Eating Christmas

I thought about it for a minute, and it seemed plausible. Why couldn't we have it at Lisa's house? Our traditional Christmas Eve antipasto was easy enough to re-create. I knew where all the good Italian delis in town were. I knew how to make roasted peppers and garlic in olive oil; I could roll up prosciutto and sopressata. It could actually be like Christmas!

Until my sister said, "And I'm thinking about making this thing I had at a restaurant that was so good. It was Brie baked in blueberries!"

Brie and blueberries, the hair standing up on my neck screamed. Not only are we changing locales but we're also introducing unknown variables? I began to panic. Didn't she know how this might tip the balance of the holiday dynamic? Everything had been the same — exactly the same — on Christmas Eve for as long as I knew. We used the same plates. We sat in the same seats. We had the same arguments, although the subject of Jill Biden's promiscuity was a new topic introduced in 2009 and we had to clear the room of everyone under 18.

And now, Brie and blueberries? That might knock us out of orbit, only to end up at the casino next year! It wasn't Italian, I knew that, but what nationality are blueberries?

I looked at my sister, and she was so excited. She had just taken on a lot, I knew, and if need be, I thought, I could do damage control once my mother saw the new dish on the antipasto spread. I would take the blame. She hates me the most, anyway, and I could just say that I borrowed the recipe from my husband's kin, who have been in the United States for so long that they are an eighth of everything, including Pilgrim, Native American, slave owners, abolitionists, sharecroppers, and people who eat cornbread. It was the cornbread faction that made my mother cry when I got engaged.

As my sister and I set everything up for dinner that Christmas Eve, she pulled the Brie and blueberries out of the oven. It looked delicious. She placed it in the very center of the table, within eyeshot of everyone. I knew this had the potential of a Jill Biden-type evacuation of the young, and I just crossed my fingers that we could get past this potential disaster without wills being redrawn and paternity tests challenged (which is always Plan A with the cornbread side of the family).

I waited nervously as the rest of our family arrived and assembled around the table, ready to dig into the antipasto. It was then that I watched my mother do a double-take when she saw something that wasn't a cured meat in front of her. She leaned forward, raised a brow, and sniffed.

"Get the kids," I whispered to my sister, whose eyes suddenly went wide. "This thing is gonna blow."

But my mother, instead of furrowing her brow and looking for a dish towel to use as a whip, picked up a cracker and dipped it in the blueberries.

I held my breath as she chewed, trying to figure out if people wearing natural fibers could even pass the dress code of the casino. I was going to have to get some gold bracelets and ask relatives still in New Jersey for makeup tips. I might have to procure a clothing item in a leopard-skin pattern.

My mother looked up, and looked me in the eye for a moment.

Oh, God, I thought, feeling chilled. Am I going to have to start smoking again?

And then she picked up a second cracker and went in for another bite.


CASH IN

By Tania Katan

Being Chosen to be in covenant with God is not as glamorous as it sounds. Look, it wasn't my choice to be chosen. It was God's! And let me tell you a little something about being one of God's favorites: It sucks. It's like being your boss' favorite or your teacher's favorite. Everyone hates you, and you get more work/assignments/pogroms thrown at you because your boss/teacher/God doesn't want co-workers/fellow students/Christians to think that you're getting any special treatment.

So, it's Christmas day, for some a celebration, for others a day when finding a decent cup of coffee and a sweet treat is nearly impossible. A Chosen friend of mine, with an equally compelling coffee habit, told me about a place in Scottsdale that might be open. "Gelato Spot. And it has great espresso, too. Shalom!"

The sign said, "G Spot OPEN!" Espresso, gelato, and arousal all at the same time? This is my idea of a Christmas miracle. The man behind the counter looked like a young Ronald Reagan. Stiff hair, blue coruscate eyes, and a simple smile. "Welcome to the Gelato Spot. What can I get for you?" he asked and meant it.

"I'll have a cappuccino and a small gingerbread gelato. Do you have a restroom? I'm going to stay for a bit and write."

"Yes, the restrooms are right over there."

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