Monday, December 7, 2020

Around the Kitchen Table: Your Most Memorable Holiday Dinner + #Giveaway


MAYA CORRIGAN: Which is your most memorable holiday celebration? Christmas Eve dinner in 2016 stands out for me because it collided with my research for the 5th Five-Ingredient Mystery, S’More Murders. My sleuth Val is hired to cater a Titanic memorial dinner aboard a yacht while the guests assume the roles of Titanic passengers in a whodunit mystery game. I couldn’t write that scene without doing what Val does. I downloaded a Titanic mystery dinner party game. Then I coaxed family members into assuming roles as Titanic guests, eating their last meal and solving a murder that took place on the ship. 

Molly Brown and the Titanic captain are on the right
My relatives arrived dressed to kill 1912 style. We had wine with Titanic labels and clues to peruse, including a telegram, a birth certificate, and a medical examiner’s report. 


After dessert we each accused the person we believed had committed the murder. And none of us figured it out! We all had fun, though, and I had the experience I needed to write the dinner scene in S’more Murders. The murder game played by my characters is nothing like the game I downloaded. The victim, suspects, and crime are different, and the game in S'more Murders is designed for nefarious purposes rather than fun. If you'd like a fun version of the Titanic murder game, you can download it at Printable Mystery Games. Read about S'more Murders and the last dinner on the Titanic.

Leave a comment to enter a raffle for 7 cozy mystery books!

Accusations fly across the table




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LUCY BURDETTE: I have to go with a New Year's eve celebration too, about five years ago. Our kids came to Key West to celebrate (a special treat). Our son-in-law Jeff's birthday is New Year's eve so I made a special dinner with all his favorite things including his mother's recipe for stuffed shrimp and a giant carrot cake. Here's the recipe--delicious even though I'd never choose carrot cake myself! Then we all went out to watch the madness on Duval Street...


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MADDIE DAY: I got divorced in the fall of 2002. The first Christmas, I wanted to make new traditions with my young-teen sons. We all love sushi, and I had learned to make it when I lived in Japan in my twenties. My boys were going to be with their father on Christmas Day, so the three of us made Christmas Eve sushi, a tradition we've kept nearly every year since.


I brought that round wooden dish home from Japan, as well as a nori-maki rolling mat. I'm not sure I'll have the heart to make it this year, but fingers crossed for a safe family Christmas in 2021, along with more festive sushi. 

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LESLIE B: Oh, I love these stories! This truly is the time of year for memories, especially as we get older and the memories pile up! The little Irish nun who taught high school French class decided we would make a French dinner, and I was assigned the buche de Noel, or Christmas log, a long, rolled-up cake filled with raspberry jam and covered with chocolate frosting. My mother helped me---she wasn't a good cook, but boy, could she bake---and it was such a hit that we made another for our own Christmas dinner. My father hadn't seen the school version and was totally surprised. He hadn't had or even seen one since the Christmas of 1944 when he was stuck in a small Swiss village, one of the Swiss internees---the troops whose planes had been forced to land in Switzerland, his because of engine damage during a raid; to retain its neutrality, Switzerland had to keep all soldiers who landed there, Allies on one side of the country, Axis on the other, separated by nationality and by officers/enlisted men. He cried at the sight. When Don and I were in France last January, we saw elaborate buches de Noel in bakery windows, many with little trees and mushrooms made of frosting, surrounded by forest animals. I thought of my father, long gone, and I cried. 

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DARYL: Maya, your mystery dinner sounds amazing. What fun.  Nearly every holiday has been good for me. I love when family gathers. We had a full house a few years ago. The smiles were constant and food plentiful.  I serve the same thing every year. It's now expected, so that tradition won't change, although I do switch up the desserts! The number of people will change from year to year, I fear, as we go through this particular year and then going forward when the little ones grow up and go off to college, etc. We have to be ready for change, I think.  I will admit that a cranberry cheesecake dessert was one of the favorites over the years as was the gluten-free yule log I made. 
 


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VICKI DELANY: Two years ago my mother and I went to Mozambique to have Christmas with my daughter, newly arrived to live there for four years.  I lived in South Africa for a long time, so I know hot Christmases, but that was a long time ago. It was fun to see our holiday traditions - Santa Claus, a decorated tree - implanted in such a different sort of place. But never fear, we went to a pot luck dinner, and my daughter made a turkey and I made an apple pie.  This picture is of my mom and me out for drinks on Christmas Eve. And a picture of the Christmas tree. 


