I want to come up with a food item that I am known for. You know, the food that everyone hopes you'll bring to a pot luck. It's the food that, when you're invited to dinner and ask, "What can I bring?", the host always asks you to bring.
My Grandma, Mary Rykhus, was known for her sugar cookies. When she got old and had cancer, many of us asked for her guarded sugar cookie recipe. After she died, we discovered that she gave out several different recipes. We never figured out which was the "real" recipe she used for the wonderful cookies she shared throughout our small town at Christmas.
My Mom, Jean, is known for her potato salad. It's fabulous. Year-round we ask her to bring it to family celebrations of birthdays, Communions and Confirmations. What a lot of work, peeling all those potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. I can't imagine.
My sister-in-law Nancy is known for her hand-decorated cookies. They are the most beautiful and creative I've seen. (I think she uses a cookbook recipe for the sugar cookie base. . . not one of Grandma's recipes.) Every holiday she brings a colorful, whimsical tray of cookies for the family to enjoy. They are works of art.
And what food does Betty Jean contribute to family gatherings? Things like green bean casserole and layered taco dip. Ugh. Blah and ordinary.
In 2009 I decided that I, too, would have a signature food, and it would be shortbread, the perfect shortbread. When I treat myself to a package of Walkers', I can finish it in one sitting.
Shortbread is basic, classic and heavenly. It's made of just a few simple ingredients: butter, flour, sugar. The butter has to be pure butter, no compromise. The magic and mystery lie in the endless variations of flour and sugar.
I made shortbread progress in 2009, but my effort was sporadic, not focused. This year I'll continue the testing and tasting, testing and tasting, with renewed dedication. Oh my goodness, the freezer will be full!