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Christmas Eve Traditional Meals

Just saw a post on the Pennsylvania Board about cheesesteaks on Christmas Eve. Reminded me of our standard - burgers and dogs on the grill. Doesn't matter what the weather is - warm, cold, rain, snow -whatever. For about the past 35 years we've been doing burgers and dogs on the Weber. Even the grandchildren are now expecting the meal before they hit the sack and try to stay up all night to catch Santa in the act. Just wondering what others might be doing?

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  1. If we were going to my Aunt's house for Christmas Eve, we'd be doing the traditional Italian fish dinner. Since we're going to my in-law's, it's going to be dry chicken and frozen veggies. My fil may make a lasagna.

    BTW--when I was younger after every midnight mass my Mom and I would go to Nathan's in Coney Island and get hot dogs and fries. It was one of the only places that would be open around 1:30 A.M.

    1. While Mom was still able to cook, she would always make roast loin of pork with mashed poptoes and her Bavarian red cabbage. Once she got too old to be able to cook, we invited her over and started our own "traditional" Christmas Eve dinner - chinese food. The kids were small then and even now when they come home for the holidays, we still have our chinese food on Christmas Eve.

      1 Reply
      1. re: RichK

        Sounds like my Christmas Day feast - being Jewish, I was raised on Chinese on Christmas. Even in Israel, I searched out Chinese on Christmas Day.

      2. Great idea. I'm in Chadds Ford. We tend to do a roast beef for Christmas dinner, but because my daughter is leaving for the Caribbean at 6:00 Am on Christmas Day (our present this year), we've kicked it back to Christmas Eve.

        We usually go to friends on Christmas Eve that have a great spread. A few years ago, when Christmas fell on an inopportune day, they moved it to the day before and called it Christmas Adam (since Adam came before Eve). Still, great food!

        Before that, it was usually a turkey breast and some veggies. So the folks who wanted turkey and the folks who wanted beef could be satisified within an 18 hour period

        1. At my mom's house, we'd pick up a variety of seafood salads, smoked fish, cocktail shrimp, etc. up at the fishmonger (a German chain, but nevertheless good seafood).

          At my dad's, one tradition was potato salad and wieners. Pretty low-key.

          The *real* traditional German meal is a tie between carp (generally boiled to a mush) or goose with braised red cabbage and some potato side.

          1. Thankfully, my Dad's wretched potato soup was retired when he remarried. It was a tradition started early in his marriage to my mother when he forgot about the potatoes he was boiling. Soup was made by adding skim milk, salt, and pepper. It was not good.

            A tradition that my Norwegian step-mom (via Minnesota) started that I more than happily adopted (and pleased my Norwegian MIL to no end) was fruit soup. It's warm, sweet, but was somehow just perfect for the super-cold midwestern winter.

            1. Though we've deviated a bit since Grandma died, the standard for the first thirty years of my life was:
              fried smelt
              stuffed clams
              minestre, typically made with kale or something similar
              cavatelli (handmade by Grandma and her friends) with calamari
              fish - preparation varied
              pastries and coffee

              We've jettisoned the minestre in recent years. But we've added a great scungilli salad that my husband makes and stuffed calamari.

              This is one of my all time favorite meals.

              1. When the boys were small, we did scrambled eggs and ham - how I miss Weiss's Ham in downtown Indy...

                As they got older, we started the 'Seafood Extravaganza'. Shrimp cocktail, shrimp scampi, crab legs and lobster on the grill. This was a big hit and the boys loved it. We had to stop when my unfortunate allergy grew worse and made it so that even the smell of the shrimp made me wheeze.

                Now (and I really don't like this), after the 5:30 Mass, we go to Oceanaire... and the boys have their Seafood Extravaganza there. I don't like it because it's Christmas Eve and I'm certain that everyone working there would rather be somewhere else.
                But it means changing a 15 year tradition otherwise, so we'll be at Oceanaire!

                1. Well, our tradition for 10 years now has been to take the kids to McDonalds, and then the adults come home and have a bit of bubbly and some nice finger food. I think the kids are getting tired of McDs, and this IS the only time we go there, so it does not make it contraban-its special.....but they are developing hounds, so this tradition is on its way out.(I will feel better).

