I cook. And I’m good at it. But the thing that makes me want to run in a circle screaming is “Holiday Food.” The mere sight of a wild turkey – outside its bottle – makes me cringe. It’s not so much the food as the attendant falderal. Falderal meaning family.
Our tiny family was to have a tiny, little Thanksgiving this year. I spent two weeks planning, three days shopping, and two days cooking. It only took 24 minutes from the time the bird hit the table until I was back in my own home watching the Catheter Channel (Fox News). A new record for my mother who decided Thanksgiving dinner was the perfect time to settle all old scores. Disaster.
Christmas was no better. I decided to take on the Mt. Everest of cooking: The crown roast. For 12 people – pretty much every relation I have on the planet. And it was not only perfect, but perfectly majestic. I, so modest, outdid myself. The entire meal was a culinary wonder.
Until my nephew screamed at his grandmother because he didn’t like his Christmas gift. Acceptable behavior in a five-year-old, perhaps, but not in a grown man. Who screams at their 81-year-old grandmother? Who does that? The shock, the awe, the horror; my dinner was ash.
Never again, I vow. There are far better holidays to be had and they’re not listed on any calendar.
To wit: There is that day, buds have bloomed, there is a singular sweetness to the air – warmth with an underlying chill – that makes you desire, nay, need at the cellular level, a root-beer float. Nothing will so serendipitously blend with these elements like root-beer soda and vanilla ice-cream. The sheer fizziness of it all says, in no uncertain terms, spring has arrived.
Then there is that evening, dulcet, for which all time will stop for a gin-‘n-tonic, choked with ice and a fat wedge of lime, on the porch. The light, the lime, the stillness – this is June.
Is it possible for a corn dog to taste good during the day? No. But a corn dog is beyond delicious in the dark served with a side of fireworks. Is there a better condiment to sausage and peppers than salt air? Again, no. But I know the answer to this. I’m from the Jersey Shore; this delicacy dies crossing the state line. This is July.
And then August. The dog days. One – and only one – ice cold, can of cheap beer, drank in one fell glug while sitting on the gate of a pick-up truck (at any time of day) has a freshness and, yet, bittersweet tang because, at that moment, summer has ended.
October is the only time of year that attempting to eat your own approximate body weight in grilled-cheese sandwiches and tomato soup seems sensible.
And then, again, it’s the “Holiday Season.” The time when we’re forced to cook things we don’t even like for the sake of implied memories represented in Norman Rockwell paintings and Hallmark cards.
I like my holidays better. They don’t fit into any regular calendar scheme, but, to me, they mark the seasons with far greater accuracy.
Do you have a “Holiday Food” that deserves a mark on my version of the calendar? Lemme know.