Monday, December 12, 2011

Life's A Feast, And Sometimes You Have To Eat Big!

I don't know why it is that setting your teeth into a well-browned hunk of hog makes you feel good, but it works for me. For Christmas Day I want meat, and I don't mean a measly, puny, stunted portion of veal, either. I want big, maddeningly fragrant mounds of steer, hog or bird, or maybe all three, drenched with gravy.

Holiday meats should be baked until all you have to do is gently nudge some critical joint, and the whole thing smoothly falls apart into neat little sheaves. This meat is not burned, it is charmed, and you can eat right through the coral bones.

I wonder what spiritual eunuch first banned "cooking odors" from the home? I want to smell that heavy hunters-and-gatherers food baking. Morning of the banquet day you put the standing rib roast or the big boss bird into the oven. If it's a turkey, consider dipping a length of cheesecloth into a pound of melted butter and snugly wrapping up that tom. Now he's your big gilded turkey baby. In the next hours, ragingly delicious smells expand in golden waves from the kitchen.

Then the best time of all comes. You sit down to eat the food you love the best, with those you love the best. A glass or two of crystal white wine, or potent red goes well with this--wines that are the soul of grape, that seem to kiss you back when you smack them. At the end, there are berry pies nestled in buttery crusts. In our family, there's also a hundred-year tradition of serving candied nuts in the same gorgeous, gold-and-green china bowl. I'm sure you know that there are saints' bones that are handled with less reverance than we lavish on that bowl.

Then everyone alternates sipping his or her dark, fine coffee and nibbling the brown-sugar-crusted nuts of the field. We look around the table at three generations of these faces that we love, and every one of us (including the agnostics) thinks, "Thank you, God!"