Tuesday, December 13, 2005

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE



The finished product! You're probably thinking it looks identical to the last photo I posted, but you'd be wrong. Since the last photograph, I've added about 9 pounds of beads and tinsel and papier mache. See those branches droop!

As far as holidays go, I actually prefer Halloween and New Year's Eve to Christmas. But I come from a long line of major Christmas fanatics, which makes it difficult for me to remain altogether nonchalant during the holiday season. For us, the run-up to Christmas starts months in advance.

When my grandmother used to host our Swedish-style Christmas dinner at her old Japanese house (which was quite literally made of straw, wood, and bits of paper), the place looked amazing. She had fairy lights everywhere, and lots of colorful parcels tucked under a big, fragrant Christmas tree. It was such a tiny, cozy cave. When I was a kid, she would sneak outside while I wasn't looking (probably because I was too intent on cleaning out the smorgasbord) and come to the door dressed as Santa Claus. Except she wasn't round and jolly; she was skinny and gray and hunched over and had a voice like sandpaper. It would scare the living bejesus out of me.

Most memorable was the smell of antiques mingling with that of coffee, cloves, and all that wonderful quintessential Christmas food: potatoes dauphinoise, smoked salmon, red beet salad, saffron and other breads, gingersnaps, Swedish meatballs, cheeses, glogg, and the centerpiece, The Christmas Ham. It just wasn't Christmas without the ham, although we did have to make do without it one year.

As traditional Japanese houses do not have ovens, my grandmother would come to our house to bake the ham a day or two before the event. In an effort to avoid forgetting the ham at my house, my grandmother packed it in countless layers of foil and newspaper, put it in a shopping bag, and placed it strategically near the front door. You should have seen her cradling the package protectively as she climbed into the taxi. It was Christmas Eve, a few hours before our arrival, when she took the package out of the fridge and found it was the broken rice cooker my mother had put in the entrance for the garbage truck. That's my grandmother. Barking.

We don't really do the ham anymore. It seems to be more trouble than it's worth. A roast chicken or turkey is much easier and people seem to prefer it, although it's nice to know that we have the ham option for an emergency avian influenza menu.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there!

1:39 AM  
Blogger e! said...

Hello Anonymous!
Thanks for the shout-out, and thanks for dropping by!

2:00 AM  

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