 

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LESLIE KARST: Our family’s traditional Christmas dinner has long been roast beef (or “roast beast,” as we call it), Yorkshire pud, and green beans, with pumpkin and mince pies for dessert. And we always include British Christmas crackers, which come with a small toy, a “motto” (i.e., riddle or joke—which we act out as a game of charades), and a festive paper crown. But one time some years back, Robin and I were lucky enough to celebrate Christmas with my parents and sister in Hawai‘i, where Robin and I live half time. Good fun!
 

 Robin, Mom, and Laura
 
For this special occasion, I decided to try my hand at making a “real” mince pie—i.e., with actual minced beef and suet, as well as fruit. It was the most delicious pie I’ve ever had (though very rich). And that "Christmas in Paradise" we celebrated together lives on as one of my very favorite memories.



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My husband and I celebrated New Year's Eve in Melbourne, Australia on a converted tram car. We had dinner in our own little cubby and then were invited to join a large party of Australians to ring in the New Year. Truly a one of a kind experience!


 
PEG: So many interesting stories here! All holidays are memorable so it's hard to choose.  I'd have to say that it might be the Christmas my late husband and I spent in England. He was there on business so I joined him.  We spent some time in London having afternoon tea, seeing Cats, which was new then and visiting Harrods and enjoying the decorations at Marks & Spencer.  I found a bookstore and snapped up a bunch of books by Nancy Mitford and Patricia Wentworth.  We then headed into the countryside via train to a manor house that had been turned into a hotel. It was exquisite and the food was fantastic. Christmas Eve all the guests were taken to a small, stone church in the village for the midnight service.  When we arrived back at the manor house, we were served a small bowl of hot soup and the British version of grilled cheese.  Christmas morning they brought a real English "fry up" to our room. By the time we finished the eggs, sausage, tomato, mushrooms etc. we thought we'd never be hungry again. But then it was time for Christmas dinner, another memorable meal shared with new friends, made jolly by Christmas crackers and paper crowns!


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What fantastic Christmas memories you all have!  Are we the only people where things go pear-shaped? Christmas Eve is the big shindig in our family, but we always have a smaller dinner on Christmas Day.  Many of our memorable Christmas stories involve nearly-averted disasters such as the time when, in addition to the usual suspects, we had four Brazilian visitors and my ninetysomething mother-in-law arrive at the same time. In the confusion of arrivals and multiple languages our adventurous little dachshund, Lily, escaped without anyone noticing  and trotted purposefully down the road in the cold Ontario winter late afternoon wearing her velvet and taffeta Christmas dress.  She was spotted by a passing librarian (you can't make this stuff up!) who found our phone number on the tag and saved the day.  Dinner resumed with the breakout artist back in her bed, cuddled up with her sister awaiting extra treats.  Lily is nearly fifteen now and none the worse for her many adventures, but I may have lost a few years off my life.   Merry and safe Christmas, friends!






CLEO COYLE:  Because our beloved parents and grandparents are gone now, both Marc and I are sentimental about our most memorable holiday meals. Both took place during our childhoods. Mine was a Thanksgiving feast with my big Italian-American family, where homemade Italian foods (from wedding soup and gnocchi to pizzelle and biscotti) were served right along with traditional American Turkey and pumpkin pie. Marc’s most memorable meal took place one Christmas eve, when his family served him the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes. “As the oldest grandson,” Marc told me, “I sat at the adult’s table for the first time, beside my cousin Loretta. We listened to their conversation—some of it in Italian—and shared a wee bit of wine and a drop of after-dinner anisette.” 

As for the menu, Marc’s grandmother was a poor orphan from Naples, but (as he put it) “she could have been a master chef.” The seven seafood dishes she served that night were: (1) shrimp cocktails with white garlic sauce, (2) savory fritters with anchovies; (3) smelts; (4) baccàla (dried and salted cod) in red sauce; (5) calamari, coated with seasoned flour and fried “to perfection.” (Marc remembered the tentacles resembling “dried flower blossoms” though his cousin Loretta was “thoroughly grossed out by them!”) The main course included (6) a whole fresh cod, stuffed with crabmeat, and finally (7) fried shrimp coated with a breading that included Italian herbs and parmesan cheese. Marc and I still make and enjoy that wonderful “Italian-fried shrimp.” We love it so much we shared our recipe and tips with our readers via one of our most popular Coffeehouse Mystery characters. (Click here or on the picture below for a free PDF of our recipe.) As for the desserts, Marc remembered some amazing treats being served, but he failed to eat them. “Why?” I asked. “Because after that seven fish dinner, I was stuffed to the gills.” (Hey, no groaning. Puns are our business, too.) May your own holidays be delicious!

