Cooking With Myra: Tis the season for being with family, sharing, lemons

By Myra Starkey
Dec. 24, 2013 at 6:24 a.m.

Lemon loaf

Lemon loaf

I hate to admit this, but as a mom and a middle-aged person, I sometimes find it hard to relax and enjoy Christmas. Moms usually bear the burden of preparing for the event, including putting out decorations, buying presents and cooking food for the guests.

Some husbands are more involved than others. As a middle-aged woman, I sometimes tire of hearing the Christmas jingles that begin to fill the air as soon as the Thanksgiving dinner dessert is half eaten. Some of the old carols bring back warm memories such as Bing Crosby's rendition of "Chestnuts Roasting on An Open Fire;" however, I'm not sure that I get the same enjoyment from hearing "Jingle Bells" for the thousandth time.

Christmas has been so taken over by commercialism that parties and gift giving have mostly crowded out the true meaning of this religious holiday. And yes, I do remember that the wise men came from the East at great time and expense bearing gifts to baby Jesus, and so that is why we should venture into crowded stores by at least Black Friday and not complain, even if it does require great time and expense.

I do look forward to holiday parties, and I have been to some enjoyable ones this season. Just last week, we went to a friend's house out in the country for a great meal out on her open-air deck. She grew up in Spain, and all the foods she prepared were traditional recipes from that part of the world.

It was great fun to hear her describe the country and the food and the memories she had as a child. Holiday parties give us a good reason to break from our usual routines and get together with friends and catch up on their lives and adventures. In fact, I think that enjoying food and conversation with old friends is possibly the best of all gifts. I cherish my old friends.

Christmas is great in that it brings families together. I know that not everyone enjoys time with relatives. As the old saying goes, "you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your relatives."

However, I am blessed to have family that I truly enjoy spending time with, on both my side and Taylor's. With recent marriages of the third generation of Starkeys, there are now 30 of us. That is enough to have a family reunion without even inviting cousins or aunts and uncles.

We will be spending lots of time at Taylor's folk's house. His parents are relatively healthy and active in their early 80s, and I'll bet their greatest joy of Christmas is a large, happy family who still loves to spend time with each other.

Gifts and parties and family are great, but from the Christian perspective, they all fall short of the true meaning of Christmas. There was a time about 2,000 years ago that God looked down on humanity and knew the time was perfect to make a change. It would be out with the old and in with the new. God didn't just all of the sudden come up with a new idea.

It was something that was planned from the very beginning. God had raised up a group of people and had spoken to them through prophets and kings. He led them through the wilderness and across water that parted before them and to lands that were filled with milk and honey.

He conquered their enemies and protected them. He provided them with all they needed. Even though they prospered, it just never seemed like enough. And they forgot about God.

When the time was right, God sent his Son. He was a helpless infant, born to a teenage mother and her husband in an unsanitary animal stable. What a glorious night that was.

Angels filled the starry skies above Bethlehem and praised God. The shepherds and the wise men came and went, and Mary and Joseph finally made their way back to Nazareth to raise this special child.

I wonder what Jesus was like as a little kid and then a teenager and finally a young man? I'll bet he was kind and a good listener and took the time with those he saw in need. Life in those days was not always easy.

He experienced sadness and joy with the other humans around him. When he was about 30, he told the people why he was sent down here. Some accepted the gift and the plan he offered, but others were OK with the way they were already. And so it goes.

I hope you have a great Christmas with those you love. It's not really about us. That day long ago was simply the beginning of a plan to allow us to rise above ourselves.

Share God's love this Christmas.

'Tis the season for lemons! Try this lemon bread to share with family and friends. You must use fresh lemons for the zest and juice. Place the loaves in clear plastic bags and tie with ribbons for last-minute gifts.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email



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