Most families have wonderful holiday traditions that they remember with fondness. And most try to keep their tradition going. Our family also had a tradition. It was the dessert that was served at every single Christmas dinner, and only then. There was never a deviation. I don’t know the origin of this “treat” (‘treat’ is used here with a high degree of sarcasm). Nor did I ever ask. It was never suggested, that I knew of, to ever serve anything but this dessert. The concoction was “Maple Mousse.” A sickeningly sweet, soft serve-ish pudding. The ingredients consisted solely of maple syrup, heavy cream, sugar and eggs. Heavy on the maple syrup. Extra heavy on the sweet.

Now I love maple syrup. On pancakes or waffles, in my oatmeal, as a sweetener for baked acorn squash or sweet potatoes. But I decided very early on that I detested what my family apparently loved and devoured with relish.

And to suggest something else would have been heresy. It was served every Christmas, along with a dark and rich fruitcake and a large platter of cookies that my mother and aunts baked beginning immediately after Thanksgiving. The cookies rarely changed either, but those I loved. I even liked the fruitcake. But the “moose?”

For the longest time I was very confused about this dish. It was called a “moose,” but it was spelled like a “mouse, missing an “s.” Was I eating a tiny maple field mouse or was there maybe some large maple syrup moose fearfully walking around during the holidays? I was probably in junior high school before I realized its correct spelling and could breathe easy that no animal gave up its life for our dessert.

One year, my aunts, both educators and single ladies – decided it would be cute to give the normal beige dessert some festive color. For the record, there is no way beige can be turned “festive” when colored green. A dull khaki green is not an appealing color and does not invite you to “dig in.” But they served it anyway, proud of the effort they had made to “spruce up” our beloved maple dessert. It was hideous. It reminded me of what I imagined green bile would look like. Some things are better forgotten. Or better yet, never seen in the first place.

Every Christmas, I think about that maple mousse. Quite a few years ago, my mother confided in me that she too, had always hated it. “Remember, Linda, when your aunts decided to color that horrible maple mousse green? My lord, it was disgusting. I nearly gagged.” My dad, overhearing our conversation, piped in. “Yeah, I always hated that damn dessert. I don’t like fruitcake either, but it was sure better than that moussy thing!”
One tradition bit the dust, now replaced by the Saratoga Peppermint Pig.

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