Click here for a free PDF
of Cleo's recipe.




GIVEAWAY

Now it's your turn!
Do you have a holiday meal memory to share?
Join our chat and leave a comment by December 9th
to win these seven terrific books, US only.

Include your e-mail address
so we can contact you if you win.



As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles by Leslie Budewitz

Candy Slain Murder by Maddie Day

Deadly Feast by Lucy Burdette

Mistletoe, Moussaka & Murder by Tina Kashian 

Not a Creature was Purring by Krista Davis

Wreath between the Lines by Daryl Wood Gerber

Gingerdead Man by Maya Corrigan


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121 comments:

  1. To me, the holiday meal tradition that jumps out is the fact that we had our big celebration meal on New Year's Eve. For years, Mom missed out of everything like parades on TV, visiting with neighbor's that dropped by so kids would talk about what Santa brought and to make a trip around the table of holiday treats that Mom always spread out, because she was in the kitchen cooking from scratch and fixing that big holiday meal she thought we all expected.

    One year, Dad suggested that we have that big meal on his birthday - New Year's Eve, so that Mom could enjoy Christmas Day with the rest of us. Best suggestion EVER!

    Starting the next year, Christmas Day was about fun for everyone. The meal was usually sandwiches with every kind of lunchmeat and trimmings you can think of, many homemade dips that were made ahead of time with a wide assortment of chips. Dessert was often banana splits and trips around the goodie table.

    Then a week later, Mom would hit the kitchen early to prepare the big holiday meal where she fixed enough to feed an army and we ate until we thought our bellies would burst.

    Just goes to show that sometimes change or something different for the holidays doesn't mean it's a bad thing. That's how I am approaching this holiday season. Most definitely it will be different, but maybe some good can be found IF we are only open to it.

    Thank you for the fabulous opportunity to win an awesome prize! Shared and hoping to be the extremely fortunate one selected.

    Be safe, stay healthy and have a little adventure along the way - even if through the pages of a good book.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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    1. Kay, a great suggestion when you think about it! To celebrate the day and have the meal another time. Love it. Your dad was brilliant. ~ Daryl

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  2. I remember the large family gatherings to celebrate the holidays. The food was always fabulous. One year when all the cousins were young, Santa came to visit us at our get together. All the cousins ran to hide!

    Nancy
    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

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    1. So cute! My son hid when he saw a clown on Easter. LOL ~ Daryl

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  3. I remember as a kid one Christmas it had snowed a lot and my Dad had to dig out to go pick up my Uncle Bill and my grandmother, which he also had to shovel to get them to the car. We were all waiting very impatiently as we couldn't open our presents until they got there. Dinner was always a huge turkey with all the fixings and lots of different pies for later because no one had room for dessert. I remember we always left carrots for Santa's reindeer and we had to dig in the snow to make sure that they were gone. Santa always got whiskey and cookies. Dad said Santa needed a shot of whiskey to warm up especially in MA. LOL Thank you so much for a chance in this generous giveaway. pgenest57 at aol dot com Paula

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    1. Ha! Your Dad truly understood Santa. LOL ~ Daryl

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    2. Love the whiskey! I'll bet it was gone when you woke up in the morning? I'm willing to guess your dad was the one who drank it!

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  4. This has to be one of my favorite posts ever! I love your special meals. My mother is British so we had the crackers! And my dad was Italian and he told me about those big Queens spaghetti, ravioli--and a turkey. We thought he was exaggerating.

    One of my memorable meals is Christmas morning. My mother would make croissants from scratch, like ones we ate in France. I should buy an extra pound of butter and give them a try.

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    1. My post left out a word: Queens dinners.

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    2. Elizabeth, to be able to make croissants? What a gift! :) ! Daryl

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    3. Yes, Christmas crackers are fab! And you can never go wrong with buying an extra pound of butter...

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  5. A festive meal which I will always remember for the warmth, family, food and fun took place when we were younger and the kids fondly talk about it to their own children now. We had such a wonderful day filled with story telling, gifts, and most of all homemade and delectable dishes. Lighting the menorah, eating latkes, applesauce, salads, apple cake, and opening gifts gave everyone the love we hold onto for many years.

