A few Christmas gifts stand out in my mind. I can’t forget finding Mattel’s handheld electronic football game under the tree. Or the year my mother surprised me with the solo albums of every member of rock band Kiss. Was that 1978?
While most of my Christmas gift memories have faded, I remember the meals in vivid detail. Those food traditions and customs still comfort me. There was the eggnog — in delicate cups painted with bright holly berries — and gingerbread my parents served when we gathered to set up the Nativity and trim the tree.
There were the many Christmas cutout cookies sprinkled with green and red sugar. The tamales, made fresh by a neighbor, we enjoyed on Christmas Eve. And there was that strange 7-Up and sherbet concoction, so 1970s, requiring the careful unpacking of my mother’s Christmas punch bowl.
Christmas morning, after we unwrapped presents, would find my mother frying dough and rolling it in sugar for breakfast, while the culinary main event — turkey stuffed with a sausage and cornbread dressing — was well underway. Unfailingly, there would be a lemon meringue pie waiting on the counter for my father, and pumpkin and pecan for the rest of us.
While Christmas and Hanukkah are spiritual holidays, they also are times of families gathering, breaking bread and enjoying traditions that bind us through generations.
This issue celebrates those culinary rituals and goes beyond the turkey and dressing with seaside and Italian twists and a peek inside the traditions of families along the upper Texas coast.
We hope you enjoy and have very happy holidays.
Coast Monthly extends a special thanks to islanders Barbara and Dr. Gary Hankins for graciously allowing the use of their pier at their stunning Sportsman Road home on Galveston Bay for the cover photograph.