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Wednesday, September 18, 2013


We have some friends who sometimes have a really fun Christmas party. They don't do it as often as they used to; since the kids are grown up and married, they sometimes travel for the holidays, and I say good for them. The hosts provide a ham or turkey and beverages, and the guests bring side dishes and desserts. Every guest, if single, or couple, if married, brings a White Elephant gift. The guests draw numbers and choose a wrapped, unmarked gift. People who go first often get stiffed, because each gift can be stolen twice. The evening ends up being full of hilarity, even without a drop of alcohol being involved. In between switching around gifts, we continue nibbling on the delicious treats everyone brings.

If you're wondering about the gifts that appear at these functions, I wasn't planning on leaving you hanging. Some of them reappear every second or third Christmas, and leave everyone laughing. One of the most infamous return visitors was commissioned by one of the guests. He had a company manufacture a nearly-elephant sized jock strap. Seriously! It just occurred to me that it fits the theme perfectly - it's white, and it could fit an elephant! Of course, there's always one of those big-mouth bass monstrosities that is on a plaque and turns to you and sings. On a related note, there was one year that the four letters "bass" made for some riotous laughter. A man who sang in a barbershop quartet known as Three Men and a Bass (rhymes with base, as in a man with a deep singing voice) gave a CD of his group as his secret gift. Everyone laughed until they cried when the recipient looked at the CD with a puzzled, almost scornful look. "Three men and a bass (rhymes with class, like the fish on the plaque)? What the heck is three men and a bass?" It was explained to her pretty quickly, and she got a laugh out of her own mistake, which always makes those moments better.

And the food we eat at these get-togethers! I try to make a batch of my oatmeal cookie bars for these parties, and have yet to have a single cookie left over, no matter how many I make. It's wonderful to eat all of the treats that people make only for the most special occasions. The dishes might include such things as special fruity salads, wonderful baked goods, vegetables of all descriptions, deviled eggs, home made candies, or even pickled herring, in homage to the host's ancestry.

One year, someone I really like brought a huge bowl of a sweet snack-mix concoction. It was a variation on a cereal snack mix, but with a delightful, almost toffee-like flavor. It was almost impossible to resist. Trent and I kept going back for more small handfuls on our plates, and at one point just hung out at the buffet table by the bowl to sneak a few extra bites. When I saw the creator of this wonderful snacking goodness, I asked her what it was. "Oh, do you like the rugga-rugga?" she asked, with a pleased smile on her face. Trent and I were intrigued. We had never heard of anything that sounded remotely like rugga-rugga. Amy laughed as she explained how this tasty treat got such an odd name. Years ago, her grandmother would make it for special family get-togethers. She and her siblings and cousins would see Grandpa eating something out of a bowl. When they asked him what it was, he always said, "Oh, you don't want any of this, it's rugga-rugga." Grandpa was smart. The kids didn't try it because they thought it was probably something icky that only adults liked to eat. So he had more for himself. And he didn't lie - he never said it was bad. He also never said what rugga-rugga meant. Eventually, the kids got up the nerve to try the snack, and found it delicious. No meaning of the words rugga-rugga was ever given to the kids. But the snack mix will forever be known as Rugga-rugga. Everyone from the future generations of this family who enjoys it will be honoring the memory of a clever Grandpa who found a unique way to keep the best snacks for himself!