By Joey Yap
It’s that time of the year again. Every shopping mall you enter, every radio station you tune in to, the usual merry tone of Jingle Bells will be playing through the speakers.
Christmas is a time to gather for a potluck with family and friends, a time to return back to our hometowns to bask in the familiar comfort and warmth that only family somehow emanates. A time to unwind and relax, indulge in some good food (trust me, nobody cares about their diet plans at this point) and some Christmas treats!
Christmas treats come in different shapes and sizes of various flavours and textures. To say that my family likes them would be an understatement. As a matter of fact, we love them! However, we like it in our own unique way, travelling down different paths when it comes to these sweet treats. This usually gives my mother a headache whenever this particular festive season rolls around.
Here’s a list of the family’s favourite Christmas treats!
1.Gingerbread Cookies – Father
I woke up from my bed. I could sniff out the familiar hint of ginger and cinnamon. I yawned, rubbing the sleep out of my tired eyes and went downstairs, heading into the kitchen. My father was sitting at the dining table with a freshly baked gingerbread cookie in hand and a mug of coffee while he flipped through the morning newspaper.
“Why does he always have it every year?” My mother, who was pattering around in the wet
kitchen getting ready to bake another batch of cookies, stopped and turned towards me,
blinking in confusion.
“What do you mean, Elle?” My father asked, taking a sip of his coffee, his eyes meeting my
“Father has always had gingerbread cookies every year. I’m wondering if there’s a
story behind it,” I said, sitting in the chair next to him, reaching out for another cookie from the pile neatly arranged on a ceramic plate at the
centre of the table.
From the corner of her eyes, my mother saw my father smiling which showed off his dimples.
“Well, to be honest, that was how I met your mother.”
The smell of roasted coffee beans and baked goods – breads, buns, cookies, cakes – wafted
through Ol’ Jean Bakery. .
A man in a grey coat could be seen sitting by one of the many large window panes of the
bakery. His long fingers dashed across the keyboard of the laptop, a cup of steaming hot
coffee accompanying him. As he indulged in his work, a woman dressed in a maroon knitted
top paired with jeans and boots stopped at the man’s table.
“Sir, here’s your gingerbread cookie,” she said.
The man caught her staring at him and they both smiled at each other. While the woman could
feel her cheeks warming up, the man extended his hand towards the seat opposite him,
motioning for her to sit.
“I hope you don’t mind joining me, darling.”
“Oh, of course I don’t. I promise I’ll join you in a few minutes.”
A few minutes later, the man learned that her name is Susan, the girl he would eventually
spend the rest of his life with.
“That’s some cliché love at first sight I would find in Isla’s storybooks,” I commented,
slowing munching on my cookie.
“Well, if we hadn’t met, you wouldn’t be here now, would you?” My mother teased,
making me cringe.
2. Eggnog – Mother
After unlocking the front door, I stepped inside to take my boots off and to shed my brown wool jacket, which happened to be a birthday gift from my parents before I went to college.
“Is that you, Elle?” my mother’s asked, her voice sounded from the kitchen – the only space in the house with the lights turned on – out into the hallway.
“Yeah, it’s me!” I responded, placing my boots in the shoe rack by the door and hanging my jacket in the closet beside it.
I walked into the kitchen to the sight of my mother at the kitchen island with her electric mixer, a tray of eggs, a carton of whole milk, a cup of heavy cream, some sugar and nutmeg powder. Oh, that wasn’t all. There was a bottle filled with golden brown liquid. Wait, is that bourbon?
“Are you making eggnog with father’s alcohol stash?” I asked, leaning on the edge of the opposite side of the island.
“He won’t know if neither of us say a word,” My mother said, separating the egg yolks from the egg whites. She placed the yolks into the mixer, switching on the contraption which created a soft whirring sound.
“Are you using grandma’s recipe?” I asked, passing her the milk and cream.
“Of course. It’s a family recipe when it comes to eggnog.”
Little Susan watched as her mother moved around the kitchen at a fast pace, two separate mixing bowls on the table with different contents in them. The speed of her whisking created a clanking sound as the metal whisk made contact with the walls of the mixing bowl.
One of the bowls was filled with just egg whites, beaten with sugar gradually added into the mix to form soft peaks. In the other was egg yolks, heavy cream, milk, bourbon and some nutmeg powder. After each mixture was complete, Susan’s mother combined the contents of the two bowls. That night, as her family of her parents’ and older brother gathered around the living room after a hearty dinner, her mother served up four glasses of something akin to milk.
She took a sip, feeling the cold yet sweet, creamy liquid glide down her throat with a hint of heat warming her up due to the bourbon her mother used.
“Susan dear, do you like the eggnog?” her mother asked.
“It’s good, mama.” Susan smiled, nodding her head.
From that moment on, eggnog has been Susan’s favourite every Christmas. The key ingredient is the bourbon which just makes it taste luxuriously fine.
