Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Breakfast Cereal

I have a handful of extremely vivid memories from my early childhood. I still remember Christmas morning when I was three years old. It was still dark outside when we got up. The only lights in the living room emanated from the Christmas tree. I walked closer to the tree through what appeared to be aisle ways of massive wrapped boxes. It doesn't take very big or very many boxes to look that way to a three-year-old.

I got a Wonder Horse for Christmas that year.
I am told that all I did on Christmas day was to cycle through eating treats and bouncing on the horse. Apparently this cycle continued until I managed to make myself sick by evening. I finally threw up and then went to bed queasy.

Mom still claims that I never rode that horse again, but she's wrong. The horse was relegated to the basement. My brothers and I actually did ride that horse quite a bit down there. But we also drew on it with markers and poked darts from the dart board into its vinyl rump. It stayed in the basement until my younger brother was too big to ride it.

Although I don't clearly remember getting sick that Christmas, I think that one of my family's current traditions may have stemmed from my subconscious memory of that event coupled with my deep memory of another Christmas morning.

When I was a kid the family practice was to get up early on Christmas morning (not one second before 6:00 am by parental decree) and open gifts. Of course, there was always an abundance of treats available, including the treats in our boots. We didn't have Christmas stockings. Mom had made us each a Christmas boot that fit a #10 can, which could hold far more goodies than your average stocking.

With all of the gift opening, playing, and eating of treats, we never got around to breakfast until 10 am or later. By then we'd have filled our tummies with delectables that were intended to be eaten only in small amounts, so we weren't hungry. Eventually the consequential effects of indigestion would set in.

Then one Christmas morning the doorbell rang just as we were beginning to open our gifts. Mind you, this was about 6:15 am. On the doorstep were the Rasmussens, a cheery empty nester couple that lived around the corner. They refused our invitation to come in, but they presented us with a plate of hot scones along with a container of honey butter. Then they were on their way.

The scones were delicious. We ate them and then continued with our Christmas morning activities. We later learned that when the Rasmussens realized that none of their children or grandchildren were going to be close enough to visit that year, they wanted to find a fun way to celebrate Christmas morning.

They decided to go to bed extra early and then get up extra early to prepare scones. They made a large batch of scone dough and got hot grease ready. Then the moment they saw a neighbor's lights come on they would prepare enough fresh scones for that family, quickly deliver them, and then return to their work. It was hard work, but it made Christmas morning fun for them and for many others.

Mom later noticed that we didn't delve into the candy and treats much that morning, so there was less indigestion (and gas) among the family members. Ruminating upon this as I became a young adult, I vowed that when I had my own family I would make everyone eat breakfast before opening gifts. When my wife and I began to have children, she agreed with me on this. The question, however, was how to get excited young children to focus on eating breakfast when a trove of Christmas presents beckoned from the next room.

Together we eventually formulated a plan. We would allow each child to select a box of their favorite breakfast cereal for Christmas morning. The whole box would be theirs until it was exhausted. We even wrote the child's name on the box with marker to prevent others from inadvertently eating from it.

This has worked wonderfully. Our kids usually only get breakfast cereal from the biggest bags of cereal that they sell at the local markets. Boxed cereal is more pricey and has certainly always been a novelty in our home. The funny thing about this is that even our young adult children still look forward to this family tradition each Christmas. They get the cereal they want, everyone has breakfast before digging into gifts and treats, and everyone is much happier.

At least, it works to a certain extent. A couple of years ago our oldest son requested Berry Berry Kix, a cereal he relished from his childhood. We soon found why we hadn't seen it for a while. None of the stores in town carried it any longer. It was available online, but only in quantities of four boxes. It was too close to Christmas to get the cereal without paying exorbitant shipping, so he opted for something else.

Then last Christmas we got our son four boxes of Berry Berry Kix. He quickly realized on Christmas morning that either the recipe had changed, his palate had changed, the cereal tasted a lot better in his memory than it did in real life, or some combination of these factors. Sometimes foods we haven't eaten for years don't live up to our memories because many elements besides the actual taste are involved, and some of those things can't be recreated. It took months before all four boxes of the cereal were gone.

I have tried making scones on Christmas. But no matter how many recipes I read or how many videos I watch on the subject, I just can't seem to make my scones turn out very well. Besides, there is no way to recapture the magic of the moment that the Rasmussens delivered hot scones to our door that Christmas morning long ago. Still, I suppose that if I do something to bring joy to someone's Christmas celebration, it might help spark their own Christmas traditions long after I'm gone.

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