Food
2:26 pm
Tue December 25, 2012

The Bittersweet Tale Of An Odd Christmas Cookie Sandwich

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We've asked you to tell us what you eat on Christmas Day, regardless of whether you celebrate the holiday. And one thing we've learned from your emails, many of you do share common food traditions: puddings, cookies, eggnog. And some of you have your own little bit of quirk, like Sarah Schwab's(ph) family in Milwaukee. They have a special drink.

SARAH SCHWAB: It's called a Holiday Harvey.

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SCHWAB: It's based on the drink called the Harvey Wallbanger: orange juice with a shot of vodka on ice and then a splash of Galliano liqueur on top. And for the holiday version of it, we use Five Alive instead of orange juice.

SIEGEL: In case you're wondering, Five Alive is a blend of orange, lemon, grapefruit, tangerine and lime juices. And then there are the special glasses.

SCHWAB: These tall, lime-green frosted Blendo tumblers. When my dad carried that tray out, it glowed green like the northern lights, and we call them Holiday Harvey glasses. And to this day, that's the only thing we ever used them for.

SIEGEL: Sarah Schwab says her family had served Holiday Harveys since 1983. And drinking wine, once you were old enough, at one of those special glasses was a rite of passage. The problem now: more adults, too few tumblers. Not to worry, Sarah Schwab planned a big reveal today.

SCHWAB: I went online and was able to find the exact same lime-green tumblers. And so I am excited to bring them home and carry out a lime-green tray of Holiday Harveys for my family this year.

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SIEGEL: Here's something that might go well with a Holiday Harvey or after a few of them: a sandwich made from biscuits, thinly sliced Genoa salami, homemade sugar cookies and butter.

CELESTE BAKI: It's a great combination, I think, of the spicy and the sweet.

SIEGEL: So says Celeste Baki(ph) of Los Angeles about the unnamed Christmas sandwich her family has been enjoying on this day since her father was a child. It's also served with half a grapefruit.

BAKI: Just for the vitamin C.

SIEGEL: And a heartwarming story.

BAKI: The Christmas after my grandfather died in World War II, my grandmother was alone with three small children, and the plan was to take the kids and go to a relative's house for Christmas. Unfortunately, this huge blizzard came up and my grandmother and the kids were snowed in their house for days. My grandmother scrolled away the Christmas cookies that she had made, so she'd have something to give the small children on Christmas Day. And they were steadily running out of food.

And then when Christmas morning arrived, my grandmother scraped the last of the flour out of the barrel to make biscuits and there was a hunk of dry salami in the pantry that she found and two grapefruits. And she divided the cookies and the salami and the biscuits and the grapefruit up among the children and they feasted.

SIEGEL: Every year, as he built and ate his unusual Christmas sandwich, Celeste Baki's father would speak reverently of her grandmother's ingenuity in the face of adversity. And Celeste cherished this story.

BAKI: Couple of years ago when I was sitting with my grandmother and we were decorating cookies, I said to her, you know, Nan, it must have been so hard for you that first Christmas after Grandpa died and you're alone with three small kids and the blizzard, and you're hungry and running out of food. And she just stopped and looked at me and goes, oh, honey, you don't still believe that story. That's not true at all. It really was that I had three kids who are a little bit spoiled, and all they wanted to eat on Christmas morning was salami and cookies and biscuits and grapefruits.

SIEGEL: Celeste Baki was stunned. The story of the Christmas sandwiches, the ones she believed her entire life, 37 - these 37 years was one big lie and perpetuated by her own father.

BAKI: It's so - like the more I think of it, the more I'm like, I can't believe I - and I mean, I believed it deeply in my soul. I was like, my grandmother is so brave.

(LAUGHTER)

BAKI: I know she is brave. She's wonderful.

SIEGEL: And while tales of her Christmas fortitude have been exaggerated, Baki's grandmother is still someone to believe, and she's 93 and made her sugar cookies again this year, so no one in the family would go hungry. Merry Christmas, Grandma Baki, and merry Christmas to all of you.

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SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.