My mother and stepfather were wonderful cooks. They are the reason I love spending most of my time in the kitchen, even when there’s nothing to cook. Leaning against the kitchen counter is my default position. When I showed up at their house, I’d join in the chopping, stirring and tasting. My mom always welcomed it, but my stepdad would send everyone scurrying from the kitchen when things weren’t going the way he expected. The Annual Tossing of the Julekage was born from one such moment. A failed loaf of the nut-filled bread would be tossed out the back door, and the process would begin again. Once he’d perfected his technique, he felt bad for the squirrels’ lack of a winter’s treat, so he started tossing a bag of nuts out the back door during the holiday season.
When their neighbor, Denny, lost his wife of 60 years, my mom worried about his newfound solitude. She started sharing a portion of their meals. She would tuck a carefully prepared container in the wreath on Denny’s front door, hoping the squirrels wouldn’t get it. The next day, a handwritten thank you note would appear on Mom’s front door, with a description of how he’d recently spent his time. He was a World War II vet who volunteered at the VA helping younger vets. Denny had owned a printing business and his handwritten notes were absolute perfection. My mom saved his notes over the years, treasuring all of his stories. Her act of sharing their meal across the street created a connection a quick wave could never have duplicated. In that spirit, let’s make the season of giving year ‘round.
Amy Goetz is a FoodE Expert for Lunds & Byerlys Woodbury. She helps customers with recipe ideas, teaches cooking classes and plans events. She writes about food and recipes.