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Chat about holiday traditions with Gwyn Mellinger

December 21, 2006

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Gwyn Mellinger writes about food for the Lawrence Journal-World. She takes your holiday questions.

Moderator:

Hi folks! I'm Joel Mathis, managing editor for convergence, and Gwyn is here to talk about holiday food traditions! Welcome!

Gwyn Mellinger:

Good afternoon!

Moderator:

Gywn, my family used to have a lasagna tradition every Christmas. What are some other holiday food traditions you know of?

Gwyn Mellinger:

Individual families tend to have one dish or a couple of recipes that they make every holiday. Some have a holiday theme. Others, like your lasagna tradition, seem to have nothing to do with the holidays.

I recall several years ago visiting with Maggie Carttar here in Lawrence. Her family made pounds and pounds of stollen every year and gave it away as gifts.

Shelby:

What the hell is mincemeat?

Gwyn Mellinger:

Mincemeat -- not to be confused with minced meat -- is a chutney-like concoction that usually is made with raisins, currants, maybe apples, nuts and a bit of brandy. Once upon a time it was made with suet. Yuck.

Moderator:

It seems like a lot of Christmas food traditions are the same as Thanksgiving -- a lot of families have turkey and stuffing. What's something more Christmassy we can serve this year?

Gwyn Mellinger:

I've talked to a lot of people over the years who prepare a goose or Cornish game hens. About 10 years ago we had a county engineer here in Douglas County by the name of Frank Hempen, who shot a goose every year for the family Christmas dinner.

ChristyLittle:

Do you have any tips for keeping food warm until you can get the whole family seated for dinner? My aunt has an ongoing case of the cold cooked carrots.

Moderator:

Here's a question from my belly: Is it possible -- or even desirable -- to dial back the holiday food eating a little bit so that the weight gain is minimal?

Gwyn Mellinger:

The three Cs. Not good. Has she (or a helpful relative) thought of keeping them in the top of a double boiler on the stove? You don't want them to keep cooking overe direct heat but to stay warm.

Moderator:

Oops. Posted that last one too soon. I'll try again: Here's a question from my belly: Is it possible -- or even desirable -- to dial back the holiday food eating a little bit so that the weight gain is minimal?

Gwyn Mellinger:

Dialing back the holiday food eating... This is a question that is close to my heart. As it happens, I tried starting a diet about three weeks ago. It bombed. My heartfelt advice is to forget about your weight until after the holidays. That's why they have January specials at athletic clubs.

Moderator:

Is there really such a thing as figgy pudding?

Gwyn Mellinger:

Yes. Not many desserts have their own song, but this one does. It's usually made with a strong does of brandy. I recall hearing a local woman tell me a few yuears ago about her family's tradition, which entailed singing the figgy pudding song after Christmas dinner, and probably pouring a bit more brandy to go with the pudding.

Moderator:

For that matter, does anybody make wassail anymore? I haven't had it in years.

Gwyn Mellinger:

Yes. I have a good recipe that was given to me by Chris Hammill, who lives in Baldwin. It can be made alch and non-alch. The spices are the key. We'll get that recipe posted here.

Moderator:

Finally - and this is our last question - any ideas which cookies Santa likes best?

Gwyn Mellinger:

Probably my mother's ginger cookies. They are my personal holiday tradition. I loved eating them before they could cool on the kitchen counter. The smell of them baking in the oven is one of the things I will always associate with the holidays.

Moderator:

Thanks for joining us! And don't forget, folks, that Santa will join us tomorrow!

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