                  1. Once we moved to El Paso -- the kids were in 4th and 5th grade -- until they graduated from high school, our Christmas Eve tradition was to bundle up, fix a couple of thermoses of cinnamon spiked hot chocolate, drive straight to the tamale shop that had my pre-ordered sweet and savory tamales waiting for us, then drive around those neighborhoods where folks used NO electric Christmas lights to decorate their homes on Christmas Eve, but instead went the extra mile to set out old fashioned luminarias to light their houses and pathways.

                    For those who've never heard of them, a luminaria is a lunch size brown paper bag with two or three inches of sand in the bottom and a votive candle set in the sand. They are set out during the day on December 24th, then at sundown all of the candles are lit. They are usually set out two to two and a half feet apart, and are used along the ridges and edges of rooftops, to line both sides of pathways, along driveways, on top of fences and stone walls, around flower beds.

                    It's a lovely old southwestern/Mexican tradition, and so special to see. The parishioners of one of El Paso's churches with very modern architecture came out en mass every year and set literally thousands of luminarias all over the church and grounds. It was always our last place to see, and we'd park slightly up hill to maximize the view, have a favorite Christmas CD playing, and polish off the last of the cinnamon cocoa and sweet tamales.

                    Today many people mix in electric Christmas lights with luminarias, and it's rather like serving popcorn with baked Alaska for dessert.... Not quite my cup of tea! (How 'bout them food metaphors!) I regret not living near my five year old grandson so I could reinstate the tradition with him. Those were very special years.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Caroline1

                      This would never work in Western WA and OR where it typically rains during the holidays.

                      1. re: Sharuf

                        Luckily, El Paso is smack dab in the Chihuahuan Desert. Rain is rarely a problem in any desert. '-)

                      2. re: Caroline1

                        Sounds like a beautiful holiday tradition, Caroline. Wish luminarias were more common in the suburban NYC area!

                        1. re: Sra. Swanky

                          It could be a trick decking the Empire State Building with luminarias! '-)

                          For those who don't know what they look like, here are a few pictures from the web:http://tinyurl.com/6oyou2

                        2. re: Caroline1

                          I have to agree with you Caroline1, luminarias are beautiful. Where my parents live, Chicago area, there is one block that gets together and everyone has luminarias lining both sides of the sidewalk and the pathways up to each individual house. If memory serves me correctly, a lot of people have Christmas lights as well but they turn those lights off Christmas Eve to let the luminarias take the spotlight. We always make sure we drive by Christmas Eve because they are so beautiful.

                        3. We usually have something Italian my husband makes. Like baked ziti, stromboli, calzone, lasagne, bracoile, something like that. :)

                          1. A good friend of ours does Italian. It wouldn't be Christmas w/o stuffed artichokes and fried calamari. Amazing cook and never fails to impress. 24 more days...

                            1. For me growing up it was the traditional Italian feast of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve. The menu usually went like this:
                              Stuffed quoahogs
                              Stuffed squid with or without a sauce
                              Linguine with either clam or red shrimp sauce
                              Fritto Misto of both smelts & sardines and vegetables
                              Salt Cod Salad (Baccala)
                              Eel in a hot red sauce or insalata
                              Pan fried halibut, haddock or other white fish
                              I really don't remember any dessert, but there was wine and of course espresso after the meal.

                              The number of fish has diminished over the years though. Now it's more like
                              Seafood antipasto, steamed lobsters, tossed salad. A simple meal in anticipation of the Christmas feast.

                              1. When we visit my folks for Christmas, we have the traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner, the Wigilia. Our family doesn't do the whole 12 courses, but we always have mushroom soup(I remember when I was a child, there was always an aunt or two who visited Poland each year, and they would smuggle the dried mushrooms back for the meal - we call them the 'Chernobyl years', now), fried fish, homemade pierogies, platzak (sweet bread) with honey, sauerkraut, and loads of homemade cookies. No meat is served, and traditionally, there is no cooking done on Christmas day, so this is the big holiday meal.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: jeanmarieok

                                  jeanmarieok- we continue the smuggled mushroom tradition at my mother's house (grin) for Wigilia and I've been training my new non-Polish husband in the ways of rollmops and barscht. He's come to love our home-pickled herring... (part of why I married him!) We always make two kinds of pierogies- the contraband wild mushroom / cabbage and potato/onion/farmer's cheese, boiled then lightly pan-fried. And instead of a white fish we tend to have a whole salmon fillet, broiled with lemon, as the main attraction.

