In the holiday-season rush, the significance of simple but satisfying family traditions too often is overlooked.
Such as: For the fifth year running, I was asked to judge the annual Holiday Cooking Throwdown in the Folsom home of a very active family.
The tradition began in 2008 with cookies, and over the years moved to appetizers, bruschetta and cupcakes. This year, the "contestants" brought their cooking skills to the dish at hand - pies.
The family members ranged in age from 6 to 66 and formed two-person teams. They took the contest seriously, but mixed good humor and lots of laughter with their competitive spirits. (Two neighbors were absent this year, having committed to a performance of "The Nutcracker").
When the flour had settled, the table was laden with a raspberry mini-tart, tamale pie with jalapeno, cheese pie with raspberry-blackberry sauce, cream-filled chocolate-mint mini-pies, and a fruit pie topped with a big chunk of chocolate (pictured).
Though I used a point-based system to rank the entries (one to five each for presentation, taste, texture and creativity), as the judge I reminded the competitors that every entry was a winner.
The contest was fun and the family bonded over the creation and cooking of their eclectic pies. The whole experience was just plain...well, nice for everyone.