BFCDAW #5: Honey Balls.

Today’s painting depicts HONEY BALLS. (And also a candy cane bee.)

Honey Balls are marble-sized bits of fried dough, soaked with honey and topped with colored sprinkles.

My mother brings them to all of our Christmas parties, and she’s been at it for decades. I despise the things, but God help her if she ever stops making them. I may not enjoy eating Honey Balls, but Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a big foil pan of ‘em out on the table, where, over the course of several hours, they will merge together into one unbreakable Super Honey Ball.

I’m not sure why I don’t like them. Honey-soaked fried dough sounds like something that would be really hard to dislike.

If you’re curious, here’s a recipe. Apparently, Honey Balls are an Italian thing. Have to admit, I love my Italian Christmases, but there sure are a lot of associated dishes that do not work for me. (“Hi, here’s a salad. Actually no, it’s a plate of raw fish organs. Wash it down with this wine that tastes like burnt oak and feet.”

On the bright side, Honey Balls are pretty little monsters. They look nice on the table. I think that’s the real point of them. They’re the parsley of Christmas desserts. (Actually, you should eat parsley, but don’t get me started. It’s one of my weird triggers.)

Tell me, strangers and friends. Are there any foods that you consider a must-see at your holiday celebrations, even if you’d personally never eat them?

Also: Dino Drac’s 1st Christmas has been made official, thanks to Jason’s latest killer header (dig that painted dino – and yes, he really was painted) and the unearthing of the old X-E Christmas Jukebox! (Which you’ll have to work to find, but not very hard.)

My schedule for December blows, but I will not let that ruin my favorite time of year. Even if I only have five minutes a day to enjoy the holidays, goddammit, I will! Fa la fuckin’ la.


43 Responses to BFCDAW #5: Honey Balls.

  1. Sauerkraut balls are a staple on Christmas Eve. My mother makes them every year and they are actually delicious. It wouldn’t be Christmas without them…although she has started making them for my Halloween party, which I like, but I’m not sure if that has started to tarnish the specialness of Christmas.

  2. Apparently my last comment didn’t post. Anyway, I wrote it before I read the post and now I’m posting after reading it. I just want to say that the site looks great for the Christmas season. Definetly like the pic for the jukebox. Anyway, we always seem to make wings when we have our annual Christmas parties. Nothing special but it always seems to not be a party with Hot Wings.

  3. I don’t eat bacon, but it doesn’t feel like Christmas morning without the smell of it cooking. Sweets-bordering-on-crafts always improve any holiday, but I can’t say they’ve been a tradition in my life.

  4. My sisters chocolate chip cookies with red and green M&Ms in them,she was doing this way back in the early 80′s for her high school football team and I could not imagine Christmas without them.

  5. To me, the X-E Jukebox is the signal of Christmas. I know Macy’s parade has Santa coming to town, and radio stations start playing non-stop Christmas music on Black Friday, but the Jukebox is the thing that makes me feel like Christmas is actually here.

  6. Teeny tiny ‘sausages’ and tubes of ‘cheese’ from The Swiss Colony. Really not very good, but so GOOD.

  7. Holy shit, honey balls. I just realized that my days of getting my grandmother’s inedible plate of honey balls are over, unless I want to buy them at the bakery. For easter, she would do this loaf of bread with an entire hard-boiled egg lodged in it. What?

    Honey balls are gross. I was just discussing the topic of mandatory holiday foods the other day, and for us, it’s the Enormous Fiji Catalog Platter, with the sausage logs and cheese paste wands and gross strawberry hard candies. Nobody eats these, but they are an essential part of the landscape. A semi-edible seasonal decoration. Every year somebody takes a whack at the sausage and crackers but it’s always half-hearted.

    And honey balls. This year I’m going to buy some and put them on the table in rememberance.

  8. Well, not to be a Debbie Downer, but both of my parents died within the last 7 years, so I haven’t had much tradition with meals since.

    I know when I was younger though, if there weren’t at least 3 HUGE Tupperware containers of Chocolate Chip, Raisin Oatmeal, and some other type of mom-made cookie on the table after dinner, it wasn’t the same. Also, my Grandma’s weird pan of stuffing she would make. My dad loved that shit.