                                  But my favorite- usually just after New Year's, my mom will make a big batch of bigos. A thick, well, it's not really a stew, but combination of different types of meat and poultry roasted separately then shredded or cubed together plus sauteed shredded cabbage, onion, sauerkraut, prunes, I'm probably forgetting something else, all combined and then baked until perfection. Total comfort food. Polish chili? grin.

                                2. Growing up our traditional X-mas eve meal was take out pizza or fried chicken because that was something that my parents never did, but they relented on X-mas eve.

                                  Lately Ive been making a meal of fresh pasta in either lasagna w/ bolognese, manicotti, or stuffed shells with 2-3 flavors of cannoli and coffee for dessert as we open presents after midnight mass. I prepared the feast of 7 fishes once but seafood isn't popular.

                                  1. Forever and ever it's been Lasagna, Sauce, Meatballs, Sausage, Braised Pork Chops, Pepper Salad with Anchovies and Strawberry Pie. Even though my grandmother isn't with us anymore, we *try* to carry on the tradition..but it never tastes as good as hers, even though we know her "recipes".
                                    Miss you Nammy! I apologize, this post actually got me a little choked up. :)

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: krisrishere

                                      Sorry, I misread the post! Above is Christmas Day..Christmas Eve used to be the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes but when my grandmother got older and didn't want to do it anymore we turned to good old Chinese take out!

                                    2. The big meal is usually on Christmas day, if it's immediate family only, or a couple days before Xmas with friends who like food if Xmas day is extended family (the extended family is very meat-and-potatoes in their taste). Christmas eve, we usually have cheese, bread, sausage, maybe some artichoke dip or roasted garlic.

                                      1. Traditional old school Italian seafood dinner: Fried shrimp, baked shrimp, linguine & clams, bacaloa salad, lobster, zuppa de pesce, and me, the only one in the family who didn't like seafod...Bleah! I always dreaded that meal, and always got ridiculed for it. I think I'll go to the OP's this year!

                                        1. A variation of the Italian seafood/meatless feast, but with influences from other cultures, especially tapas and smoked salmon etc. Sometimes a paella.

                                          But I don't necessarily do anything on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day as such; depends on the friends (who have many cultural and faith backgrounds).

                                          1. Only in the last couple years, we've begun a tradition of Osso Bucco with Risotto Milanese for Christmas Eve (both using Marcella's recipes.) We've served this with roasted Brussels sprouts (with bacon!) as a side, but this year I might try a different green vegetable. For dessert, we have a selection of cheeses along with soft ginger cookies.

                                            Christmas Day we sleep in late, and after presents and pictures, we have a casual brunch, usually featuring French toast, grits, and eggs, plus whatever else we fancy that day. Wassail is also an annual Christmas Day tradition.

                                            1. Great post--has made me extremely homesick (in a good way). We'd always have Mom's Canadian chedder soup with homemade (home ground flour) bread. We'd have bits of fudge and other sweets for dessert and we'd sip tea in our Mom's special dishes as we sat around our Christmas tree. We'd sing carols as we turned out the lights and lit the candles on the tree.

                                              1. After years of serving the traditional Christmas feast on Christmas day, my sister started to serve it on Christmas Eve instead. She made enough so that there were plenty of leftovers to serve on Christmas day. She found that she could finally enjoy Christmas dinner on Christmas day instead of being too tired to taste it. The kids enjoyment and excitement of the holiday had meant that they usually were too hyper to sit long for a formal meal on Christmas day. They were good kids, enjoying their meal, on Christmas Eve . The early start to the day for opening the Christmas presents could now be followed by a nap instead of a busy time in the kitchen. Nerves were calmer and the day more enjoyable. If the kids wanted to leave the table early to play with their toys and each other, no one minded. Those leftovers were always yummy and festive.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: susanl143

                                                  While my kids were little, I always did the huge meal on Christmas Eve, simply because having all the leftovers allowed me to play with the toys on Christmas morning! '-)

                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                    We now do our main meal on Christmas Eve, at my mother's, as my husband usually leaves the next day to spend time with his family abroad. However, the meal varies considerably, depending on what I feel like cooking.

