December 11, 2011 1:53:00 AM
As Christmas approaches, one of the most popular holiday topics is always food. On Friday morning I was talking with Sharon Falkner about the Sunday afternoon Christmas Tour of Homes in West Point. She was going to be baking cookies to serve at the Episcopal Church, which is the last stop on the tour. The conversation drifted around to memories of food and drink that we associated with Christmas.
I asked her if there was any particular foods that came to mind when she, Bert and the family celebrated Christmas. Sharon said that Bert's family in Oxford always had ribbon cake on Christmas Eve but that now she would bake a pound cake instead. I commented that I always associated cheese straws and milk punch with Christmas.
Later in the day I had to run errands in West Point and Columbus and decided to ask, friends that I encountered, what food and beverages they most associated with Christmas memories. For John Hardy, who grew up in the prairie, there were memories of Ambrosia being served. Brenda Lathan recalled her childhood in Shannon and Okolona. Rather than stockings, they had shoe boxes set out on Christmas Eve.
She would find hers filled with apples, oranges and pecans, with a big candy cane beside it.
Agnes Zaiontz grew up in Pickens County, Ala. and still thinks about her sister's homemade fruit cake. Ronnie Clayton always associates ham and dressing with Christmas Dinner. Carol Boggess, as a child in Paris, Tenn., would have prime rib at Christmas but now most enjoys the pralines that her husband, Joe, makes using his grandmother's recipe. Becky Brett was raised in the Delta and her Christmas memories are also of Ambrosia. Mike Tagert of Starkville described childhood memories of delicious chocolate-covered peanut butter balls rolled in sprinkles.
The only way to end a day when the subject was favorite foods was a visit to the Old Waverly home of Ron and Diann Powell. At Christmas they think of "merry mincemeat" cookies and eggnog. Diann had made a batch of eggnog, and I have to say it may have been the best I have ever tasted; it was the perfect way to end the day.
I found it interesting that in spending a day with people talking about foods associated with Christmas no one had any "visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads." To delve into what was served at Christmas long ago in Columbus, I pulled out an old Columbus cookbook. It had belonged to Sallie Billups, who lived at Snowdoun. The book was published in 1902 and written in the front was "Sallie P Billups November 12, 1903."
The cookbook provided a guide for a proper Christmas Day menu. The table should first be decorated with holly and mistletoe. Suggestions for breakfast were oranges, germia, broiled salt mackerel, chipped beef on toast, baked potatoes, griddle cakes, muffins and coffee.
Dinner could include oysters on half shell, cream chicken soup, boiled whitefish, sauce Maitre d' Hotel, roast goose, apple sauce, boiled potatoes, mashed turnips, sweet potatoes, Christmas plum pudding, lemon ice, squash pie, quince jelly, delicate cake, salted almonds, fruit, and coffee.
The suggestions for supper were cold roast goose, oyster patties, cold slaw, charlotte russe, popovers and currant jelly.
I think I like ham or turkey with dressing better.
Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at email@example.com.
1. Ask Rufus: A tale of two boxers in Columbus LOCAL COLUMNS
2. Roses and thorns: 1/25/15 ROSES & THORNS
3. Leonard Pitts: Why serious people discount Fox News NATIONAL COLUMNS
4. Voice of the people: Jeff Turnage LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
5. Slimantics: Ours is a blended family LOCAL COLUMNS