“Here you go, have a sip!” Elle looked down to see a glass of eggnog with some nutmeg powder sprinkled on the top as a final touch. She brought the glass up to her lips, letting the creamy liquid glide down her throat. It was, to say the least, truly satisfying. It may have been cold, but it warmed her up as compared to the biting cold outside the house.
3. Chocolate Bark – Me
I had just gotten out from my last class of the day and decided to take a stroll down one of the streets near my campus. I came across a small confectionery store with a chocolate fountain on display by the outward-facing window which brought a smile to my face. Being a huge chocolate lover, I’m down for anything that involves that sweet goodness.
Before I knew it, my legs were taking me towards the entrance of the store, my hands pushing the door open and myself being greeted by the cashier. Looking around the store, I saw all sorts of chocolate – dark, milk, and white – packaged differently. One particular product really took me back, chocolate bark.
It’s simply delicious and fairly easy to make. The first thing to do is to melt the chocolate – bar or you can even use chips – either using a double boiler or in the microwave. Then, after it is melted, one can add in their desired flavourings and fillings such as nuts or fruits or even crushed peppermint candy canes, before spreading it out on a baking tray lined with either a silpat mat or parchment paper. Once it’s evenly spread, one can opt to top the bark with extra toppings.
My first encounter with it was during a trip to Aunt Mary’s farmhouse. Uncle Ben came home with 10 bars of dark chocolate, saying it was a gift from the office. And because she had just finished picking some pomegranates from the orchard, she decided to come up with a chocolate bark combining those two main ingredients together.
“That’s a lot of chocolate, Mary!” my mother exclaimed from the kitchen.
“Ben got them from his office. They probably had their annual Secret Santa,” Aunt Mary explained.
“However, no worries. I decided to use them for the bark this year!” she chirruped happily.
“Aren’t these pomegranates from the orchard?” my mother asked, picking up said fruit which was full-on red, indicating its ripeness.
“You’re correct, there. They’re going to be used for the bark, too!”
I can still recall the richness of the dark chocolate and the slight hint of tartness from the pomegranate seeds, even more so as both of them accentuated each other. Without a doubt, it was a first for me and I absolutely loved it.
Just then, I received a message on my phone. I opened it up to see that my mother sent me a picture of the chocolate bark she had just made and that itself just made my whole day better.
4. Rice Krispies – Brother
When we were growing up, my younger brother was a big fan of anything crunchy. Thus, it wasn’t a surprise to us when he would reach out for a box of rice krispies whenever we made a trip to the nearby supermarket. Since then, mother has been looking for all sorts of recipes she could try with my brothers’ favourite treat.
His ultimate favourite happens to be white chocolate covered rice krispies. It was definitely another easy treat my mother learned to make. he expression my brother had on his face after the first bite was always priceless.
“I’m surprised he hasn’t gotten a sugar rush yet,” I said, coating a 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray as my mother stirred marshmallows into melted butter in a saucepan on the stove.
“It’s not that sweet,” My mother replied, removing the pan from the stove and placing it on the kitchen counter. She opened up a box of rice krispies, adding it into the lumpy marshmallow mix and mixing it well.
“As you always say, indulgence is not a sin.” I remarked tactfully.
We both looked at each other and burst into giggles. She then poured the mixture into the pan and began to spread it evenly. All that was left was to let it cool, then divide it and coat it with white chocolate topped with sprinkles.
I smiled at the recollection of that fond memory without realizing the presence of another behind me. A strong, robust arm rested itself around my neck. I glanced down at slightly tanned skin and knew that it was my brother. I looked up, seeing that he had a piece of rice krispie treat in his other hand and pouted, which led to him to letting me have the first bite of it although he kept whining on how it was his treat.
5. Peppermint Fudge – Sister
Even my mother isn’t too sure when this tradition started, but it was back in the day when my father used to have an annual Christmas potluck at his workplace. Considering how he lacked culinary skills, Mother took it upon herself to prepare two trays of peppermint chocolate fudge. It received positive reviews among his colleagues and my mother was thrilled to hear about it.
Coincidentally, during one of those times, Isla managed to get her hands on the peppermint fudge as a result of my poor babysitting skills. She crawled to the kitchen from the living room where I was engrossed in a cartoon television series, blissfully unaware of my surroundings.
“Ma!” Isla gurgled happily, looking up at Susan who was standing near the microwave, waiting for the chocolate bars to melt into the condensed milk.
“Oh, hi there. Isn’t Elle supposed to be watching you?” Susan asked, picking up her year-old daughter.
“Would you like to try some?” she continued, motioning towards a plate of fudge as her daughter clapped, indicating her agreement.
After being fed a small portion of fudge, Isla’s nose scrunched up a bit. Probably due to the mild peppermint flavouring but otherwise, she was overall rather happy and continued to babble in delight.
Back in the present, I sat cross-legged on the carpet of the living room watching the first Chipmunk movie. My sister strolled into the living room with a plate of homemade peppermint fudge in hand. She picked up a piece of fudge and took a bite out of it. Her nose scrunched up, inciting laughter from me.