    This year, I moved 4.5 hours away from my family to live with my boyfriend, and I guess we’ll be starting some new traditions. I think #1 is the chipotle mashed potatoes that his mom makes.

  9. I just remembered another one – this one I got from my husband’s family, and I was forced to learn how to make this before the matriarch is gone. She’s in a nursing home now so it’s a good thing I learned how to make this thing with an Italian name that nobody can spell for me, but which, pronounced phonetically, is called “Oo Coog”.

    It’s an enormous, flat, baked bread, stuffed with layers of sliced deli meat and cheese, and it’s shiny and hard on top because of an egg wash that is so disgusting to apply I don’t even know how to explain it. I have photos of myself, my mother in law, and ancient granny assembling Oo Coog and my gorge rises when I see that egg blend, but damn that is some tasty Oo Coog when it’s done baking.

    okay, the end.

  10. Not a holiday dinner staple but popcorn out of giant tin cans. Not sure why, but they always show up the week of Christmas.

    Also ribbon candy. Never had it, never going to, but if there isn’t a bowl of it, I will have an episode.

  11. Nothing too out of the ordinary for me, have to have multiple tins of Cashews on the go as well as Baxter’s Light Eggnog! For the dinner I would say sausage stuffing, both my mother and mom in law make killer variations of it!

  12. I see to it that Christmas morning the house must smell like freshly made waffles, bacon and coffee.

    My wife’s family is Italian and there is always a giant plate of honey balls that no one eats except me…and I don’t really like them. :) They also have something like the “Oo Coog” Rev mentioned and I eat that too like it is going out of style.

    Bill: giant tin cans of popcorn and ribbon candy. Yes and Yes. I don’t eat much of it but I love seeing them.

    That Christmas Dino Drac logo is beautiful! Maybe it will make it to a print for next Christmas.

  13. While they look good, I’ve never liked honey balls either. But sure enough, we’d have them every year. But since my dad passed back in ’97, we haven’t had them since.

    And I need to have deviled eggs for Thanksgiving and Christmas(and other times, not including a holiday).

  14. I don’t think I’ve ever had it personally, and I hear it’s wretched, but I’ll forever associate the holiday with fruitcake, thanks to Pee-wee’s Christmas Special.

  15. My mother makes the best darn cookies around. She usually has peanut butter and her much-requested chocolate chip bars at Christmas. (She also used to make excellent sugar cookies, but says they’re too much of a pain to do now.) Her “Magic Bars” are also frequently asked for. “Magic Bars” are bar cookies made from evaporated milk, coconut, and chocolate chips, with a cookie base. Sweet, decadent, and pure heaven. And while I’m not a fan, the mousses and fruit tarts my sister brings from a local bakery are pretty popular as well.

  16. honey balls and fish for christmas eve. a disgusting italian tradition!

  17. Christmas eve for me is all about seafood! especially the “shocking” stuff to most, the fried eel and the octopus (not calamari, mini octopi). my wife hates seafood so my aunt makes her an entire chicken for herself. when my grandmother was alive she made her eat a tuna sandwich or nothing at all! :)

  18. struffoli!! aka honey balls. My ex’s family used to make these things by the platter. hated the struffoli, loved the granny.

    as for my own “food i hate that has to be there for Christmas”– pfeffernusse cookies in the package from the grocery store and the fruitcake from entemanns. my mom loved these things like no other food. she died last year right before xmas and i can’t even shop the cookie aisle around christmas. sigh.

  19. Strufla! If you hate it, try eating the little balls after they’re fried with some powdered sugar sprinkled on top. Much better balls of Christmas.

  20. I was never big on cranberry sauce or certain cold salads. I see them at every holiday meal.

    Wonderful banner. Jason went out of his way again. I think we’re due for another picture to frame…

  21. I’m not much for ham. I eat Virginia baked ham from the Virginia Diner once per summer on our way to Sandbridge but that’s it. I have to admit though, if a ham wasn’t on the table at Christmas, it would be a little sad. My Grandpa loved ham at Christmas so whenever we’re gathered around the table and I see the family passing around slices of Christmas ham it reminds me those family dinners with Gramps or “Poppaw” as we called him.

