Friday, November 25, 2011
Food traditions were the worst. The delectable combination of onions, celery and poultry seasoning frying in butter can still recall my very earliest memories of Thanksgiving--putting together a doll-house-sized feast in miniature while the "Macy's Day Parade", Babes in Toyland and Miracle on 34th Street, played in the background. This, of course, was back in the day before TV marathons had even been invented.
I loved the sense of constancy these rituals evoked. My mother once made the mistake of baking coconut meringue cookies one Christmas, along with all the rest of the usual holiday favorites. No one else cared for the meringues very much, but I loved them. And I pouted every year afterwards, when they didn't automatically appear, until I was old enough to bake them myself. Then there were the struffoli, which an Italian boyfriend accidentally introduced me to one Christmas during my early teens. I left the boy, but I took the pastries.
The same pattern continued for many years. There was the vegetarian holiday lasagna my parents discovered during the 70s, made with bright red pimento sauce, pureed spinach and creamy Bechamel. They served it at a party one New Year's Eve and a lot of their friends found it odd. It was the raisins, I think (yes, raisins. omg, so good, you have no idea!). I, of course, immediately adopted it as my own, along with my mother in law's cream cheese apricot turnovers, the Cuban-style rice pudding the mother of a friend of mine introduced me to and, a little while later, my own take on lemon chess pie, which I developed when we lived in Southern California.
I'd switched my allegiance from Macy's parade on Thanksgiving to the Rose Bowl Parade on New Year's at this point, and was living in a house that had a huge Meyer lemon tree in the back yard. This was during the first few weeks after Clinton was elected and Southern cooking was suddenly on everyone's mind. To this day, cold lemon pie, hot, black coffee, the Rose Parade and bright sunshine is the only proper way to start the New Year in my opinion.
Gradually, however, things changed. Traditions disappeared. People either grew up or they broke up; they moved away or passed away; they embraced vegetarianism (raises hand sheepishly) or they turned their backs on organized religion (hand still up for that one) or they reversed course on both. OR...they moved several years in a row and ended up losing-and/or-permanently-misplacing not one, not two or three, but no less than FOUR consecutive sets of Christmas ornaments.
Honestly, if that doesn't cure you of your obsessive need to keep things the same, nothing will.
These days, about the only holiday tradition I observe is change. However I did things last year, you can pretty much bet I won't be doing that again this time around. There's a giddy kind of freedom in that, I've found. It's kind of like being single: I can experiment all I want, with whatever I want, without fear of commitment. I get gleefully excited walking into stores this time of year and wondering, what colors do I want to decorate the tree with this time around...or do I even want to bother with a tree at all? I saw a no-tree display recently--just a spiraling cone of ornaments suspended on monofilament thread beneath a single spotlight--that really has me thinking...
So, what about you? Are you a traditionalist or not? Do you like things the same sometimes? All the time? Or do you fall somewhere in between?
Posted by PG Forte at 1:00 AM