Tuesday, December 25. 2007
We had family get-togethers are our house last night and today for the first Christmas ever. My parents bought a house in 1949 a year before I was born, and lived there until they died three months apart in 2000. After then my brother moved into their house and continued their traditions until he landed a contract job in Oregon and decided it was permanent enough to move his family there in October. They came back to Wichita this week, largely at the urging of their grown children, who live on the east coast and still have friends here. The house is still in the family, occupied by our favorite Superartists, but they spent the weekend elsewhere, returning just in time to eat. So I threw out a plan for a small meal with presents on the Eve and a bigger meal on the holiday proper. Those have always been rudiments, but I got a chance to vary the menu this time.
My sister liked to point out that my mother's love of Christian holidays was essentially pagan: Easter egg hunts; Christmas trees, candy, and presents; and most of all an obligatory family dinner. My parents never evinced any doubts about Christianity, but there never was anything religious about Christmas. I missed a bunch of those while living on the east coast, then when I moved back to Wichita got sick and missed what proved to be the last one with my parents. It's never been the same since then, and never will again. I planned my menus to shove Jesus a little further out in the snow. (I can't recall a previous white Christmas in Wichita, but it snowed on Saturday and has barely melted since.) For the Eve, I went Ashkenazi:
We usually make latkes during Hannukah, but didn't manage it this year, so they seemed overdue. I've picked herring in the past, but couldn't find any this time.
For dinner today we did something I call Moroccan Grill and Matt Superartist calls the Meat Meal. The dishes actually include items from Turkish and Iranian cuisine, so we can chalk most of the meal up to Muslim influences -- even the Sicilian eggplant, with the desserts of more uncertain providence. The grill items were:
The sides and desserts:
Matt ran the grill, and Mike did a lot of the prep work. We fed 12 the first time, 13 the second. The food was pretty great. I messed up the rice recipe several ways but it still came out. Had a lot of problems keeping the space organized and finding places for everyone to sit, so from my standpoint it seemed especially hectic -- and at my age pretty tiring. Rachel took some pictures, which will probably appear sooner or later at Porkalicious.
We gave nothing but books this year: Reginald Hill, Carl Hiassen, Doris Lessing, Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, Matt Taibbi's Smells Like Dead Elephants, Molly Ivins' Who Let the Dogs In?, Steve Rinella's The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine, America (The Book), art books, cook books, and an HTML tutorial.
Still hasn't felt like Christmas since 1999, but it does mark a transition of sorts. Unfortunately, it also seems unlikely to happen again, given the distance between here and Portland, the increasing cost and difficulty of winter travel, and the general tendency that we all have to disperse and settle into our own little lives. The sense of family that my parents had and the knowledge they handed down are quickly disappearing -- with all but a couple of my aunts and uncles gone, I've already lost track with just about everyone at my cousin level. Having read Jane Jacobs, this just reminds me of Dark Ages Ahead.