Once again this year, Chow Bella writers are gnawing on the holidays -- in the form of stories of Christmas and food. Hope you have some Alka-Seltzer handy. Enjoy.
By Sativa Peterson
When I was a teenager I once risked the wrath of my mother by boldly declaring that I would NEVER learn to cook. That way, I said, it would never become my job. She didn't take the bait. She just looked at me with a raised eyebrow -- the muscle twitching as it worked to curb her desire to verbally clobber me.
More to the point - I didn't want to learn to cook because that was my mom's job. And frankly I couldn't imagine a time when that wouldn't be her job. Besides, I wanted to hang out with the unruly mob of cousins.
One holiday my cousins and me were all piled on the couch watching television. A diaper commercial came on at the exact same moment that our youngest cousin Kisha crossed in front of the TV. "Look at the baby!" said Tom pointing to the screen. Kisha (thinking he was talking about her) became enraged. She went from zero to demonically possessed in a mere moment. She turned to face all of us, "I AM NOT A BABY!" she screamed. We froze for a second before busting up in laughter. No way was I going to be stuck in the kitchen and miss this.
We were a family who made fun of each other for sport. We loved nothing more than recounting foul-ups and re-living each other's most embarrassing moments, and we did this while eating of course.
For instance, If you had too many Red Bulls and vodka one Thanksgiving, threw up candy colored puke, and then wailed, "But I didn't get any turkey . . . " This will not be forgotten. This legacy will be passed on to your children's children.
Our family's food was not exactly fussy, and neither were our holiday gatherings. Ours was a family that proudly re-used empty margarine tubs as serving dishes, where my grandmother and mother made many a salad where mayonnaise and Jell-O were featured ingredients.
Eventually, despite my decree, I did learn to cook. Hey you've got to eat, right?
And now, lo and behold, it's Kisha and me running the show. We've started a new tradition in the last couple of years -- Christmas Eve Eve. All the cousins and aunts and uncles come over on December 23rd. In my mind, it marks the spot where it's time to stop working already, and let the celebrating begin. It's a time when we can all give each other a good poke in the ribs before we break off into our own families.
I think if my mom were still with us, she would get a kick out of seeing Kisha and me in the kitchen. She was, after all, the quintessential matriarch -- whipping all of us into shape. If she were around I'd tell her I had one thing wrong. The kitchen is ground zero for the unruly mob. The kitchen is where it's at.
The most sought after dish, the one that has my husband peeking through the curtains saying is she here yet? -- Kisha's jalapeno poppers. Everything else can be improvised.