memories of eggnog, and creating joy

Every year at Christmas, perhaps on the night we decorated our Christmas tree, but definitely on the evening of Christmas Eve, my father  treated us with cups of eggnog. At some point in the evening, after dinner, Dad would head into the kitchen to prepare the drink.

The eggnog was never homemade, always store bought, but he never served it straight out of the plastic jug. He made a point to doctor it up, making the drink special in a way that it wouldn’t have been otherwise. Looking back, I’m pretty sure he just sprinkled some nutmeg on top, but maybe there was more to it than that. You just never knew with my dad.

That first sip of the sweet, milkshake-thick drink was always a surprise and a delight. It felt indulgent and excessive, and I loved my father for that. I felt special, being allowed to share in this obviously adult ritual. Dad drank his eggnog down quickly, not pausing to savor each mouthful as I did, then wiped his mouth with the back of one hand. I remember his satisfied smile then, eyes sparkling, as he looked around the room at me, my brother, and my mom. Any strife that existed in that cozy living room — any bickering or grudges held or slights felt — were gone, entirely, for those moments we savored the eggnog.

In the many years that have passed since those first sips of the holiday treat, my memories of the taste of eggnog are bound together tightly with feelings of peacefulness and joy.

This past week has been more stressful than usual. We hosted two parties last weekend, a holiday party for my work and a sleepover party for my daughter’s ninth birthday. The parties were wonderful, and I enjoyed every bit of them. The stress leading up to the events was expected and, at least for me, a normal part of the party-planning experience.

But then my father-in-law had emergency back surgery after a fall left him with a fractured vertebrae in his spine. His surgery happened one week ago today, the day of the first party, and he worsened over the next several days, ultimately winding up in the intensive care unit. The stress of this on my husband has been immeasurable, and to make things worse, there was some major family drama in the middle of the week that nearly tipped us both over the edge. Sam and I have hugged each other very tightly these last few days, and the strife and stress have only served to make us stronger, together.

One more day of work and then I’m off for the holidays with my children. I plan to change things up around here, lighten the mood and brighten our spirits. I’m thinking of baking cookies and cakes. We’ll be wrapping presents and planning Christmas dinner. There will be Christmas carol singing, very off-key singing probably, but we will sing nonetheless. I plan to start and end each day with hugs and with I-love-you‘s.

And I bought some eggnog. It’s time for some peacefulness and joy.

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21 Responses to “sweets for the sweet: grandmother’s potato candy”

  1. LiztheChef — December 6, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

    Are you aware that when someone is reading your post(s) that a band shoots across, saying “recommended for you”? It really turns me off. Your blog is so popular that I thought others might share the feeling, which is why I bring it to your attention. Meaning the best, Liz

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — December 6th, 2011 @ 8:46 pm

      Try it now, Liz.

  2. SMITH BITES — December 6, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

    such wonderful memories MJ – am thrilled you are now the keeper of the recipes!!

  3. Leigh — December 6, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

    What a beautiful, touching post. I totally want to make some now.

  4. Macaroni Mama — December 6, 2011 @ 9:27 pm

    A wonderful post! I never, ever . . . ever believed that my 88 year old mother would be MY Care-Giver!. Grandmother is so proud of you, Merry Jennifer

  5. katie — December 6, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

    I’ve never heard of potato candy, but I have to say I’m intrigued! Your grandmother’s recipe is bringing me back. My grandmother had very similar cursive and very similar stained, worn pieces of paper with recipes on them. But most of all I’m blown away seeing the word “Oleo”! I haven’t heard that term used in soooo long! Another memory of my grandmother 🙂
    Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  6. Brian @ A Thought For Food — December 6, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

    I love the hand written recipe and the connection to your grandmother… though, it does feel a little bitter sweet. You, your mother, and your grandmother have been so strong this past year! Sending you hugs!

  7. jenn s. — December 6, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

    I have my late Great Aunt Jewel’s recipe for cream cheese poundcake and it is absolutely priceless. One glance at that stained, crumpled paper with the slanted cursive and I am transported back in time to her kitchen where I would help her roll out biscuits (eating dough until my belly was swollen and achy!) and mix up cake batter. She always let me lick the bowl. I make her cake frequently and think of her everytime the sweet, buttery smell of poundcake fills my home. I miss her, but I feel her with me when I cook.

  8. Paula — December 7, 2011 @ 12:16 am

    The potato candy looks delicious but the content of this entire post is so beautifully written. You have a gift with words and spinning them together to tell a story that draws your readers into, carefully savouring every word, wanting more and feeling a little disappointed when the post comes to an end, even though we have been fulfilled, inspired and uplifted.

  9. Kathryn — December 7, 2011 @ 3:54 am

    This was such a wonderful post, you describe the relationship between your parents and grandmother with such love and tenderness.

  10. Janis — December 7, 2011 @ 7:15 am

    I love this post. My grandma was my best friend. I have some of her recipes and they mean everything to me.

  11. Lucy — December 7, 2011 @ 7:17 am

    The stains make it the most prized of treasures – tried and true! Love the story behind this and I’ve always wanted to try this candy recipe. Wishing you the blessings of the holidays with your family!

  12. Mary Constant — December 7, 2011 @ 11:23 am

    What a unique candy! “Eat, drink and be Merry” Someone gave me some cocktail napkins that have “Eat, Drink , and…who’s Mary”

  13. Nicole — December 7, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

    I have never heard of potato candy before! I’ll have to try this one soon. Something about using family recipes that are worn and splattered is one of my absolute favorite ways to create in the kitchen.

  14. Efthimia — December 8, 2011 @ 1:57 am

    The power of grandmothers, whether in a hug or on an old recipe card, is trully remarkable. I lost both mine a few years ago, and I still see them stapling the family together to this day, their legacy being their love.

    And their cooking skills as well. 🙂

    I’ve never heard of potato candy but it sounds delicious, not to mention easiest candy ever. I’m definetely trying this for the holidays. Thank you so much for sharing and I hope everything turns out well.

  15. That’s the best gift to receive. When my grandmother had to move out of her home I was the one who got all her old recipe books and handwritten notes and I am go grateful for that gift.

  16. Jessica @ How Sweet — December 8, 2011 @ 8:19 pm

    Absolutely beautiful, heart-warming story. I have my grandmother’s recipes and have always eyed the one for potato candy but been too scared to try. Love that you did this.

  17. Marla — December 10, 2011 @ 8:59 am

    Such a sweet story of true family bonding and support.
    I have never heard of potato candy, but it sounds wonderful!

  18. Michelle Kreifels — December 21, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

    Very sweet story. I inherited all of my grandmothers photo albums. I miss the days when you actually held a stack of photos in your hand. I am really looking forward to trying this recipe. I have never heard of potato candy!

  19. Denise @ Creative Kitchen — December 22, 2011 @ 12:54 am

    Loved this!! Felt like I got to know you a little better. I, too love the stained old recipes. Merry Christmas!

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