Being with friends is wonderful, coming together with family is comforting, but, remembering the reason for the season is priceless. I wanted to write yesterday, however I found myself a little too introspective at times and maybe a little weepy. I have always known that Christmas is what you make it not what you make, bake, buy or receive during Christmas. I always feel overloaded weeks before and for no apparent reason other than being subjected to the "pull" created by Western civilizations and the media. I yearned for a simple Christmas so I went back to my roots and memories for inspiration.
For my father and mother I digitally copied the dusty slides of their Europe 1972 trip into a DVD they could watch. Photography is one of my "loves" along with cooking. The slides transported them back to a whirlwind tour of 3 weeks which they would never forget, hopefully. From Amsterdam they set off in a VW bug across many countries including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and a little corner of France. The country, I believe, that was the most memorable for them was Czechoslovakia which is now the Czech Republic. At the time they had to "check in" at the border because it was behind the Iron Curtain. How frightening that must have been. The border patrol needed to know their exact whereabouts at all times!
My parents went to visit my great aunt and uncle in a small village of Domazlice, southwest of Prague. Never having met them, they were warmly welcomed into their humble home. My Czech relatives continued to treat them as royalty and apologized for having such simplicity in their ways. In my mind, almost 40 years later, I see those pictures and think to myself that they are the ones that are truly "rich". Simplicity and a sense of family is what it is all about.
Getting back to the cooking aspect, there were many family recipes I wanted to make this year, just not enough time. I wanted to mention my dad's Czech bread, though. He tries to bake it every year and there is always some family member to ask if he will do so. This season he did and probably made about 6 or 7 loaves and shipped some to family members out of state. It is the best bread and I regret not being in the kitchen with him this year, snapping pictures of the process and the flour flying everywhere!
A few years ago I wanted Czech bread but did not want to struggle with the process of rising and kneading, etc., so I found a similar recipe of Italian descent. It does not have the yeast making it extremely simple for anyone to make, quickly. I made a large loaf and brought some over to my parents as we watched their travel adventure DVD and exchanged gifts. Although it is easy (recipe tomorrow), it will never replace my dad's Czech bread. Too many memories attached to it making it special to us all.
I hope you all had a merry Christmas and seek the simplicity that is sometimes overlooked in our lives. God Bless..