Merry Christmas, I Love You!

One of the great things about Christmas that often gets left out of the rest of the year is the concept of tradition. Traditions are important for many reasons, largely because they help us remember things that can too easily become forgotten. They also help us simplify things that can too easily become complicated, such as menu planning. Most of the Christmas traditions in my family, and perhaps most families, revolve around food. Although we enjoy fighting as much as any group of relatives would, one of the few things that we can all agree on is the fact that we’re hungry and need some starch to kick-start our blood-sugar levels again. We don’t have standard gifts, we don’t have rituals about when we open them, and we don’t really even have the patience for thinking about such things. We just have food. Glorious, heavenly food that the angels ate directly after appearing to the shepherds on that silent night so long ago.

Food is a large part of any holiday, but probably none more so than Christmas. Christmas even has its own food. Tell me when anybody ever eats gingerbread or consumes wassail except for during the Christmas season. Candy canes and strings of cranberries, mincemeat pies and fruitcake… well, anything soaked in rum and allowed to “rot” had better be in celebration of a holiday that’s pretty special. And Christmas it is, because Christmas gets all kinds of cool foodstuffs for its very own.

So because of this magnetic bond that we’ve formed between the two, I think it’s only appropriate to use food as a way to reflect upon not only the season, but indeed upon our entire year. Because since Santa is actually a real person (I know this, because as a young child I asked where all the candy from Christmas Eve went as I was wanting some for Christmas Day breakfast, and my Mom said “Santa must have eaten it all.” So I use this as conclusive proof that Santa does indeed exist, and that that fat man ate all of my candy) and is keeping a list of who’s been naughty and nice, we should probably all take mental stock of the same and make sure his assessment stacks up. And what better way to do all this than to cook up some recipes that I completely made up off the top of my head. Just now, even! Because as they say, there’s no tradition like a new tradition.

I have designated these dishes as “naughty” and “nice” so that depending on how you’ve behaved over the past year, this can dictate what you must prepare for yourself and eventually eat. If you are not sure which side of the fence you might fall off on, then poll those closest to you and tally up the scores. I think you’ll be surprised at the results.

Dish #1: “Naughty” Boiled Cabbage Soup

Ingredients: – 2 handfuls of raw cabbage – 1 white onion – 1 10 oz. can of cream-of-mushroom soup – 1/2 t. salt – 6 cups of water (more if you like your soup really watered down)

Directions: – Grasp the two handfuls of raw cabbage and fall to the ground with your fists raised to the sky and yell “Cabbage soup… WHY ME??!!!!” The answer is because you’ve been naughty and don’t deserve a tasty meal, so you might as well just accept that fact, stand right back up and get to cooking. – The cabbage should be separated out into 1/3 cup servings, one each added to a pot of boiling water every three minutes. There is no reason for this detail other than to complicate the process. – The onion should be peeled so that all that dried up stuff on the outside can be discarded. This represents the cleansing process for you, a chance for you to peel off the detritus from your own soul and begin anew next year. It should then be chopped up (we’re back to the onion now, not your soul) slowly. This process will probably cause weeping. That is OK, and is a wonderful and beautiful change that takes place in your life. You’ll also need that onion to help liven up your bland soup, so don’t get too caught up in the touchy-feely side of it all and forget that the onion needs to go in the pot. – The can of soup should be opened and held over a bowl. You’re not allowed to use a spoon or other utensil to help the soup out of the can. You’re also not allowed to open the other end either, in hopes that the air vacuum will be spoiled. No, you need to just stand there and wait for it to come out on its own. I have a feeling that most of your “naughty” problems from this past year had to do with your becoming impatient. This step in food preparation will help build up that muscle in your soul, so consider it exercise. Once the soup fully eases out of the can into the bowl, just cover it up and put it in the refrigerator to use at a later time. It’s not actually part of the recipe. – Casually toss in the salt, but make sure you do it with your hand and not some measuring spoon. This is what real cooks on TV do, and you should too. Also use this time to ponder, “Did he mean a teaspoon or tablespoon serving? I’m pretty sure the little t means teaspoon, but… hang on, let me look at those ingredients again.” – Bring all contents to a nice rolling boil until it’s good and mushy. Then simmer.

Serving: – Feeds one. So just keep eating until it’s gone. – Can be served with lukewarm water, as well as some raw cauliflower as a side dish.

Dish #2: “Nice” Sugar Casserole

Ingredients: – 2 cups sugar – 5 pounds of chocolate – 1/2 pinch of nutmeg – 1 ziploc baggie full of rolled oats (not instant!) – 1 10 oz. can of cream-of-mushroom soup – 1 tablespoon of milk – 3 candy canes, crushed (use a blender if necessary) – 1 can of “those friend onion topping things”

Directions: – Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. – You’ll want a pan. A big one. One that can hold a lot of sugar and chocolate. Grease it up, both outside and in, until it’s good and slippery. – Pour the 2 cups of sugar directly into the pan, making sure that it’s spread evenly over the bottom. This is what we will call your “base” layer. (If you’ve been extra good, you can go ahead and use 3 cups of sugar. After all, you’ve earned it!) – Separate the chocolate out by pounds. Place four pounds of chocolate neatly over your base layer, and then just kick back and eat the remaining pound while you take a break. They don’t always tell you in the books, but cooking is hard work! You’ve already greased a pan, measured and arranged ingredients, made a base… time for some “you” time. – Hold the 1/2 pinch of nutmeg and wonder, “what good is 1/2 pinch of nutmeg really going to do when I’ve got two cups of sugar in this beast?” and then toss it somewhere. Perhaps even in the pan, as it really doesn’t matter. – Pour the whole baggie of rolled oats over your chocolate. As the casserole heats and the chocolate melts, the rolled oats are going to act as a cohesive thickening agent to help keep your casserole on the spoon while you’re trying to eat. – As Casserole Law dictates (in Article 7, Paragraph 3g), you must use some kind of cream-of soup in your dish. So go ahead and open up that can and pour it in. (Tip: If you know someone who has been naughty, run over to their house and ask if you can just have the already open bowl of it in their refrigerator. If they say no, respond
“That’s not very nice,” and after they remember back to their cabbage soup, they’re sure to reconsider.) – You have to be thirsty by now, so have a tablespoon of milk. On the house. – To top off your special casserole, apply generously the crumbled candy canes and the can of “those fried onion topping things.” – Place the pan in the oven, set your timer for 45 minutes, and then sing Christmas carols.

Serving: – Clean off your favorite spoon and dig in. – This dish also feeds just one. But hey, you’ve earned all that sugar, you little sweetie-pie! – Make sure that while you’re eating you go over to one of your naughty friends, put your arm around them, and then plant a big sugary-mouthed kiss on their cheek and say “Merry Christmas, I Love You!” That’s just what nice people do.