Celebrations in our household are always food-driven. We are relatively flexible about the side dishes that appear at Thanksgiving, but my grandmother’s French bread dressing with sage and sausage is sacrosanct. We could happily skip the turkey as long as the dressing made it to the table. My husband’s Irish/Italian family has always had lasagna and antipasto for Christmas, and he was shocked as a child to learn that his friends had ham or turkey for their holiday gatherings. When we married, I gave up my family’s Thanksgiving-on-repeat version of Christmas dinner to adopt my husband’s tastier tradition. Our children spend Christmas Eve morning rolling all of the tiny meatballs that will fill the layers, just as my husband did when he was growing up. Easter requires warm Irish soda bread, slathered butter melting over the plump raisins. Our family recipes are the stars of our holiday feasts, and I will hand a set of those same recipes to our children when they have kitchens of their own some day.
When I connected with my birth family a few years ago, one of the things I asked them for was old family recipes. What were the dishes they treasured? What did they serve at holiday meals? I was delighted to receive several recipes in return. For our Christmas morning that year, I made one of their family recipes to honor my ever-expanding family AND ever-expanding recipe box.
Orange Loaf Cake
Sift into mixing bowl:
2 cups flour
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ cup shortening
½ cup orange juice (grated rind and juice from one orange plus water to equal ½ cup)
Beat 4 minutes. Bake in loaf pan at 350F for 60-65 minutes.
We snacked on the Orange Loaf and fresh fruit while we opened presents and it was delicious. I will be making it again for our Christmas morning this year, and I am planning to add my grandmother’s orange glaze (1 cup of powdered sugar, a little orange zest, and about a tablespoon of orange juice whisked together) to add a touch from both of my maternal families combined together into one. Just like me.