    I’ve also gotta agree with Bill, the popcorn tins and ribbon candy have got to be present somewhere. Not that I want any…just having them near is enough :)

  22. For some reason my cousin always demands stuffed cabbage, even though his side of the family isn’t Polish, and he never eats any of it if it is made. I imagine my (Polish) grandfather brought it over one Christmas eons ago, and my cousin remembers its name, but not that he doesn’t like it. Nor can he remember disliking it each subsequent year. It might be a sickness.

  23. I eat the parsley, followed by people yelling at me.

  24. “…No, no. I mean “Jingle Bells.” You know, deck them halls and all that stuff? ”

    [Schroeder begins to play again, with the piano sounding like an organ]

    Lucy Van Pelt: [interrupting again] “…No, no. You don’t get it at all. I mean “Jingle Bells.” You know, Santa Claus and ho-ho-ho, and mistletoe and presents to pretty girls.”

    [gazes lovingly at Schroeder, who then out of frustration taps one key of the piano while playing "Jingle Bells," which sounds like a child's toy piano]

    Lucy Van Pelt: “THAT’S IT!!”

    ….Yeah, so Charlie Brown Christmas is on. Tonight. November 28th. Yeah.

  25. Turned off the radio, and turned on the Christmas Jukebox. Just seemed right. Drinkin’ a beer while writing a paper. It’s about as good as it’s gonna get right now.

  26. The Honeyball on the right, third one down looks exactly like Donald Pleasance in “Escape From New York”
    I can’t be the only one to notice this.

  27. My mother makes this Jello ring thing for all family dinners (We’re Jewish, so for us that’s Thanksgiving, Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur, and Passover). It’s basically lime Jello, pineapple, and either sour creme or cottage cheese. I don’t know which because I’ve NEVER EATEN IT, despite seeing it at every family get together over my 32 years of life. The dairy element, whatever it is, has always kept it from going in mah belleh.

  28. For some bizarre reason my family’s “must have” Christmas food was always those chocolate covered cherries.

    The rest of the year I never ate them or even thought about them but come Christmas morning I can eat a whole box of them!

  29. Sauerkraut. I can’t eat more than a spoonful of the stuff. However, the only time of the year we ever had it in the house was Xmas day. Apparently, somebody in my family must have liked it. Given the countless divorces, deaths, relocations mi familia has gone through since my single digit years, I no longer attend Xmas parties with my side of the brood. (The in laws or more into macaroni and cheese with bacon on top.) Still the mere smell of sauerkraut makes me pine for pine trees and long for long winter breaks.
    If Glade ever creates a saurkraut scented candle… You know… I’m just not going to finish that sentence.

  30. Pretty jealous of those of you with memories/traditions of big Christmas morning breakfasts.

    We celebrate on the Eve and that goes well past 1 AM. Christmas morning was never big when we were growing up, because soooo much went into the night before. And current Christmas Days are more about getting the energy to get up and get moving to wherever we need to be later that day — usually after a few hours in traffic.

    I don’t think I’ve ever really seen the big Christmas morning breakfast, ever. It sounds great.

  31. Rice Krispie treats. Also, my dad makes monkey bread, but that’s more of a new years thing. Things have changed a bit now that dad’s a professional santa, we don’t do the big christmas eve stuff (he does at least 10 parties on that night), but it’s always just our immediate family on christmas morning, coffee first. Last year we did it with buffy in the background. I like that tradition.

  32. Xmas morning is the only day of the year that our dad cooks breakfast. It’s tradition and he takes great pride in it. After all the gifts have been opened and enjoyed, we munch on candy and chocolate and drink eggnog coffee while Dad makes heaps and heaps of pancakes, eggs, and pounds of bacon. It is a glorious morning, and a glorious breakfast. Uh-oh….I am starting to feel that ol’ Xmas spirit sneaking up on me now, just thinking about it!! :)

  33. My family also does the big shebang on Christmas Eve so Christmas Day is a little less spectacular. Growing up we always had chinese food for Christmas dinner. However, my mom always provided the same three appetizer staples: mini cocktail weenies, baked brie, and fritos with cream cheese (the kind in the pink and white tub). My mom grew up doing the whole Italian fish Christmas eve dinner so I’m not sure where she picked up the deliciously white trash-y fritos and cream cheese but I demand it every year.

