Over the next four weeks the Nelson Star will be bringing you Christmas memories and recipes from the tables of some of Nelson’s better known residents. Even though it’s easy to get lost in the chaos of Christmas shopping and parties, the true spirit of Christmas is often found at home among the traditions and recollections of Christmases past. To launch this Christmas special, I’ll be sharing a taste of Christmas from the Cole Family back in Victoria B.C.
For as long as I can remember my dad has worked the graveyard shift.
He’s been jokingly nicknamed a vampire because he works at night and takes people’s blood (he’s a lab technician at a hospital).
My dad’s work schedule was a bit of an inconvenience for my sister and I when we were kids.
On Christmas morning, like children across North America, we’d spring out of bed run down the stairs and rush to the Christmas tree.
Unfortunately that’s when the waiting game started.
My dad got off work around 7:45 a.m. which meant he wouldn’t come through the door till 8 a.m. and for two impatient little kids with piles of wrapped gifts in front of them, this was as close to torture as you could get.
We’d sit there, looking at each other, looking at the gifts and then looking at my mom who would then say, “we have to wait for dad.”
That’s when the negotiating would start.
“Come on mom, just one present,” my sister would say.
“How about just our stockings,” I would add.
But my mom would normally pacify us with some hot chocolate, which would last a few minutes, and then the bargaining would start anew.
By the time my dad walked through the door we were not only buzzing with excitement, but the sugar from the hot chocolate had kicked in by then.
Mom would normally make us wait for dad to get his coffee before we tore through the presents like the Tasmanian Devil.
The rest of our family — grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles and cousins — were spread out across the country so it was just the four of us for Christmas and over the years more gathered around the table for dinner as our honourary family grew.
Even though my grandma was all the way in small town Saskatchewan, where my mom grew up, we never missed out on her Christmas baking.
A couple weeks before Christmas the parcel card from Canada Post would appear in the mail, which meant grandma’s baking had arrived.
The box would be stuffed with chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, Christmas fruit cake and a family favourite, grandma’s shortbread.
The shortbread is my dad’s favourite, and funny enough was Santa’s favourite too.
Before going to bed my sister and I would pile cookies on a plate and a couple carrots for the reindeer, and before the waiting game began in the morning we’d check to see if Santa enjoyed his treat.
We’d normally find a collection of crumbs on the plate and a hand written note from Santa where he’d thank us for the shortbread, “his favourite.”
A note from my grandma: “We had these as a staple cookie when we were growing up, as Great Grandma Madle made great homemade butter and the flavour of the shortbread was excellent. Fit for a queen.”
Great Grandma’s shortbread
1 pound of butter (no substitutes, sorry vegans)
1 cup of icing sugar
1 cup of corn starch
3 cups of flour (a tich more may be needed my grandma says)
Preheat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
Mix well and believe me it takes a bit of muscle.
Have the butter at room temperature, it mixes better.
My grandma prefers to roll hers out to about a 1/4 inch thick but says if she’s making them for my dad she pats the dow into a buttered cookie sheet and bakes them until they are a light golden colour.
“They pack better that way,” she says about the way she bakes them for my dad, but she prefers to cut hers with cookie cutters.