Eat, Drink, And Be Merry!
It’s not politically correct, but when I think of Christmas, I think of food. There are so many wonderful tastes and smells that take center stage this year that it’s hard not to overindulge. But these are the special treats, the ones that call up memories and feelings that cannot and should not be denied.
The gastronomic delights first appear in October with all the pumpkin spice drinks. The bite of cinnamon and nutmeg add kick even to espresso. Perfectly ordinary occurrences like a second cup of coffee in the afternoon take on special significance. Then the peppermint arrives and your daily pick me up becomes a sweet, sharp taste that brings back memories of playing in snow and ice.
It’s funny how smell and taste will trigger specific memories and reactions. I’ve had days when snow was not fun and I live in Florida where even chilly days are a rarity. But peppermint sends me running for a sweater and craving rich, warm soups and gravies. Now is the time for roast beef and dark turkey legs with mashed potatoes and peppery, smoky brown gravy, not your everyday marinaras or even the sparingly indulged in primaveras.
It’s not the time to completely forego creamy tastes however. Eggnog, cut with just a hint of rum, is the perfect base for cookies, cakes, and breads, again with that dash of cinnamon to keep the sweet from overwhelming. I dance around the palate with traditional sugar cookies because you know sooner or later, someone is going to break out the chocolate! Since I can’t eat everything, or shouldn’t anyway, parties and visits with friends become a delicate balancing act of tasting and deferring until the perfect brownie, cookie, or candy comes along.
Homemade is generally better than store bought if the cook know what they’re doing, but the one treat I can’t say no to is lebkuchen, a spicy gingerbread from Germany. Every year, I hunt the gourmet grocers for package of pretzel-shaped, chocolate-drenched cookies that I first encountered traveling through Europe in high school and that friends still send me today. Like the rest of the holidays, the tastes and smells tie Christmases past and present together, even if it means the future is going to involve a trip to the gym!
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