I credit my daughter with much.
She helped me get over my aversion to eating food covered in another person’s drool, for one.
She’s also made Christmas more enjoyable for me, child of divorced parents, who for years wished the day could be wiped from the calendar so she could really enjoy peace this season.
Still, even in my most ‘Bah humbug’ days, when I’d email my editor in July and beg him to make me work Christmas, I felt compelled to ensure others weren’t being short-changed of cheer. I put in the extra effort at the office potluck, making something I was sure my co-workers would enjoy rather than phone it in with a grocery store fruit tray. I’d bring coffee to the photographer who begged not to work Christmas but drew the short straw and did it anyway. And I’d sweat over every word when filing my stories about community dinners held for those who had limited options of what to eat and where to go during the holidays.
Fast forward to post-newsroom life and parenthood, and that feeling hasn’t changed. Much as I was grateful for having an excuse to opt out of Christmas at one time, I’ve always felt that no one should be alone, or at the very least, they should have options, even if they prefer to do the yule solo.
That’s why I’ve included another face around the Christmas table the past few years: my friend Sebastien. His family is in Belgium and though he puts up every excuse as to why he shouldn’t join us — he doesn’t want to be any trouble — I protest his protests to the point of calling him a Fart Face and demanding he show up.
Truth is, the highlight of Christmas for me, aside from seeing my daughter open her gifts or shy away from mall Santas, is making the meal. *The* meal. I love getting lost in shredding my CSA Brussels sprouts for a warm salad, chopping turnips for a side that stands up to everything with which it shares a plate, or making lentil loaf that surprises my turkey-loving family members. This year, I took pleasure in getting my hands dirty to make pumpkin gnocchi.
While that protein-as-the-centrepiece mentality has been hard to shake, even 10 years after going veg, I tried hard this year when Sebastien came for dinner by serving that gnocchi.
Of course he protested it would be too much trouble. Of course I called him a name. And of course I proceeded to make the gnocchi for the simple reason that it’s an incredibly easy meal, with an elegance that belies that fact. Served with a red curry sauce, it’s a meal that says I’m happy you’re here celebrating with us.
It’s also the kind of meal that makes short work of the pumpkins piling up alongside my sweet potatoes, both from my CSA. An added bonus, to be sure. And it’s a meal that’s perfect for marking other important occasions, like ushering in the new year in a few days.
Smooshing roasted pumpkin into a gloopy mash and folding in silky flour to make the dough is an opportunity to reflect on what was and what will be, while eating it with family and friends is an opportunity to be in the moment.
And if you happen to be in the moment with a toddler nearby, one who pounds back most of her dumplings and then spits out the rest when she’s full, it’s an opportunity to see just how much you’ve overcome that aversion to drool-covered food.
See you on the flip-side of the calendar everyone.