Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Taste of Christmas

Hard to believe, but I have been in the States for three solid weeks now. Being back in the U.S. is always a bit of a phenomenon after spending so much time abroad, and I've loved rediscovering all the little nuances that remind me how accustomed to Guam we have become. One thing I forgot is how difficult it is to do my normal Guam things once back in the States. And that, my friend, includes blogging. So now I'm playing catch-up from two and a half weeks ago, but there are some stories that are too special to skip.

After the fantastic Orlando wedding, I took a train (yes, they have passenger trains in America! who knew?) to West Palm Beach, where my fabulous cousin Erika picked me up for that blessed first dinner at Panera and shopping trip to Target, a Guammie dream date if I've ever heard of one.

Erika then dropped me off in Boynton Beach where my great Aunt Ethel and Uncle Mac live. This is a visit I have had tucked in the back of my mind for years and somehow the timing and location came together to make this one feasible. A few months back when I figured all of this out, I called Aunt Ethel and asked if she would teach me how to make her famous Christmas cookies that she sends to each family member every year. They are a family recipe, commonly referred to as Hungarian Nut Rolls, though the name does not do justice to the made-from-scratch, hundred-year-old-recipe deliciousness. They are most certainly NOT Paleo but have been grandfathered in to the holiday menu.

Fair warning before I go any further. While this is, in fact, the first part of the recipe for this delish cookie, I am in no way providing all necessary instructions or ingredients to make these. Part of the reason you have to learn to make them in person is because these cookies require quite an involved process. And in fact, Aunt Ethel did a huge amount of prep work before I jumped in (maybe while I was sleeping until 11a.m. like a teenager that first jet-lagged week), so I don't even know the full extent of every step's details. But I'm going to write down what I learned in the hopes that I can keep the tradition of making these family cookies down the road.

Step one: Add half a pound of lard to four cups of flour. 
(Believe it or not, lard is Paleo approved as a worthwhile fat).
Mix all the ingredients together with your hands until a smooth dough forms.
Leave dough in refrigerator overnight so the yeast rises.
The next day... it's sugar time! 
Roll out the dough and cut it into squares. 
Roll each square in a pile of sugar. 
Place a lump of ground almond mixture or 
apricot mixture in dough corner and roll into a crescent.
(Side note: Aunt Ethel gets her apricot preserves 
from Pennsylvania because Florida's just aren't as good!)
Brush crescents with egg whites. 
Bake on bottom rack for 7 minutes and top rack for 7 minutes. 
Remove from pan immediately to cool.

At this point I had figured out why these cookies are such a big deal... they are quite tedious to make, require multiple days of preparation and baking, plus the recipe makes a batch of about 120! There's no quick dozen here; it's all or nothing. But we stuck with the plan and finished the whole stock of them, about 5 trays' worth in the oven. Good thing since I know several family members who were still waiting on their cookie shipment!

Crispy and sweet... yum! Tastes like Christmas!

The other part of this visit I was really looking forward to was getting to hear stories from my Uncle Mac, who was stationed on Guam with the Army for about a year in 1945-46, just after the island was liberated from the Japanese. For the last year and a half, I have gotten wonderful letters and emails from Aunt Ethel saying how much Mac enjoyed reading about and seeing pictures of the island. Talking to him in person, I came to understand what his role was in helping to redevelop the island. His team, the 3164th Signal Service, was in charge of setting up radio communication between Guam and the rest of the world, a key development in getting Guam back on track after the war. I gave him a history book of photographs taken from that era, and while there weren't any of his specific unit, it was still pretty amazing to hear him talk about Hagatna and Piti and Nimitz Hill by name, the same places I spend quite a bit of time in now some 65 years later. I had to smile as Aunt Ethel commented that she had never heard many of the Guam stories he told. Sooo grateful for a visit like this to connect across generations over our tiny little dot on the other side of the world, and even the other side of history.

One last awesome memory from my Florida visit was a result of this tree in their backyard... that's right, fresh squeezed Florida orange juice every morning for breakfast. There is nothing quite like it in all the world.

1 comment:

  1. I was looking at a recipe for cookies similar to these last week, they look amazing!! Glad you enjoyed your trip!


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