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December 2010

The Story of Christmas Is A Culinary Journey Through Time

Christmas is my favourite time of year. It's a time to reconnect with loved ones..to take stock of the past and fill your mind with hopes and wishes for the year ahead.

Underneath all the consumerism and hectic scheduling is an undercurrent of magic and imagination that reminds me of simpler times. Times when our only true responsibility was to be a kid. We only had to believe, and it would come true. As we grew into adulthood, the magic and sense of wonder started to wear off to make way for life and its increasing array of responsibilities, triumphs and disappointments.

Yet Christmas is the one time of year that allows us to reconnect with this long lost sense of wonder and hope. As I bake yet another cookie recipe, my mind goes back to the time when my Mom and grandmother would pass me the spoon to lick the bowl. I would always show up at just the right time to indulge in sampling. To this day, I delight in raw cookie dough, only now I enjoy its flavour throughout the year in a tub of gourmet ice cream.

The baking experience is essential to the Christmas story. It reminds me of time shared as a family, of loved ones long gone - and those who are still around to carry on the tradition. It's a feeling of family and community that cannot be duplicated at any other time of the year. Even though family is to be found all over the world, the sights, sounds and smells of the Christmas season still live in my heart each year as I contemplate yet another sugary dish.

Wandering through the Christmas Market in Toronto's Distillery District last week immersed me in a sea of memories that allowed me to reconnect with long lost times. Being of German heritage, I grew up on stollen, Marzipan - and a variety of sumptuous German, Austrian and Swiss chocolates. My Omi's baking included the ever famous rum balls - almost always filled with more rum than chocolate.

One of my fondest Christmas memories was the arrival of my grandmother's Christmas parcel from Germany. It was a culinary delight filled with treasures from all over Europe. And in every package was a new addition to my beloved Steiff toys...a brand I take pride in to this day.

I could take just about everything used to symbolize Christmas and map out a story of my life. And that's the neat thing about stories. The best ones contain an emotional component that allows us to reconnect with experiences long lost within ourselves.

So here's to Christmas. And a wish for all my readers that 2011 gives you the chance to script the best story of your life. Thanks for reading!

Stollen