Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Holiday Circus

The holiday season is in full in I feel like a sparkly trapeze artist that has lost her grip as she dangles from a narrow bar swinging above a crowd of people. Is she going to gracefully pull herself up and finish the act, or just let go and fall into total chaos? So far, I seem to have a grip, but the act is far from over.

Thanksgiving was rough. Chef got a stomach virus and Lil' Bit caught some version of the flu. Luckily both bugs struck the day after Thanksgiving, so we at least were able to enjoy the feast day. There is nothing like being pregnant and locked in a hotel room nursing the ill. There was a lot of overpriced mediocre room service, bodily fluids, and troubled sleep, but I did manage to finish the book Water for Elephants, which is fabulous and you haven't read it do.

Tomorrow is the first day of Hanukkah, and I am looking forward to having an excuse to eat potato latkes for the next eight days. They are by far one of my favorite holiday foods, and being pregnant I have no qualms demanding them during the entire week. Potato latkes are fried potato pancakes. Many traditional Hanukkah dishes are cooked in oil, symbolic of the miraculous oil in the Temple of Jerusalem that burned for eight days after the Jews reclaimed the holy site.

As an adult I have found my own unique understanding of spirituality, but I was raised in the Christian faith, and Chef was raised in both Christian and Jewish faiths so as a family we celebrate both in honor of tradition. Heck...any reason to celebrate anything is reason enough as far as I am concerned!

The gift giving tradition of Hanukkah is relatively new, and there is something special about it in comparison to its Judea-Christian holiday counterpart. The act of giving one single gift every day over the course of eight days makes for a more thoughtful exchange for both the giver and receiver. You can't just choose a couple of great gifts and sneak some chintzy gifts in to the pile to beef up the quantity. No, during Hanukkah each gift has to be thoughtful because it is presented alone, and therefore there is a level of appreciation that is sometimes lacking during the Christmas gift exchange.

I find shopping for men harder than women, but having Chef as a partner, I do have the benefit of being able to give him anything kitchen related...which is an easy out. Although, it gets subsequently harder each year because the man has everything. Now I find myself thinking..."He doesn't have this appliance, but if I get it for him where the hell are we going to store it?" I find myself being drawn to small strange tools that can easily be tucked away in a drawer. Chef is an avid cookbook collector and actually gets an alert from Amazon whenever a new cookbook comes out from certain chefs, which he then he immediately purchases. Vintage cookbooks there is an idea.

Gift giving is such a juggling act. In recent years we have found that for all purposes special food items are the best way to go for family when it comes to Christmas. Food gifts that people can use throughout the year are a wonderful way to give something thoughtful, resourceful, and economical. The biggest benefit is that it really simplifies things. When you have to go out and but a bunch of different gifts for different people it is like juggling a bowling ball, a banana an M&M. I have seen it done in Vegas, but the guy was getting paid. Dealing with mall madness out of the kindness of your own heart is about as far from the spirit of Christmas as you can get.

I have three brothers and a sister, some with spouses and some with children, and two sets of parents, and a variety of aunts and uncles and cousins with which I am close...and that is just my family. Chef has a whole brood as well. One year we slow roasted tomatoes with herbs and jarred them, making a beautiful tomato spread or sauce as a gift, and last year we made tins of chocolate truffles. This year...we are still brainstorming. Next week we will have it pinned down and I will tell gift to you...recipe included!

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