Or rather, a small edible pine tree that smells of roasting chicken.
Or rather, a small edible pine tree that smells of roasting chicken.
I always thought I didn’t like fruitcake until I realized I was eating it on a weekly basis without realizing it. In fact, I have one in my bag right now.
If you think you don’t like fruitcake, or if you do like fruitcake and have finally finished digesting the one you ate last season and are ready for more, may I suggest trying a Lärabar? They have fancy names, but are all essentially dates, dried fruits, & nuts whirled through a food processor, pressed back together, and called “cookie” flavored. And they’re actually good! The only improvement my discerning palate would make would be to add a handful neon green cherries, a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a splash of rum. I’d age it for a year, package it, and call the flavor “Classic.”
Guest post today at Eat Genius!
I confess. I go to the grocery store every day—sometimes twice a day, sometimes to different stores to pick up items that cannot be found in the same place, sometimes to the same store to pick up an additional item or to merely meander the aisles and admire the gleaming abundance, in which case I like to dress appropriately in long johns and a belted sweater coat that best approximates a robe, for everyone knows that grocery stores are the everyday proxies for Christmas morning.
One must always use a cart in a grocery store. I like to glide beneath the fluorescent lights, feeling the fine mist from the vegetable section collect on my eyelashes as I pass. I breeze through the mountains of produce, gleaming with ripeness, as though the bounty of the world has been harvested, boxed, and presented to me in a lavish display of gifts. I fill my sleigh with exotic and out-of-season fruits—a purple banana, a celebratory pineapple; the height of true luxury. I sample all of the cheeses in the dairy section, sometimes taking seconds if no one is paying attention, and fantasize about fireplaces stacked with logs of charcuterie, mantles strung with bulk food dispensers; elves noshing on microgreens and tempeh, while a frost blooms over the freezer section windows. In the distance, a row of checkout scanners bleeps the beginning of an almost recognizable Christmas carol.
Ha! You thought today was just any old day but it’s not. Today is the day you should eat your gingerbread house. Here’s some math: assuming that you built and iced your GBH three to five days before Christmas, then left it uncovered on your dining room table to mature, your GBH has been air-drying in cozy radiator heat for approximately six weeks, which I’ve discovered, after many years of experimentation, is the exact amount of time it takes to render a few stale slabs of cookie into perfectly aged gingerbread biscotti, ready to be broken apart and dunked into an evening coffee. It is a true delicacy. Just make sure you chip off the gum drops first. I’m telling you from experience that those don’t get better with time.
Wait, what’s that? You threw yours out?
Amateurs! That’s okay; this can be fixed. All you have to do is go to the grocery store, buy butter, flour, eggs, molasses, sugar, ginger, and cloves, and get to it. If you start tonight, your gingerbread house will reach its peak around mid-March, at which point you will be the envy of all your fellow Christmas Freaks, who will revel in the foresight and patience you had to make not one, but two (!) gingerbread houses, and stagger (!!) them so that you could enjoy the fruits of your labor all winter long.
Am I the only person left in the world who still likes airports? I find them festive regardless of the season, and no one can convince me otherwise. I like taking off my shoes before entering the x-ray machine because it gives me an excuse to show off my socks. I like duty-free shopping, and how at any moment I can pop in and buy a Toblerone the size of my arm, and if I start eating it a few hours later while waiting at my gate, no one will look at me askance because anything is fair game at the airport. I like wandering the terminals, searching for the cheapest bottle of water. It’s important to challenge one’s brain from time to time. I even like the food. In the airport, it’s less about quality and more about quantity–the best treat is the one that takes the longest to eat, thus keeping you occupied. I try to get as many small, individually wrapped items as possible, and eat them over an extended period of time, treating them like hors d’oeuvres. But most of all, I like seeing entire families forced to sit together for hours on end, their luggage piled around them like gifts, the floor scattered with chips and spent Cinnabon boxes. Togetherness in its most raw form. Isn’t that part of what the holidays are all about?
New Year’s Eve is always a let down when you’re expecting a second Christmas instead of a party that starts too early, making it impossible to show up fashionably late; swaps sequins for tinsel, listicles for icicles, mini dresses for fair isle, and boring champagne for spiked nog, mulled wine, and punch; and ends with a countdown to January, which is arguably the second worst month of the year. Enter garnish, Christmas decor in miniature. A tri-colored wreath of caviar. Crimped carrots and leafy tufts of kale fanned along the edges of a platter. A cozy bed of lettuce. Snowy sugared rims and ribbons of lemon peel suspended in syrup and maraschino cherries dangling in grenadine like ornaments. You can find Christmas in almost any holiday.
December will forever be the month when adults are allowed to produce arts & crafts that would, in any of the other eleven months of the year, be considered the equivalent of noodle art, and not be ridiculed. I want to say that I created the above “holiday garland” from artisanal kraft paper, using Biblical folding techniques, but in reality I stapled a bunch of toilet paper dowels together, then applauded myself for creating something that looked marginally like home decor. Maybe we can run with the “k” thing and call this “kringle paper.” Waste not, want not, okay? It’s the spirit of the season.
Kringle paper was borne from my desire to decorate my living room with ye olde strings of popcorn and cranberries. Then fear took hold. What if I get ants? What if the cranberries shrivel and grow mold? Perhaps I’m betraying how long I usually keep my tree (three months). Then I had a thought: Craisins! But when I strung them, they ended up looking like . . . elf turds.
Though I kind of like it. It makes me think of Ye Olde ChristmasFreaks of Yore, taking down their trees in March only to discover an accidental garland of dried fruit. Christmas concentrated.
Not technically Christmas themed, though if you mentally superimpose a miniature gingerbread house atop each piglet on the tray, you get an instant cuddly Christmas village.
The problem with egg nog is that I want to drink it all time. I tried to do this a few years ago when I realized, to my dismay, that grocery stores only carry it in December (the audacity!). So on a dark day in February I decided to make my own. Big mistake. Did you know that egg nog primarily consists of–well, I won’t tell you. You don’t want to know how the sausage gets made. Then you’ll end up at the grocery store at seven in the morning on a Saturday in December, staring wistfully at the shelves of thick, hearty, sunshine-in-a-carton Egg Nog, before bending down and comparing the gellan and locust bean gums in Almond Milk Nog to the carrageenan and caramel coloring in Soy Nog, and wondering which is “healthier.”
The soy nog has this chemical nutmeg twinge that tastes like Christmas in a uniquely American way, sort of like how cheese dogs taste like Independence, and waxy candy corn tastes like Halloween. The almond nog is a little better. It actually has brown specks in it, which I’m assuming are bits of nutmeg, though it has this tongue-coating effect that I find distressing. Verdict: soy milk and almond milk to do not taste like egg yolks mixed with heavy cream. The search continues.