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    1. Traveler, what a lovely memory. To fill a day with storytelling is such a gift and blessing. ~ Daryl

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  6. My most memorable Christmas was the year my sister, Mary, and I took my mother to Paris. For her 90th birthday she said that’s where she wanted to go. We arrived on Christmas Day and stayed a week. She went up the Eiffel Tower, did a river cruise on the Seine, visited the Louvre and Musee Dorsey. We also took her to tour Versailles. She loved it and talked about it often. She passed away at age 98 a few years back. I’m so glad we were able to do that for her.

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    1. Thank you for sharing that holiday with us. As my parents got older, they often talked of places they traveled. That's what stuck out as special in their memories, not the day-to-day routine.

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    2. What a fabulous Christmas memory, Patricia! I've always wanted to see Paris at Christmas time.

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  7. As a kid, my favorite memories revolve around making cookies with Mom, Dad taking us to look at lights, putting my favorite ornament on the tree, leaving cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer, and getting that special present you really wanted.

    As an adult, my Christmas memories are all of work. Though a nursing home obviously can't shut down for the day, my supervisor somehow decided that I would work every major and minor holiday every year. However, I got a new supervisor the beginning of the year- one who believes in rotating holidays so they're split up evenly. I work New Year's, and am having my first Thanksgiving and Christmas off in 15 years. It's been nice to get to celebrate with the family and make some new memories after all this time.

    kozo8989(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Alicia, This year the holidays will be really special for you--in a good way. Enjoy them and thanks for sharing your story.

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  8. Mine would be NYE 2019 (little did we know...)
    My husband and I hosted a 1920's themed murder mystery dinner party. All the guests dressed up in gangster/flapper style and we served a four course meal with lots of drinks, clues and laughter.
    Wish I could show some photos because we went all out on the decorations and the guests went all out on their outfits. :)

    kimheniadis at gmail dot com

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Kim. I'm glad to know that someone else celebrated with a murder mystery dinner party!

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  9. Chanukah was the celebration. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. I figured as much, with latkes and applesauce! It sounds lovely.

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    2. Years ago my daughter was invited to her friend's house for the first night of Chanukah. They had latkes and she got to light a candle. Ever since, although we celebrate Christmas, I have made latkes one night during Chanukah. Happy Chanukah to you!

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  10. Thank you everyone for sharing your memories. I find that memories are the best part of having family. And being able to make more memories. One of my most memorable one as a kid was: We lived on a ranch in CA and every Thanksgiving we had turkey and all the sides. But this one year a special family friend who lived close by invited us to their house for Thanksgiving. We had mexican food. OHHHHH my goodness. We had a blast trying the different real mexican foods. Del Taco and later Taco Bell do not compare in the least. From that time forward Mrs Garlic taught mom how to make real mexican food that we would all eat all the time. After that every holiday mom made at least two mexican dishes to go with the traditional. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

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    1. Lucky you, Lori! I'm also a Californian, and one of my comfort foods is still hot steamed tamales.

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  11. What great memories! MJ, I love the visual of Lily trotting down the road in her Christmas dress. So glad that had a happy ending! And Cleo, my cousin (second cousin I think) always did the feast of the seven fishes and my parents were always invited. The year my father died, I was invited as the oldest on that side of the family (and also to chauffeur my mother!)

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  12. Family and cooking together is what makes memories!

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  13. Mine had to be 2018's Christmas in Singapore visiting my son and daughter-in-law. Shopping is Singapore's national sport, and Christmas shopping is like their Super Bowl or World Cup. Plus, Singapore has never met a sound and light show it didn't love (they literally have one EVERY night), and the Christmas extravaganza (to the soundtrack of such classics as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer)came complete with snow! (Not really, some kind of foam shot out of cannons, but still...) Loved every minute of it!

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    1. Wow, that sounds amazing, Amy! (Adds to bucket list...)

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  14. Probably the nicest Christmases I’ve ever had was at my best friend’s parents’ house. I used to go there ever Christmas Day for dinner- they had been a 2nd family to me since I was in the 4th grade. We had an apricot and prune stuffed pork loin (delicious!) with a bunch of sides and mocha cupcakes with mocha frosting for dessert. After the dishes were done, we sat around the tree in the living room and opened presents then had hot chocolate and watched movies. My family holidays often were contentious so these holiday dinners were so soothing and lovely.

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