Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Advent Calendar: December 2

(This is post 2 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 2 - Holiday Foods
Did your family or ancestors serve traditional dishes for the holidays? Was there one dish that was unusual?

It's traditional in my family to have turkey for Christmas dinner. Growing up, my mom always roasted it inside a brown paper bag (20 minutes per pound as I recall at a fairly low temperature), but I'm not sure how my brother Mark and sister-in-law Debbie cook it now (they've been the hosts the past few years). We always had rice dressing with it which my brother Brian now makes at family gatherings. Debbie makes a mean pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin, and Mom's pecan pie is absolutely the best (tons of pecans in it). My favorites were and are the vegetables. My maternal grandmother (Sara Wolfe Guokas Archibald, aka Nani) could always make them taste so good. For example, she'd melt Velveeta into creamed corn; add chopped celery, onion, and red bell pepper; top with bread crumbs and parsley flakes, dot with butter and bake. MMMMM.

The one possibly unusual dish we have (at every family gathering) is something I call "Sister Jean Marie Salad," for my maternal aunt (Jo Ann Guokas) who I think originated the recipe. Here (to the right) she is holding me in September 1957 in Houston, Texas (I am five months old):

Here's the recipe - Mix together:
3 regular size cans of fruit cocktail, drained
12 oz. carton of Cool Whip
3 oz. package of Jello crystals, any flavor*
48 oz. of small curd cottage cheese

*It's typical in my family to use a red jello like cherry or strawberry, hence the salad turns out pink. The more common name for this salad, in my family, is "the pink stuff" and my sister Karen typically makes it for family gatherings.

For me at least, it's also become a tradition at Christmastime to make a German coffee cake recipe (a Streuselkuchen) that was taught to me by my paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Massmann Pape, back in the 70s. She learned it from her mother or grandmother, I can't remember which. Here's a picture of my paternal grandparents on their wedding day, September 3, 1924. Standing are my great-grandfather John Pape, grandfather Paul Pape, great-grandfather Frederick Massmann, and great-great grandfather Carl Massmann. Seated are my great-grandmother Elizabeth Dienes Massmann and my grandmother Elizabeth:

The recipe calls for fresh cakes of yeast (not the dry "activated" stuff) and the dough rises three times. The streusel is a mixture of brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour, and real butter, with either some grated orange and lemon rind or some cinnamon. It takes all day but generally makes 6-8 coffee cakes depending on the weather (sunny dry days produce more coffee cake). My dad gets a couple for part of his Christmas present, and most of the rest go to the family gathering in Austin for snacking on Christmas Day and the day after.

© Amanda Pape - 2009


  1. My mother-in-law makes this salad with pistachio pudding, pineapple, cool whip and marshmallows and stuff that everybody calls "the green goop",lol.

  2. That's so funny, Earline!! I'll have more to say about recipes when we get to the Christmas cookies post!