                                                2. I'm the only one in my extended family who's ever observed any sort of Christmas Eve tradition, typically involving Midnight Mass from the Vatican and a bottle of Beaujolais - hey, it's a sacrament, okay? - but I've been thinking that a prescribed meal would not be a bad idea, and the Italian model is most attractive. No, not your massive fish dinner, but there's a nearby Italian deli that gets in several different grades of salt cod every year, and there are lots of wonderful salt-cod-and-potato dishes that would complement the above ritual very nicely. These range from very rich things involving cream, to a very simple gratin with just onions and a sprinkling of gruyere, which I think would nicely offset the richness of the next day's meals. Mrs. O participates only dutifully in most of the Christmas stuff anyway, but this is an idea I shouldn't have any trouble selling. Then she can go to bed and leave me, M. Beaujolais and His Holiness to enjoy the rest.

                                                  1. As a church musician, my Christmas Eve meal is usually a beer at the one nearby bar open after Midnight Mass. Would that I were still near my family, or at least in the vicinity of enough people to split a Noche Buena meal! After Midnight Mass, famished we would return home to break our fast: warm pan de sal rolls topped with sharp aged cheddar or creamy Edam cheese, warm slices of the Virginia ham we were supposed to have for dinner the next day but couldn't resist, my aunt's piquant macaroni salad, some sandwich spread on the side just because I like it, and everything washed down with thick and dark hot chocolate. Inevitably heaving slices of coconut pudding cake or chewy rice pastries topped with ski slopes of shaved coconut would be forced onto my plate as I continued to explain that I'm avoiding sugar, even as I sipped on the sweet tsokolate in my cup.

                                                    1. My family always has cheese fondue and shrimp, either bacon-wrapped bbq or cajun boiled with cocktail sauce, and a variety of other snacky foods. It is always eaten in the living room with the fire going and christmas music on the stereo.

                                                      1. We make Oyster Poorboys using my Dad's recipe. He is no longer with us, but his awesome sandwich recipe lives on.

                                                        1. While I am certainly glad to no longer be burdened by the mental & spiritual hell that is organized religion, I certainly do miss the Noche Buena traditions... mom would impose a virtual fasting all do... we would go to Midnight Mass... which was somewhat tolerable - in no small measure - by the presence of PreHispanic dancing & rituals... after which we would go to someone's house where the meal would be laid by the "unlucky" family who got to host & skip the ardous, slave camp-esque routine of standing, kneeling, standing & kneeling some more. The food was almost always traditional Mexican...

                                                          > Turkey
                                                          > Cod in a Spicy Tomato Sauce wrapped in Hojaldra (Pastry)
                                                          > Salads of Sweet & Savory flavors like Cabbage, Nuts, Pineapple & Apples)
                                                          > Romeritos (a fritter made from a native green that has a faint Rosemary-esque flavor)
                                                          > Tamales of Poblano Rajas
                                                          > Bottles of Wine
                                                          > Warm Punch Made from Guavas, Plums & other fruits... spiked with Rum

                                                          All washed down with singing, dancing & booze until 5AM. Ah what I would give to be a kid again.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                              My paren'ts circle of friends included people from Jalisco, Queretaro, Yucatan, Oaxaca & Chiapas... each had their own flavors & ingredients... but it generally was stuffed Roast. Invariably those with more indigenous roots used a variety of Chiles & Seeds to flavor it... those who were of more Creole (i.e., white) background used Wine & Dried Fruits.

                                                              My parent's version covers the Turkey Breast with Bacon.... the stuffing is made with ground pork, ham, almonds, raisins, apples, peron chiles, mirepoix, white wine & sweet sherry.

                                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                Thanks - that all sounds delicious. This was in Mexico City, right?

