Less Is More
There was no Christmas tree at my house. No tinsel, no carols, no lights. And everybody survived! I always prefer a simple version of the holidays, with minimal glitter and fuss.
Christmas Eve dinner for two included a pork shoulder, black beans seasoned with cumin and oregano and sauteed plantains. For dessert, I pulled an old trick out of the pastry bag and whipped up individual molten chocolate cakes, garnished with orange segments. These little babies are deceptively easy - make the batter in advance and keep chilled in ramekins until it's time to bake in a hot oven, for only 10 minutes. The bake-to-order quality of these cakes also allows for time to digest the big meal and pace the evening as you wish.
On Christmas Day, I battled two-plus hours of torrential rain on I-95 in pursuit of joining my mother and her extended clan outside Philadelphia. The meal was unmemorable, save the clatter of bickering relatives gnawing on a gargantuan prime rib roast.
Prime rib doesn't feel so prime when there are others just barely squeaking by. I kept thinking about how I could help my friends in Zambia, whom I called over the weekend; Godfrey, the primary bread winner for his family of nine, suddenly lost his job last week and is without money to feed them.
I packed a goodie bag for my 82-year-old aunt, who's in a convalescent home mending a broken arm and hip on the left side. That spunky gal suddenly became frail and unable to take care of herself. Little things like homemade cookies and an hour of conversation meant everything to her.
I got back on the highway to find the malls loaded with gift card redeemees fighting over parking spaces and the tollbooths backed up for 30 miles. Back in Arlington, I met a close friend for dinner, who was on her way to New Orleans to help paint a school that would reopen next week after Hurricane Katrina-induced damage.
All of a sudden, a minimalist bowl of broth seemed like the right thing to order.
In the coming days of this final week of 2005, I'll review culinary moments, great and small, and welcome your contributions in the comments below. I'll also touch on New Year's symbols of good luck, plus a few ideas on entertaining at home on New Year's Eve.
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