Christmas

view.jpg We have the same meal every Christmas Eve, because it is just perfect! Not too difficult, things can be made in advance, and it is oh so good! Off to the Maine coast we go to get Glidden Point oysters right from the grower, pick up our lobsters that we have pre ordered and then a quick stop at the grocery store...and we start to cook.

The menu:
Leek saffron broiled oysters
Baked stuffed lobsters with crab meat
Caesar Salad (you are on your own)
Chocolate molten cake
and lots of Champagne(on your own again)

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christmas-candles.jpgWe have a traditional Christmas dinner.   We've been doing it for twenty-two years. There are fourteen people involved – eight parents and six children – and we all get together at Jim and Phoebe's during Christmas week to exchange presents and make predictions about events in the coming year.

Each of us brings part of the dinner. Maggie brings the hors d'oeuvres. Like all people assigned to bring hors d'oeuvres, Maggie is not really into cooking, but she happens to be an exceptional purchaser of hors d'oeuvres. Joe and Phoebe do the main course because the dinner is at their house.  This year they're cooking a turkey.  Jane and I were always in charge of desserts.   Jane's specialty was a wonderful bread pudding. I can never settle on just one dessert, so I often make three – something chocolate (like a chocolate cream pie), a fruit pie (like a tarte tatin) and a traditional plum pudding which no one ever eats but me. I love making desserts for Christmas dinner, and I have always believed that I make excellent desserts. But now that everything has gone to hell and I've been forced to replay the last twenty-two years of Christmas dinners, I realize that the only dessert anyone ate with real enthusiasm was Jane's bread pudding; no one ever said anything complimentary about any of mine. How I could have sat through Christmas dinner all this time and not realized this simple truth is one of the most puzzling aspects of this story.

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fudge.jpgStill looking for the perfect Christmas gift that is easy, inexpensive, and loved by all?

Your problem is solved: give the gift of fudge! That's right. Mix up a few batches, pop them in some festive foil baking cups, and nestle them in decorative tissue paper and tins. Then kick back with a hot chocolate and enjoy your favorite Christmas movies while everybody else kills themselves looking for a parking space at the mall.

No baking is required. None. Zip. It can be made ahead and refrigerated, so it saves you time. Plus, each batch costs only a few dollars and can be made in less than 10 minutes.

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happy_christmanukkah.jpgI was never walked into a temple. Never. Not by my dad, the Jew. I thought being Jewish meant eating lox, bagel & cream cheese in a deli. Because that’s what my dad, the non-religious Jew told me. When we ate at Nate n’ Al’s, he would announce loudly as he seemed to be pointing to the food, “We’re Jews!!!”

I sang with my friend Cindy Lou Carlson in her church for the Christmas pageant. Those rehearsals alone put me in a church more times than I was ever in a temple – at least until my kids and step-kids became B’nai Mitzvah.

I’m assuming my mom was some sort of Christian, but your guess is as good as mine. She never walked us into a church and never spoke of any religion. So, there you go, two parents – one gentile, one Jewish – who offered zero religious guidance. We called ourselves half-and-half. This was pretty commonplace in Beverly Hills, though each family would often choose a side and go to temple or church. Christmas or Chanukah.

We celebrated Christmas, tree and all. Show business was up and down and some years we had big-time gifts. The trees were bigger in those years. At other times we might have skimpy trees with few gifts.

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hanukkah.jpgIt’s not easy being Jewish during the Christmas season, especially if you’re a kid. Chanukah is great, don’t get me wrong. Presents for eight nights in a row. Lighting the candles and watching them flicker in the menorah until they gradually fade away. And I’m a big fan of the latke. But compared to Christmas? Really?

Imagine, then, what my son Luke had to contend with, growing up Jewish and having an older brother who got to celebrate Chanukah and Christmas while he celebrated only the Festival of Lights. And it was all my fault. I married a non-Jew, had a son with him and got divorced. Then I met my true love (Luke’s father) and created our modern nuclear family. Three Jews and a mixed-breed (sorry, Craig), who marched in a Christmas pageant at his father’s church wearing the robe of a king – the same year he was deep in preparation for his bar mitzvah. Holiday time in our household was always a bit fraught.

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