Ah, the holiday seasons of our lives! They are filled with the love of family and friends. There is the desire to not only be happy, but to make others happy as well. We search our hearts, minds, and local stores for perfect gifts to give to those we care about. And, as I believe has always been the case with humans, we share our love with each other on plates and in bowls and poured into glasses. Food is obviously important to our everyday life, but at the holidays we allow ourselves to indulge. We make treats for ourselves and each other that we only eat once or twice a year. It may be something elegant like pate de foie gras, or something humble like a home-made cheese ball. But it is always something we look forward to as the holidays approach.
When I was younger, my Aunt Jackie used to bring a fruit salad to the annual Thanksgiving dinner. I absolutely loved it. It was creamy and colorful, and not too sweet. Every November, as we got closer and closer to Thanksgiving, I wondered and worried. Would she make the fruit salad this year? What if she forgot? But every year, she showed up with her large bowl of fruity goodness. As an adult, I told her how much I had always loved that dish. She was pleased that I loved it so much, and told me her secret recipe. It was simply drained fruit cocktail, sliced bananas, and sour cream with a sprinkle of sugar. This Thanksgiving, I made a variation of it to share with my friends, along with the story of how it had sweetened my life. It was not fancy, but it was quite a hit anyway. What joy!
I am writing this in my friend's kitchen. I am dog-sitting while she and her husband are out of town to see their brand-new granddaughter. I knew that I would want to make some of our seasonal-tradition foods, so I brought some groceries along with me. Last evening, I made a steam-table pan full of Chex mix. Bowie the dog eagerly watched to see if any food might spill and require cleanup. After all of the butter and seasonings and nuts and such came out of the oven, he got his wish. Some snack mix spilled on the floor and he was right on duty. And it was a real accident, not an accidentally-on-purpose. What a lucky dog!
Trent and I have a fairly new Christmas dining tradition. This morning I got up early to start making a vat (okay, it is just a really large pot, okay?) of green chili. As I browned the pork for this tasty dish, I thought about how much Trent would enjoy eating it. The house still smells of the green chilies and the pork and onions and tomatoes. The dog has been following in my tracks to see if perhaps I have left a bowl behind, just waiting to be cleaned up. He is such a dedicated busboy!
The SOPs (Saved On Purpose; much more positive connotation than leftovers) of the green chili are in the refrigerator, and there are a couple of gallon bags of Chex mix on the counter. In a few days, when I am back at home, I will make Trent one of his favorite sweet treats, a creation of mine which he has dubbed Chocolate Christmas Dream. It is rich and buttery with plenty of chocolate, and our tradition is to eat it out of the baking dish rather than plating it. It just adds to the fun of it all. Because we are adults, we can get away with acting like we are kids, and it seems to add to the flavor of the treat as well.
Every holiday season, I hear myself saying that we should eat some of these foods more often because we love them so much. Occasionally, we will do so, but I am not disappointed when we don't. The joyous anticipation of whatever holiday treats we decide to eat just makes them that much better. If you think about it, even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be a special treat if you don't eat it all of the time. So, although many of us say we have to do it more often, we don't. We know that if it only comes once a year, like Christmas does, that it will be more special, more savory, more sweet...as only a holiday treat can be.