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Our family favorites

  • Kathy Dudgeon supervises handiwork of her grandchildren, Rita Garza, 4, right, Julia Garza, 7, and Cameron Loughry, 8, as her daughter Ann Loughry, left, keeps an eye on her son Justin Loughry, 1, at Kathy Dudgeon's home in Santa Rosa, Calif., on December 12, 2013. Making fruitcake is a family tradition Kathy Dudgeon keeps up with her grandchildren. The cake pan Kathy uses has been in her family for about 70 years, owned previously by her mother, who brought it with her as she emigrated from England to Canada to the United States. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

During the holidays, we turn to the worn, stained pages of our grandmothers' cookbooks in order to honor our roots.

These dishes also remind us of when we were children ourselves and the wonder of Christmas shone as brightly as the star at the top of the tree.

This Christmas, we have gathered culinary stories from our readers and woven them together into a tasty tapestry of holidays past.

"My parents met in England during WWII and moved to Canada, where my sister and I were born. So our family Christmas traditions were English, including fruitcake and the crackers and paper hats at the dinner table on Christmas. My mom used to make a fruitcake (or Christmas cake, as she called it) until we moved to California in 1966. She would cover the top with a thick layer of marzipan, then hard white icing. On top would go an ornamental snow scene, like little birds and berries and holly leaves.

"About two years before my mom died, I spent an afternoon in the kitchen with her making all her signature Christmas treats. I was most interested in the fruitcake. She showed me how to line the pan for the fruit cake with a cut-up grocery bag, held in place with clothes pins, and then line it again with all the butter wrappers she had saved through the year.

"It's been many years that my mom has been gone, but I think she would love that this year, her great grandchildren helped me make the Christmas cake. The old table is just the right size for them to stand and chop the fruit and stir and blend. They can cut the grocery bag and clothes-pin it into place. We listen to hip-hop, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga and admire each others' dance moves as we bake and talk and sing.

"This all happens around this ugly, bent, fruitcake pan. ... And I love it! I'll never let anything happen to it." <em>— Kathy Dudgeon of Santa Rosa</em>

"My mom's ceramic pie plate is a creamy yellow with a raised pattern on the side. She grew up in Sacramento, and it was her mom's. That was what birthday cheesecake, pumpkin pie and mincemeat pie was made in. When I see it, I wish that mom was here and that she was making something in it. I think about making mincemeat pie, but I don't know anybody who would eat it. It's very cloying, very sweet, and it's got a very rich, deep flavor." <em>— Susan Dunphy Mall of Windsor</em>

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