                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                  Actually... this was in Los Angeles. My parents weren't very religious when we lived in Mexico City... it was the loneliness of not knowing anyone in a new country that motivated them to join a Church group (much to my dismay as they really got into it with retreats & weekday services etc.,).

                                                                  In Mexico City... it was Abuelita who always prepared Christmas Eve meal... she kept it real simple (she hated fish & wouldn't touch Cod with a 10ft pole) just Turkey, she would purchase Tamales, make various Fruit Salads & homemade Rompope.

                                                          1. Growing up we had a Swedish Smorgasbord. My mothers background was Swede-Finn. It wasn't authentic but it was true in spirit. Many of the foods are gone now - no more herring or smoked fish, no lukefisk. But there is salmon, swedish meatballs, and jellied pork and veal, spritz cookies and too much food to be decent !

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: chowmel

                                                              I was wondering when lutefisk would get mentioned!
                                                              Oddly enough, I grew up with no real Christmas Eve food tradition. It was a "normal" meal for the mostpart. Maybe a couple of times when us kids were younger, we'd go to our cousin's house and have family time, but the meal was never set in stone.
                                                              Maybe this is why I -want- to start a Christmas Eve food tradition, now!
                                                              I want to order some lutefisk via mail-order and cook it up. It might be odd, some say the word "vile" but I still want to try it! My Swedish hertiage is begging me to give it a go.

                                                              I'm planning on making Swedish meatballs, no matter what.

                                                              1. re: chowmel

                                                                You can still find some of this sort of stuff in places where Swedes settled in the Midwest. Like in Minnesota and Iowa. I had lutefisk and lefse in Minnesota when visiting my college roommate's family during the holidays. :) Fresh lefse with butter is awesome. The less said about lutefisk, the better. ;D

                                                              2. Back when I still lived at home, and midnight mass was indeed midnight mass, we would come home afterwards and have finger foods (rumaki was a regular) and my mother's home made slush. At times it was also balogna sandwiches with potato chips, and maybe a pot of soup. People would drop in, even that late at night.

                                                                The past several years, our grown family tradition has been a big seafood dinner at my parent's place, and my oldest sister does the x-mas supper the next day. I don't even remember why it started, but it has grown.
                                                                Our seafood dinner includes:
                                                                -a seafood casserole filled with clams, lobster, crab, shrimp scallops....soooo good.
                                                                -fish and brewis
                                                                -salt cod fish cakes, no one makes them like Mom.

                                                                We also have a few app's as well, maybe a cheese platter, last year some smoked arctic char. As some of us (including me) now live away from home, there are brought home treats of local cheeses and wines.

                                                                Mom always squirrels away a couple of fish cakes to be had for x-mas breakfast the next day. Fish cakes, my father's best fried eggs (he's the only one who can get them so perfect), and my sister's home made stollen.

                                                                *sniffles* homesick.....can't wait to go home for X-mas !!!!!

                                                                1. Growing up we always had spahetti and meatballs - no doubt my mom made it because it was easy, and it was the only day of the year she made it. Ironically I enjoyed this meal way more than the Christmas dinner, and looked forward to it as a special festive treat.

                                                                  1. All the years while the kids were growing up, we had a huge Italian feast. Three or four families would attend, each bring food.

                                                                    Now, we order Chinese take out. Much easier!

                                                                    1. My family's longtime Christmas Eve tradition is shrimp scampi (optional meatballs for the non-seafood people) at my brother's house. I jokingly refer to it as our "traditional Irish meal".

                                                                      Alas, my brother is likely to need to work that night, so the tradition might not continue this year....

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: brandywiner

                                                                        Oh, enough Irish have married Catholic Italians or Poles to have spread the meatless tradition around... ;-)

                                                                      2. When we lived in California we always had Dungeness crab, sourdough bread and a big salad on Christmas Eve. I miss that.

