing classy, chic or avant-garde about them, but recipes like this have a place at the table.

Earlier this year, a group of friends and I launched what we lovingly call Supper Club. Every month we choose a theme and take our foodie obsessions and turn them into new creations. The results are impressive. Over the last month we’ve had everything from pureed butternut squash soup to chantrelle quiche to ceviche. But last night we went for “childhood holiday traditions.” There were sausage balls and mayonnaise on pumpernikel bread squares. Not the culinary finest, but delicious. It happened to be one of my favorite Supper Clubs yet.

So maybe it’s because this season makes me want to hunker down, cook a bunch of comfort food and share it with friends, but this week I’m celebrating all things classic, no matter how simple or unrefined they are.

And in honor of celebrating tradition, here’s my favorite childhood Christmas recipe, taken straight from my mother’s Swedish Sju Sorters Kakor cookbook, a hardcover favorite that she has had since her own high school years and who’s pages are barely attached anymore.

Franska Pepparkakor – French Gingerbread Cookies

  • 1 cup almonds, chopped
  • 200 g butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 tsp. ginger
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. black peppar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 cups flour

Cream butter, sugar and molasses.

Mix dry ingredients with almonds, then combine with butter, sugar and molasses. Knead together with your hands.

Roll dough into cylinders, about 12 inches long and wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cut dough into 1/4 inch slices. Bake at 380 for 10-12 minutes.

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground. Each week, Anna will be taking a look at something new and different that’s taking place in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to culinary avant garde.

Image: Anna Brones

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.