And to all a good night. . .

This post might end up being mostly about food. Or it might go somewhere else totally. Who knows? But even though there are some thoughts I want to offer up on the topic of Christmas, I am determined that this will not become one of those anti-Christmas rants. Instead, I’ll attempt to lead by example.

I have survived another Christmas–not only survived it, but for the most part thrived throughout. My daughter Inger came to visit for a couple of days, accompanied by Ian, her significant something ot other. We mostly talked and cooked and ate.

Last night was one of the best Christmas eves I remember. We bundled up and went to the neighbors’ house across the river, and Charlotte made homemade doughnuts, a tradition in her family. They were light and wonderful. I took over some sliced plum pudding soaked in brandy, and another neighbor brought cheese, crackers, and sausages. Several families from our immediate area were there, and it reminded me of my childhood: the women standing in the kitchen telling raucous jokes and the men sitting in the living room talking very seriously about God knows what. A couple of glasses of sauvignon blanc, just fruity enough to go with the doughnuts, and we headed home.

Ian is a vegetarian, a bit of a challenge in my meat-loving family. But we had some wonderful things to nosh on. I had planned to make scalloped potatoes, and they were slow in cooking, so Inger and I whipped up a batch of olive crostini. Nathan, if you’re reading this, these are those wonderful little hors d’oeuvres (I doubt that I spelled that right, but I’m not going to go look it up–one of you more sophisticated folks can correct me) that we chatted about by e-mail. According to the recipe, these must be made with a food processor, a tool I no longer own. I did flirt with one for a couple of engagements, then gave it away. I have yet to find anything a food processor will do that isn’t done better by very sharp knives and elbow grease without corrupting the quality of the ingredients. As she was chopping parsley, Inger said, “Mom, I’m your food processor. I’m just a little slower than the other one.”

We spread our food out over several hours and just told old stories.

One of the remarkable things about this Christmas is that I didn’t spend a single minute in any mall. I am not naive. I know that the entire U.S. economic structure depends on the “consumer” going out and consistenly spending just a little more than he can afford. But oh, I object to this. Part of it is downsizing for the last couple of years and getting rid of a heck of a lot of stuff I wondered why I had ever thought necessary.

But what a shame that a holiday that has traditionally been characterized by good cheer and social gatherings should have been reduced to a shopping frenzy. So I just don’t participate any more. I gave gifts, but they were either homemade or simply cash toward something special I knew someone wanted/needed.

I see I’m in danger of turning this into a rant after all, and I don’t want to. Besides, my oven bell just went off, so I’ve got to go check the fire in the stove and the stuffed steak that is cooking. (The kids went home today, so I’m treating Ben to beef.)

Merry Christmas to all. Hope yours was as happy as mine.

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