Friday, November 27, 2009

Holiday Memories, No Offense...

These days, it's hard to celebrate a holiday without someone getting in your face about the political correctness of it all.  And, everyone is so touchy!  "Don't eat this!  This tastes better, and it's better for...(fill in the blank)." There are online non-scientific polls and petitions to quell those offended by the word "Christmas".  And, then we take national air time to pardon- a turkey.  (You could just see the "Big O" was thinking it had to be one of the more ridiculous presidential traditions he's participated in as yet.)  

I'll betcha can't find a real "Indian" or facsimile thereof (as in Native American) on any kind of Thanksgiving decorations made in the last 20 years!? Oh sure- there are lots of innocuous mini pilgrims running around, or my favorite, the smiling turkey with a pilgrim's hat on.  WTF?  Was Gary Larsen at Plymouth Rock??  After all, we all know now that the "traditional dinner" we celebrate that is supposed to commemorate Thanksgiving has been airbrushed so many times, it's a wonder we don't celebrate with a buffet of McDonald's and Pizza Hut (you know- as a kind of tailgate before the big game, which eventually will take over the holidays.  More commercials. Bigger bucks.)  

It's no surprise, therefore, we so desperately cling to the traditions we've always known, not messing with a single cube of stuffing or blessed drop of gravy.  Reading the food sections of papers around the holidays is interesting, but for new twists on old classics, it's not very realistic.  Friends and fellow bloggers have told stories of near crucifixion for putting cream cheese in the pumpkin pie or switching the almonds to hazelnuts on the green beans. 

My first year of culinary school, I came home for Thanksgiving dinner to a very enthusiastic family.  "Chef boy is home!".  And I was ready to show off.  So, you can understand that my suggestion for boning out the entire turkey and making confit out of the legs and roasting the other parts separately was met with, well- LESS than enthusiastic comments.  In fact, I believe the only leverage I was given was being allowed to make the first course pasta dish, which happened to double as an alternative for the non-turkey eaters.  Oh, I got to carve the turkey.  With an electric knife.

*Sigh*  What's a new cook with mad skills to do on a big holiday?  Answer: shut up and cook.  That's what.  It doesn't matter how good your cranberry relish with orange zest, ginger and mint tastes; if it isn't ribbed, shiny and jiggling like a truck driver, get it off the table.

But, now I've been indoctrinated, and as such, I go with the flow. 

Holidays are the one time when foodies are trumped by the rest of the hungry world.  Not that I mind now.  We look forward to mom's pie or dad's bread.  The mashed potatoes, the gravy, the cranberry sauce (woooooo)  Although, I'm usually gonna pass on the green bean casserole, since this is the one that get's farmed out to the guest who insists on bringing something. Made with Campbell's.  And, the saving historical correctness of Thanksgiving dinner?  Corn.

Some other holiday odds you could bet on; like, the more people there are, the more likely someone is going to "disappear" for a short period of time, though as George Carlin pointed out, there are few opportunities to do anything on a bed during on a busy holiday.  Or, when someone offers to take the dog for a walk and comes back 40 minutes later and devours three pies.  All in all, it's a pleasantly predictable time.  Only when the alcohol reaches drama levels or someone forgets their meds do things get interesting.  Hell, that's when the the fun begins! 

One year when I was about 12, I sat pensively on my bicycle at the top of our street waiting for my grandparents to arrive on Christmas Eve.  I was just young enough to not care for the delay, and just old enough to remember why.  It seems my crazy cousin snapped a cap earlier in the day, and in an emotional meltdown, pulled a gun on my aunt and uncle.  As she waved a pistol in the air and screamed her head off about the end of the world, it was just enough time for the cops to come and get things under control.  Ahhh, the holidays.

And so, as we start this holiday season, let us raise a glass to each other in hopes of seeing the real meaning of tradition, and salute our stamina as a..patient, thoughtful- ...huh- wha-  Oh.  Game's on.  Gotta go.

Got any classic holiday stories you wanna share?  The lines are open- go ahead caller...!

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