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.

By kimodo |  December 27, 2005; 10:20 AM ET  | Category:  31 Flavors of December
Previous: To the Meat of the Holiday Season | Next: Getting Punchy

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I would love to have recipes from your Christmas Eve Dinner - the pork, the black beans with cumin and oregano and the fried plantains. And also the individual chocolate cakes!

Posted by: Nancy | December 29, 2005 10:10 AM

What a martyr, giving up your holiday prime rib for the aunt, the zambians, and why not throw in a three-legged dog while we're at it.

Sacrifice isn't sacrifice when you get online and tell everyone about it.

Posted by: euclid guy | December 29, 2005 01:28 PM

Please send your recipe for the chocolate cakes if convenient. They sound perfectly wonderful.

Thanks,

Susan

Posted by: Susan | December 30, 2005 10:38 AM

Please send your recipe for the chocolate cakes if convenient. They sound perfectly wonderful.

Thanks,

Susan

Posted by: Susan | December 30, 2005 10:39 AM

would be very much appreciated if you could send the recipes for the pork, black beans with cumin and oregeno and the molten chocolate cakes in ramekings. thanks.

Posted by: lillian | March 13, 2006 10:30 PM

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