Momma is glad Christmas is over. Not that she doesn’t celebrate the birth of the Christ Child and enjoy all the related festivities. She just finds that Christmastime gets more stressful and complicated every year.
First, there is the yearly debate about whether one can still say “Merry Christmas” or should play it safe with “Happy Holidays” – or something even more milktoast like “Happy Winter Solstice.” Actually, though, this is not a big dilemma for Momma who freely (and pointedly) calls out “Merry Christmas!” to everyone she sees. (“We are celebrating Christmas, Lina – others can say what they want.”)
To Momma, worrying about what to say so as not to offend was a waste of time and detracted from the true meaning of Christmas. She had other things on her mind – there was shopping to be done (some even for others), self-promoting Christmas card to be ordered and cocktail parties to attend.
Next, just like clockwork, the annual legal battles over religious displays in public places pop up. Just as predictably the issue of school music programs arises every year – what type of music is permissible – indeed, is a program allowed at all? Surely someone would be left out even with the best intentions and efforts humanly possible. Momma fondly remembers the good old days when she taught music in North Dakota and could have the kids sing whatever she wanted – at their Christmas program. Come to think of it, she bets they can still do that in North Dakota! Maybe she would just move back there. (For once, I’m onboard with Momma – I hear they have almost no lakes.)
While tiresome and annoying, these are not the biggest issues confronting Momma at Christmas. The one that takes the cake (speaking of food) is making dinner for her family on Christmas Eve.
Is used to be so easy – she’d buy a honey-baked ham at a specialty store, some pre-made Swedish meatballs (she could never find/didn’t know if there was such a thing as Norwegian meatballs – close enough though she thought), some pre-made mashed potatoes (always being careful to remove the store packaging and imply she made them herself) and call it a day.
When a relative asked what they could bring, she’d assign a time-consuming item like a complicated hor d’oeuvre, salad or vegetable to round out the menu. For dessert, she’d usually take the chocolates out of a box she got from someone else and arrange them on a platter as though she had just thrown together some gourmet chocolate truffles. (“People don’t really need dessert anyway, Lina.”)
As with the rest of Christmas though, dinner was more complicated now. Out of the nine family members she served on Christmas, at least four had special dietary needs. Two required food to be gluten free. Those same two were also lactose intolerant. Two others were vegans – although one would occasionally make exceptions – like when someone brought something especially tasty that was not allowed on his/her diet. Plus two were organic farmers which also had to be factored into the mix. And one ate only dog food.
First off, Momma had only a vague idea what these terms entailed. Gluten-free she was pretty sure meant no wheat, but were other grains allowed? Lactose intolerant meant no dairy she thought, but really what constituted “dairy?” And vegan totally threw her – she knew there was almost nothing they could eat (really how did they stay alive?) – but she was reasonably sure vegies were okay – but only if they were organic, right? And did anyone require that their food be pasture-raised? (When Momma first heard that term being used by two granola crunchers at the grocery store, she was sure they were confused and corrected them, saying “It’s pronounced pasteurized.”) I’m glad I was at home.
Luckily (as is usually the case with Momma), others came to the rescue for Christmas Eve dinner this year, bringing enough food items that were lacking in one or more prohibited ingredient that everyone was able to eat. For her part, Momma’s big concession was that she made her own mashed potatoes and, being careful to stick to prescribed dietary guidelines, did not use butter or cream. (She was in something of a snit later though after being told that butter is okay for the lactose intolerant – but come to think of it, that wouldn’t have worked for the vegan crowd would it?) Anyway, she found a recipe online for “Delicious Creamy Dairy Free Mashed Potatoes” and dutifully whipped them up. The fraudulently-named and nearly inedible recipe basically called for potatoes and chicken stock. But whatever. The vegans did not need to know about the chicken stock.
And all the best to my readers in 2016 ~ Lina
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