For most food lovers (and people in general), the holiday season brings back memories of the things you ate growing up. Whether they were your grandmother’s latkes, your father’s cheesecake, or the disgusting fruitcake your aunt sent every Christmas…For me, the minute Thanksgiving is over, and America is invaded by an onslaught of holiday cheer (which I absolutely adore), I begin to crave hand-decorated Christmas cookies and Sunday roasts à la Sue Kelly.

The christmas cookies

As a little Jewish girl growing up in New York, these were definitely not foods I found in my own household, and it would be unfair to neglect the love I feel for the latkes my own family would prepare during the holiday season. That being said, a piece of my heart will always be deeply connected to the big Christmas tree, the smell of cookies baking in the oven, and the Sunday roasts, complete with Yorkshire pudding, that left such a strong mark on my childhood.

My relationship with the Kelly family began before I was born. Here’s a very brief history: My mother and Sue Kelly had babies due on the same day. One was born early (moi). One was born late, and probably from womb till eternity, Liza Kelly and I will be best friends. During my childhood, I probably spent just as many hours helping decorate their Christmas tree as I did lighting my family’s Menorah. I remember the incredible delight I garnered from decorating Christmas cookies. Eating them was even better. And then there was the Sunday roast….

Liza and I, and someone else’s leg…circa 1999

Sue Kelly has had a huge impact on almost every aspect of my life, and her talents as a chef and baker have contributed greatly to my love of food. I also have to give her husband Steve credit, for he too is a terrific cook, and being British, is responsible for much of the wonder that is the Kelly’s Sunday Roast.

Photography by Sue herself.

Anyway, Sunday roasts are not just a Christmas thing. They’re a British thing, and a Sunday thing (obviously). I would be overjoyed every time I could come to a roast. The meal included huge pieces of perfectly tender meat, delicious vegetables, amazing homemade gravy, and Yorkshire pudding….Which, for those of you who don’t know, is LITERALLY the best thing in the world. I could go on and on about the perfectly buttery layers of dough and the amazing effect that the hot gravy has when drizzled on top, but just thinking about it triggers a craving so astronomical that having it right now would deter me from getting anything else done, probably for the rest of the semester.

Anyway, with break just around the corner, my excitement at the idea of the Kelly’s Christmas cookies (and maybe Yorkshire pudding) is growing by the minute. Believe me, if I get any, the first thing I’ll do is post pictures of them to WesStuffed. They’re one of those things you have to see to believe.

What are your favorite nostalgic holiday foods?

-Ari Rudess