Lebanon Reporter

December 24, 2013

Eschewing the traditional Christmas dinner


Lebanon Reporter

---- — Every major U.S. holiday involves foods that are traditional. Growing up, I could always count on the following:Easter ham with scalloped potatoes and bunny-shaped cake for dessert.

Fourth of July brought grilled burgers and Grandma’s potato salad.

Thanksgiving is, of course, the glutton’s dream of Turkey with all of the trimmings.

Christmas, though, has always been a bit confusing for me. I honestly don’t know what constitutes a traditional Christmas meal. We always made the trek from Tennessee to Indiana for the holidays, and spent Christmas day gadding about between grandmothers. We ate Christmas dinner twice every year, and yet, I can’t remember one single item from the menu. The only way I can reason this out is that I must have been more excited about gifts than food.

One would reasonably think that someone who has been a mother for 22 Christmases would be adept at preparing a traditional dinner. But early on, hubby and I decided we would not run our young children to and fro, opting instead to relax at home. So, much to the chagrin of my mother, we stood firm in our commitment not to set foot outside of the house, except to pick up pizza.

On what turned out to be her last Christmas, mom pleaded with me to come. It was her first year to host the family gathering, as my parents typically still spent their day between the homes of their mothers. The torch had been passed, and mom was going all out to make it a classy affair. She even brought in enough tables so that no one had to hunch on the end of the bed with their plate. My aunt was bringing real silver, and mom had collected enough solid white Corelle to create beautiful place settings. She was counting on me to bring a seven-layer salad, but I steadfastly refused.

When she died on Easter weekend, the memory of my Christmas refusal was a knife to my heart. She only lived ten miles away. We could have popped in for a bit. I could have made the salad. It pains me a great deal that my children never knew a Christmas day with my mom. Sometimes, what seems “right for me” at the time, turns out to be totally wrong in the long run.

In the 15 Christmases since, we have not missed one with my family. However, we have also never had the same meal two years in a row. The first year after her death, we opted for enchiladas. Another year we had an Italian theme. My sisters and I anticipate hearing what entrée dad has dreamed up, and then we contribute side dishes. One year we had three types of soup. Another time, we did cold cuts and potato salad. We’ve had chopped steak, finger sandwiches, fried chicken, chili, pot roast, currywurst and chicken casserole. The only thing that remains consistent is Red Velvet Cake made from mom’s recipe.

Last week, dad’s text read: “Good morning my beautiful daughters. For Christmas I am making hot wings and ribs. I would like each of you to bring a side dish and a dessert.”I will overlook the fact that this text was sent out at 6:30 on Saturday morning, and jump straight to the point. We are having hot wings and ribs for Christmas. Could someone please tell me, what exactly is a “traditional” Christmas dinner?Truitt is an author, speaker and mother of five. Find her on Facebook (Ginger Truitt-Author) and Twitter (@GingerTruitt), or contact her at ginger@gingertruitt.com.

Red Velvet Cake½ C shortening1 ½ C sugar2 eggs1 tsp baking soda1 C buttermilk2 C flour1/8 tsp salt1 tsp. vanilla3 TBSP cocoa1 bottle red food coloring (large)1 TBSP vinegarCream sugar, shortening and eggs, then add milk.

Combine remaining dry ingredients, and add alternately with sugar mixture (if you have a Kitchenaid mixer, just throw it all in at once).

Bake 350° for 30-35 minutes.

Icing:1 C milk3 tbsp flourCook until thick, stirring constantlyCover with foil and let cool. It will become very thick.

Combine:½ C shortening1 stick butter1 C sugar1 tsp vanillaAdd milk mixture and combine until fluffy. Double icing for two layer cake. Best served cold!