Fooled you. You figured I was going to talk about food additives, right? Scary substances, processed ingredients, stuff that goes into our food supply and gets fed to our kids and shouldn’t, really, because we don’t actually know what it does to people in the long term. You thought you were tuning in for a rant today, didn’t you?
Sorry to disillusion you, but in fact, that’s not the case at all. If you’re really disappointed, however, I’ll throw you just a very small bone. I couldn’t resist Googling some of the ingredients from the Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkin recipe astute reader Liz left on the comments board the other day, and while many of those highly complex-sounding ingredients turned out to be (at least on the surface) relatively benign, there were a few interesting ones. For example, the sodium acid pyrophosphate listed as a leavening agent, while common in industrial baked goods, is also commonly used to clean iron stains from leather and as a chemical dispersant for oil spills. Also, the L-Cysteine Hydrochloride? It’s a synthetically produced amino acid (though why it’s necessary in Munchkins, one can only guess…); most L-Cysteine these days is completely artificial, but Dunkin’ Donuts uses a form that is partially extracted from duck feathers. Mmmm. Now that’s good eating.
But I digress. On to my original topic, which actually had nothing to do with any of this (but I couldn’t restrain myself. Really). Today, I return to equilibrium, freedom from drama, suppression of activist leanings…today, I provide you simply with a holiday recipe.
No, no, your delight is thanks enough.
This particular holiday recipe, however, will be (for most of you) unpronounceable. And it really should come with a warning label, at least for parents of very small children. While I have vowed not to address any matters even remotely related to potty training or the like on this blog (nothing quite says “Food blog!” like potty anecdotes), today I must skirt quite close to the issue. It wouldn’t be responsible of me to refrain from pointing out to those whose children are still in diapers that last year, I had to actually severely limit feeding this to P., because I simply couldn’t change him as many times a day as was required when I let him eat it at will. I’ve since provided the recipe to other parents whose little ones are struggling with being…as my grandparents would say…”bound up,” and it has always produced nearly immediate results. So on the bright side of things, I pose the question: how many holiday recipes do you have that are not only delicious, but also relatively healthy AND boasting of (questionable) medicinal properties?
The magical stuff, which I make each November in preparation for the holiday season, is my great-grandmother’s Fruktsoppa recipe. (For those who didn’t grow up thinking that pickled herring and hardtack were perfectly normal Christmas food items, I offer the translation: Fruit Soup.) Fruktsoppa is a traditional Swedish dessert, often found on a smorgasbord; however, because it’s not strictly “dessert” in the American sense and is, after all, comprised mainly of fruit, my family has played fast and loose with the dish and serves it for breakfast and snacks more often than not.
I made a batch this past weekend, and was instantly reminded of why food is such a powerfully evocative piece of our sense memories. As I stood at the counter sieving raspberries on Sunday morning, P. toddled, sleepy and pajamaed, into the kitchen. Observing me, he lifted his arms and demanded, “Up up.” I settled him on the countertop so he could see what I was doing; immediately, he plunged a chubby fist into the berry mash remaining in the bottom of the sieve and helped himself. I had to smile. My grandfather, who passed away just before P.’s birth, used to wait around in the kitchen to eat the raspberry mash each time my grandmother made Fruktsoppa; he said it was just too good to let it go to waste. Apparently P. shares his great-grampa’s predilection for strained berries (though I highly doubt my grandmother ever had to chase Grampa around the house to wipe them from his hands and face). As I stirred the juice I’d extracted into a pot of stewed fruit, the smell of cinnamon and the jewel tones of the raspberry, the apricot, the golden raisins all transported me straight into the holidays.
We ate some for brunch that morning with two good friends, neither of whom had ever encountered it, and both of whom asked for the recipe. (Nice to be able to blithely respond with “Oh, how about I put it on the blog?”) This morning, P. and I both had a dish with our breakfast. I’d originally thought about freezing the rest for Christmas, but it’s calling to me from the refrigerator. Maybe I’ll have to throw together just one or two more batches between now and the Christmas Eve smorgasbord. Fruktsoppa, however odd and unpronounceable, is just one of those recipes that says winter, home, and family to me; something of which I will continue to remind myself, as I find the traces of raspberry mash left throughout the house by my very cute, and very fast, toddler. Fa la la la la.