                                                                        1. Last year we did beef Wellington, not exactly a tradition, since it's been once, but maybe we'll make it one!

                                                                          1. What a great idea for a thread! And all the responses, so evocative. Since past and present seem somewhat fused around the holidays, I'll start with Christmas Eve past. Our neighbors were not the type to go overboard on food. There were usually six of them and a giant En-Core frozen dinner that you bake would suit them just fine most days. Or pizza. But every Christmas Eve around four pm the most delicious smell would waft over the neighborhood as the dad would grill filet mignon for the family. You could set your watch by him, and here in Pennsylvannia it's not always ideal grilling weather on Chrismas Eve. They have since moved away. I wonder if they still grill filet mignon on Christmas Eve.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                              Carbs - since I started this thing and mentioned that we do burgers & dogs, I probably should have added about the time it was REALLY SNOWING and I moved the Weber (charcoal variety) from the deck to the driveway. Fired that baby up at about 6:30 and watched all the neighbors packed at their windows trying to figure out what the heck was going on! Got a few calls from our kid's friends and we became the talk of the neighborhood for the couple of weeks. LOVED IT!!

                                                                            2. Growing up in South Texas, we had tamales, cole slaw from KFC, and saltine crackers between Episcopal Christmas Eve services. I lived in New Orleans for 20 years, where my favorite tradition was a Revillon at the rectory after midnight Mass. Back in Corpus Christi, I'm loving the tamales! I love them with my morning coffee, too.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: marthasway

                                                                                Hey gang, it's the cheese steak on Christmas Eve lady here.

                                                                                This will be a totally different Christmas for us. My daughter & SIL, who live close by, will be going away for Christmas. His father's family is Mexican, and most of the relatives live in Mexico. Everyone here is going to Guadaljara for the week before Christmas to stay with Tio Tony & his wife, Tia Juliette. They will get to experience all of the Christmas festivities in Mexico, with las posadas (house parties) and Noche Buena (Chrismas Eve) . The day after Christmas, they drive to Puerto Vallarta (where my daughter was married 2 years ago), and spend a week there. I will miss them terribly, but it will be quite an experience for them. Maybe they will come back with some things that we can incorporate into our always evolving Christmas.

                                                                                My hubby & I will be going to Reading, PA to visit my son & his family. He wanted us to share the joy of Christmas morning with him, his wife & their two little ones. We've booked a hotel for Chrismas Eve (their house is small), and for Christmas night so that we don't have to fret about driving. My DIL's mother has graciously invited us to spend Chistmas Eve at her house, with a pasta & lasagna fest. I'm bring desserts. We'll have the ever-popular breakfast casseroles for breakfast. along with bloody mary's, while we watch the kiddies open their presents, then probably just do pizza or Chinese food for dinner (shades of "A Christmas Story", fa-ra-ra-ra-ra....). For me, Christmas Eve has always been low key, and Christmas day had been the pull-out-all-the-stops dinner, so this will be very different. It's also the first Christmas I have spent away from my own home. Ever. and I'm 62.

                                                                                We will miss the luminaria that our neighborhood always puts out. They line the streets with them & everyone lights them at dusk. The roads look as though they are strings of pearls, twinkling in the dark. I'll have to depend on the lights in my grandchildren's eyes to light the night this year; somehow I don't think I'll be disappointed.

                                                                                Peace and joy, fellow Hounds.

                                                                                1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                                  That luminaria description sure sounds like Oxbow? I have relatives living in that section.

                                                                                  1. re: bucksguy14

                                                                                    East Oreland. Put together by EONA East Oreland Neighbors' Association. They've been doing it for years, but it's certainly not "owned" by them; I've seen a number of other neighborhoods do it.

                                                                              2. We do a spread of appetizers.....meatballs, chicken with thai dipping sauce, shrimp, pate, cheeses and a lot of other good things that escape my memory at the moment. It's nothing too fancy, but most recipes have been in the mix for awhile. My mother started this tradition when after making prime rib and yorkshire pudding on Christmas Eve for years, nobody was hungry because everyone had filled up on appetizers. We love it because it allows us to graze the next day without anyone spending hours in the kitchen. We also do a Christmas morning buffet of cookies for breakfast with milk punch, I think our family has perfected the art of grazing over a holiday.

                                                                                1. don't recall a traditional Xmas eve dinner from my childhood. for several years now though, I serve a goose, stuffed with sausage and apples, grated potato pancakes with chives, diced swiss cheese along with plenty of champagne and wine. all the recipes came, as I recall, out of the Art of French cooking.