A hodgepodge of holiday cooking advice


stress syndrome strikes, you need some handy antidotes. So here's a potpourri of advice and tips designed to be of comfort. We offer this wit and wisdom gleaned from various cookbooks:

* Before washing any pot, skillet or casserole, wipe it out first with paper towels or used paper dinner napkins to remove as much fat and bits of food as possible. This makes after-dinner pot scrubbing less burdensome and helps prevent the clogging of your sink's pipes. -- "Monday to Friday Cookbook" by Michele Urvater.

*Most holiday dishes can be eaten on any day of the year, but they taste better -- they resonate in the mind and in the mouth most fully -- on the special days we first learned to eat them. The tug of these associations is still strong, even for people whose roots and convictions have been sorely shaken. -- "The New Cook Cookbook" by Raymond Sokolov.

*In my experience, clever food is not appreciated at Christmas. It makes the little ones cry and the old ones nervous. -- Jane Grigson in "A Cook's Alphabet of Quotations" edited by Maria Polushkin Robbins.

*If you try to please your guests as you would your family, you'll realize that it is not necessary to do something extravagant to impress. Simplicity, using good ingredients well, is usually more impressive than a lot of fancy cooking. . . . Serve dishes that you know you can manage, and plan ahead so that you can enjoy your own company. -- "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook" by Marion Cunningham.

*An inexpensive, disposable piping bag is easy to make. First snip about 1/4 inch from the corner of a plastic freezer bag. Then place the desired tip in the bag so that it pokes out of the hole. Then just add frosting, seal the bag, and decorate. -- "Better Homes and Gardens Complete Guide to Food and Cooking."

*Stack large dinner plates at the start of the buffet table and silverware and napkins at the end. This way hands are freer to fill up the plates and aren't loaded down until the last moment. -- "The New Basics Cookbook" by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

*Anyone with money can call a caterer, and anyone with money and a can opener can serve caviar. But money can't buy the plain cook's gift, the patient and homely magic that turns bones into broth, and broth and pork and cabbage and beans into great stews that even the rich and famous -- especially the rich and famous -- never get enough of. Money cannot buy the love that makes a feast. -- "Feasts" by Leslie Newman.

*When you've accepted an invitation to a holiday party, eat a piece of bread or fruit before you leave home. If you begin the social occasion with a comfortable feeling of fullness, you will be less likely to make frequent forays into the canapes. -- Dr. Herman Frankel, an obesity specialist, in "Unplug The Christmas Machine" by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli.

*It's a marvelous help to know that you have a stack of frozen crepes waiting for your command, or disks of dough for topping chicken pot pies. The way to learn is to start right in with fearless determination, and you will never regret your decision. Once the feeling is in your hands, you'll retain it thankfully forever more. -- "The Way to Cook" by Julia Child.

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