At this time of year, newspapers, magazines, and television tout food gifts. I wondered what I could give to my distant relatives. Because I wasn’t up to date on their children’s ages or interests, I couldn’t give them clothes or toys, so I decided to give three families food gifts.
What kind of food would it be? I used to make olive bread and bake it in a bundt pan to resemble a wreath. And it really looked like a wreath after I tied a bow on the bread. But I don’t have time to bake this year, and my gifts had to come from the grocery store. I decided to buy pancake mixes and flavored syrups. To make the gifts more personal, I added my mother’s pancake recipe.
In my mind I can still see my mother making pancakes in our cramped kitchen. When I was growing up pancake mixes didn’t exist and my mother made them from scratch. Her recipe came from The Victory Cook Book, Wartime Edition, “with victory substitutes and economical substitutes for delicious wartime meals.” It was the 1943 edition and I have the book.
I decided to add my mother’s pancake recipe to the food gifts and some World War II history. This is what I wrote.
One section of the cookbook tells home cooks how to render fat, which we collected in tin cans. I delivered the cans to the local butcher and he paid me for each one. The fat was used to make explosives. Everyone on our block saved fat and had a Victory Garden. The gardens helped feed us and united us in the war effort.
This information was followed by the pancake recipe. I’ve made the pancakes and they are good. Baking powder and beaten egg whites help the cakes rise. Fresh or frozen strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries are a nice touch. If you are short on gift ideas you may wish to give pancake mixes as I have.
You may give cupcake mixes, cake mixes, muffin and bread mixes. If Aunt Lucy baked bread for her family every week, type the story and include it with the food. You may also share a funny family story, such as an Uncle waking up at three in the morning to tell everyone the soup was done and asking them to come and eat it. This is a true story from my family and we still laugh about it.
You may not have a story and, if this is the case, include a kitchen tool with the mixes: a pancake turner, rubber scraper, baking pan, cake tester, cooling rack, or anything else that shows you thought about the gift. Another option is to include both old and new, a new baking mix, and an historic recipe from the past. Food and family go together and that’s why food is a welcome gift.
Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 36+ years and is the author of 33 books. Her latest releases include “Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life After Loss,” “Seed Time: Growing from Life’s Disappointments, Losses, and Sorrows,” and “Help! I’m Raising My Grandkids.”