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Christmas Dinner at a Hunters Home
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by Robbi Drake

Christmas is largely a matter of tradition isn’ t it? Every country, indeed, every single aspect of the US, be it southern, northern or upstate Washington with its large Norwegian population, has its own traditions for holiday feasts. Likewise for the home of the hunter.

Christmas Dinner at our home was largely a matter of what had been brought in in the weeks prior to the holidays.

Christmas, of course, wasn’t Christmas without a stuffed turkey, but it didn’t end there. Our Christmas table was always groaning with food, much that my mother had canned during the season, and a lot that she and my father had taken while hunting.

Christmas dinner tables always groaned with people. Our tradition was to have a fish and game type feast, and we always had what had to be described as a hourde of people to go along with the mountains of food. Every hunter and his family for miles that my dad called friend.. and to my dad, anyone who hunted and did so for food and did it fairly, was someone who was invited to our table.. showed up their with some kind of offering for dinner.

Two tables it took to hold it all, and still it spilled onto the counter, every kind of game or preserve that you can imagine.

Now for those of you who are city born and city bred, who don’t hunt or can or pickle things, its all going to sound just a bit on the..   “yukky” side?? But for those of us born without a silver spoon, and a family that hunted, gathered, preserved and spent the whole year setting up for a time of the year when we couldn’t afford a lot, and couldn’t get outside a lot for the massive amounts of snow, Christmas dinner was our time to be grateful for it all and to share a little time with the neighbors and friends, chatting the day away over a huge meal of things we’d gathered in ourselves.

One Christmas dinner that stands out quite well in my memory included about twenty people, kids and adults totalled and included things that will probably strike you as strange but in the mid seventies, with six kids and an economy that wasn’t the best, it struck me as something special.

My dad had found a bee tree, so that years Christmas feast included wild honey on crispy brown biscuits that held two generations of baking experience. Mom and Grandma argued over whose way was the best way, so we got them both.  He also, because we loved it, laid out a few honey combs for the kids.. Sticky.. absolutely, but fairly amazing at the same time..

Barbecued beaver, canned rabbit hams, wild bear meat and a venison roast, along with a huge  gobbler that had come home in fall season and been smoked over hardwood for a couple of weeks, along with a roast turkey stuffed to the gills with sage stuffing.

Pickled apples and preserved blackberries were laid out on trays, while cakes held broiled frosting from hazelnuts we’d gathered up that fall.

Mom’s canned peaches, along with a few rehydrated apples that she dried carefully on strings made up a couple of amazing pies to end the day on a sweet note.

For all that I love the convenience of todays Christmas dinner, the run to the store and grab it if you need it type life, I do have to admit, that I miss those down home country Christmas dinners in a huge way..   Maybe next year its time to get back to basics.

Whats on your Christmas Table?.

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