Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reprint from my 2006 Holiday post

Several years ago I posted this in another blog. As Christmas is around the corner I wanted to share it with you. I have edited it to bring it up to date and included an afterword, but otherwise it is intact. Don't think of this as a rerun... think of it as a "best of" episode

People around here just don't understand how the Holidays are done! They think it's just Turkey and Ham and and sweet potatoes (I HATE SWEET POTATOES*). We've tried to serve a traditional Italian feast to our friends before, and it was not a pretty sight. Between the courses and the additional items, most of them are quite confused. And by the time we are done, most of them won't want to eat again for a week.

Here's a typical holiday dinner at my home:

Before you begin you have to warn your guests, "This is a multi-course meal. Don't fill up on the first course." But they never listen.

First you start with the antipasti. The looks you get when you serve cold cuts and cheese first are priceless. And then when they bite into a piece of fennel when they expected the taste of celery. OMG!

Then then comes the soup. They can handle the soup. In fact, if I cook, I usually make wedding soup and they love the little meatballs. I get some funny looks when I put escarole in it though. ("Dear? Why did he put lettuce in the soup?" "Humor him. He's not from around here.")

Next of course is the pasta and sauce with the meatballs and sausage. And of course if it is Thanksgiving, it would be lasagna or stuffed shells. If my wife made the sauce they'll like it. If I made it, we'd have to skip this course. About this time we have to warn them again, "There is still more to come, don't fill up." But of course, they still aren't listening.

About this time, I like to break out the first bottle of wine. Now people here where I live are for the most part of two minds about wine. Either wine is alcohol and alcohol is evil, or wine is alcohol and alcohol is like Kool-Aid. Luckily, most of my friends do not fit into either category, but I have served meals where people have stopped talking to me because I put a bottle of wine on the table. This is an argument for another post.

As soon as the plates are cleared, the main course is served. Usually two roasts: a turkey and a roast beef. Maybe I'll serve lamb or pork loin. Rarely will I serve ham. For really close friends that have been through one of our feasts before I may serve duck or goose or even individual Cornish game hens. If it's foul, I'll make my brown rice, sausage and apple stuffing. Then we'll have potatoes with gravy and two other green vegetables. No sweet potatoes though. I HATE SWEET POTATOES!*

If you have ever seen a Tex Avery cartoon you will understand they way that people's eyes will bulge out when they have had too much. Despite all of my warnings, they didn't listen and our friends have filled up on earlier courses. ("Dear? I think he's trying to kill us with all of this food!" "I shouldn't have stopped for that Big Mac on the way over here!") I'll also bring out a second bottle of wine at this point. Now my guests are completely confused, but that's okay by me.

Once again the plates are cleared and now the salad is served. If my guests were able to get through everything else, they are usually completely befuddled by the lettuce making an appearance at the end of the meal. This is European style. It is the way I was raised, it is the way I serve my meals and frankly it is better for digestion.

Now the table is cleared again. Coffee is made and cookies are served. Usually Italian cookies and Biscotti. Why the Italian cookies when nobody really likes them? Well you never know when some relative is going to stop by and they just wouldn't understand why you didn't have those nasty little holly-leaf-cookies-filled-with-jam-and-covered-with-powdered-sugar. And you wouldn't want to offend an aunt or a cousin that might have been expecting those cookies. Biscotti is another story though. I like homemade biscotti (sans anisette thankyouverymuch) and like to have them with my coffee after a big meal.

Once everyone has had an opportunity to digest a little and relax, the dessert is served. Depending on the meal that was served before it, we may have a cheesecake, or key-lime pie or an apple pie or maybe even a pumpkin pie; but that's usually only there as an appeasement to our guests. Well you never know when some guest is going to stop by and they just wouldn't understand why you didn't have those nasty little pureed-orange-gourd-pies-served-with-nutmeg-and-cinnamon. And you wouldn't want to offend a friend or co-worker that might have been expecting that pie. Of course these same friends and co-workers now think I am completely insane for having brought out this much food and then following it up with this much dessert. They should have listened.

Now depending on the crowd, I might offer and serve an after dinner aperitif; sambouka or crème de menthe or maybe Kahlua. At this point, if they were offended by the wine on the table, I doubt they'll think any less of me for bringing out the real stuff.

As the guests leave, I will usually get some comment on the amount of food or maybe the quality. Someone will probably make some not-so-clever remark about eating disorders and I'll politely laugh and invite them back for Easter dinner.

Then they'll all be gone and the house will be quiet. The only noise will be the dishwasher in the background.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and wish you all the happiest of holiday seasons.

*As for Sweet Potatoes, I don't hate them as much as I used to. I'll post a recipe and pictures of my Sweet Potato Custard soon.

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