  34. When it comes to Xmas, we always bake kringlers (pronounced kring-luhs). They’re a pretzel-shaped Scandinavian pastry made with buttermilk and margarine. Always tasty, but you need tick-tock perfect timing to bake them properly. Too little, they come out flat and soggy. Too long, they burn (deceptively easy to do). We usually make a large recipe so we have a couple of practice batches.

  35. Christmas eve at my Grandmothers I must have a 3/4 full glass of egg nog accompanied by a slice of rum cake. for the past decade or so this has been my xmas food ritual. So satisfying.

  36. Never really had any Christmas dinner traditions in my own family, but my husband’s grandmother makes this crab dip stuff that involves cream cheese and cocktail sauce, and the plate just LOOKS like Christmas with the red sauce, white cheese, and green herbs. I usually don’t even like crab or cream cheese but I’ll eat that stuff with a spoon.

    Also it is not Christmas without at least one tin of those Royal Dansk butter cookies.

  37. My grandmother on my dad’s side brings a plate of honey balls to the Christmas get together for that side of the family, but growing up, my mother would always end up yelling at me for eating them. I thought it was because they maybe had rum in them, but looking at the recipe, now I’m thinking she was just paranoid about me choking on the honey or something. Or maybe it was just because they were there as a decoration?

  38. Fruitcake. One of my aunts makes it every year, and I can’t bring myself to try it..but if it wasn’t there, I’d flip the hell out and set fire to the town dump.

    Matt

    You absolutely MUST have a awesomely kick-ass breakfast on Christmas morning. Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day on the other 364 days of the year, but on Christmas morning, bacon,eggs, sausage, pancakes, hasbrowns, and OJ…well…I can’t describe it.

    By the way, I was just reading over the review on the old Brady Christmas special and by coincidence, it’s on TV now. If you didn’t point out that the airport scene’s soundtrack sounded like porn music, you may want to go throw that in there.

  39. Every year one of my Aunts will send my Dad a box of Butter Balls (I think that’s the name). He loves them and would/will tell everyone in no uncertain terms that they are for his enjoyment- after we’ve had our obligatory 1 (ONE, DAMNIT!) Butter Ball taste test. They’re not really my thing- baked dough balls with walnuts and HEAVILY coated with powdered sugar- but it wouldn’t feel like Christmas lest my Dad is trying to keep everyone away from those cookies with a broken broom handle.

  40. Looks like this thread is still going so I might as well mention my family’s “traditional” holiday foods. One thing that has to always be eaten at my house on Christmas Eve is Chinina Soup. I don’t know if I spelled it right but basically, it’s duck’s blood. I never liked the taste or even appreciated the smell. I also don’t like the fact that you’re literally eating an animal’s blood. I’m not Jewish so I don’t follow the “Leviticus Dietary Laws” which forbid the eating another animal’s blood, but I do not eat the blood of any animal simply because it’s unhealthy for you.

    It seems like my family really only follow Polish traditions at Christmas time. Besides the “Duck’s Blood” soup, we also do what’s known as the passing of the Oplatki wafer. It’s basically communion in your home at the dinner table. My mom every year also makes kolachis (once again, don’t know if I’m spelling it right,man, for being Polish I’m very bad at spelling Polish names of foods) which are dough with globs of jelly in the middle. They’re pretty tasteless so I really only eat them when I’m really hungry and there’s nothing else to eat in the house. Of course, not everything we do for Christmas is Polish based. The Christmas Eve dinner in th Polish tradition is supposed to be meatless and we always seem to have Chicken Cordon Bleu, or is it Chicken Kiev (it’s the one where you cut it open it oozes out cheese and bits of ham, which I think would be Cordon Bleu)?

    Anyway, that’s all I can think of as far as Christmas traditions in my house (food related, of course we have one or two ornaments that have “Merry Christmas” in Polish “Wesolych Swiat”, only Polish saying I really know other than “Dupa Yash” which is Polish for asshole).

  41. Spritz cookies. Not my favorite, but they always appear.

  42. Basted ribs. And turkey. There’s nothing as a Christmassy a food as those.

  43. Loved reading through all the comments on this thread! Great picture you drew Matt! And the Christmas layout of the site is beautiful!

    Things that must be present at my family gatherings over the years that I loved to look at, but rarely ate- ribbon/hard candies, Swiss Colony meats and fruit cakes. Those were mostly things my dad liked to have….I was all about those petit fours!!!!

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