Building a Gingerbread House

Christmas is a bit of a pastiche at our house.  Mostly because I don’t have any family traditions to import from when I was growing up.  My father is Muslim and my mother is Christian.  They didn’t really have a holiday strategy  - you know the way Debbie & Danny made a dinner strategy in “About Last Night”:

“Two nights a week I cook. Two nights a week he cooks. Two nights we go out. And then there’s sandwich night.”  (Totally unrelated but in reply to that, Debbie’s acerbic friend Joan quips “I bet your sex life is a real thrill.  Two nights a week you’re on top, two nights a week he’s on top. So what is it you do on sandwich night?”)

There was no plan.  Christmas trees would invariably go up but it was furtive and short-lived, certainly not fun.  My father, who gives the best gifts in our family, would forgo taking part in the restrained festivities.  Mostly, my sister and I received sweaters - itchy ones.

Sometimes we celebrated with my Romanian grandmother, she is a talented cook and gifted hostess but her traditional Christmas dish is ‘Piftie‘, a medieval style dish of smoked pork leg in aspic (served cold).  Not exactly the roast-turkey-with-cranberry-sauce-bread-sauce-gravy-stuffing-sprouts-sausages-spuds-bacon-wrapped-prunes-with-plenty-of-leftovers-for-sandwiches Christmas spread that I make every year.

It was slim pickings at our house.  I would look enviously at what my American friends were getting, eating and doing for Christmas.  Or my Jewish friends “How come Angie Schwarz get’s presents 7 days in a row?!” I would complain to my parents?!

Not having and wanting as a child is the biggest impetus to have as an adult.

Since I moved out of my parents home, I have celebrated Christmas in a big way. Not for any religious reasons but because it’s excess at it’s best: so you put felt reindeer horns on the dog and roll your eyes good-naturedly at the lame joke in the cracker.  You eat too much and rent 10 DVD’s, you make a pillow tower to support your neck so that you can continue to eat christmas cookies while maintaining a reclined position.  After 15 minutes, you stop the movie and get up to make Christmas sandwiches. Read more of this post

Ikea meatballs, mystery sauce and jammy red stuff…


…is really not too bad!  Or is it sheer desperation that you are escaping the furniture maze?  No! I think they are actually quite tasty!  Is this confession akin to admitting you…gasp….eat at McDonald’s?  

It’s funny, now that I have a toddler, I am re-discovering all these places (I have eaten at McD’s twice in 16 months).  Places I would not ever normally set foot in because: it’s a chain, it’s fast food, it’s loaded with salt, it’s loaded with sugar, it’s loaded with fat, they aren’t nice to the animals, there are 800 cows in my burger, etc…  But I used to love those places when I was a teenager.  

There used to be only one McDonald’s in Athens when I was growing up.  It was in Syntagma.  I was totally “connected” then as I was dating a guy (you know who you are if you are reading this!) who had a car.  In school the next day, I could casually drop into my conversation “Umm, ya, so we stopped by McDonald’s last night”.  Ahhh, I kind of miss the days when being cool was as easy as being able to get a ride to McD’s.  And when people used to use the expression “cool”.  I’m not that old, really.  I just sound like I am. 

Are you judging me right now for this seedy confession?  Ya?  Well I have two words for you Thomas Keller.  Need a few more?  Here you go IN-N-OUT his favorite burger joint.  Ok, so they hand cut their own chips in the shop and they use chunks of premium beef.  Ya da, ya da, ya da.  But we can’t all live in Napa Valley and be…you know perfect!   

Having L in my life means I have re-assessed lunch venues.  By all means, we love the posh deli or the organic cafe or the seasonal restaurant (especially if they are nice to us when we show up with our gigantic bugaboo).  But we are also willing to try out the persona non grata of the foodie world.  Yes, they are part of the fabric of the foodie realm.  

No, I am not Gwenyth (Paltrow), my daughter isn’t named after a vegetable - or is it a fruit?  And I am not feeding her only organic, biodynamic food that I planted myself in soil using my own compost from the vegetables I grew myself.  Am I going in a circle here?  I believe she can have some junk food every now and then.  My daughter that is, not Gwenie!

So after spending 1 hour plant shopping at Bauhaus.  My schwiegermutter (is that really how you say mother in law in German?  Because that is what I am trying to say), my 16 month old and I went to have lunch at the Ikea that was adjacent.  By the way, Ikea did have an organic chicken dish with steamed rice - so I could have gone for the healthy option.  But you know what?  I don’t drink.  I don’t smoke.  I don’t do recreational drugs.  So - well I have to do something conceivably bad!  So I had the meatballs!

They give you something like golf sized 10 meatballs, fries, a mystery sauce and lingonberry jam.  It all kind of works.  Obviously it works, they have been selling those little meatballs…well I don’t know for how long actually but probably since Ingvar Kamprad started selling his affordable flat packed furniture.  It was fun, I feel reckless.  

I know, I need to get out more.


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