It was the first year I was put in charge of the Christmas meal. There’s a reason I have never been a past designee. By trade, desire or design I am not a cook (that according to the eaters in my life).
I am at my finest wandering bakery aisles searching for mouth-watering hostess gifts (mostly of chocolate descent).
The extent of my cooking is clearly illustrated by one fact; my husband and I are on a first-name basis at every local eatery including The Diner, Olive Garden, Friendly’s, Red Lobster, Outback, Applebee’s and all of the most popular fast-food chains.
We are greeted by wait staff and orders are placed without so much as a word being exchanged. My coffee is on the table before we are seated.
Since our chief cook was sidelined with a broken hip I foolishly offered to prepare the meal. She accepted with reservation and resignation.
Two weeks prior to the holiday I scoured cookbooks, online recipes and faithfully watched back episodes of The Food Network (mostly baking shows).
Then I thoughtfully considered having the meal catered.
It would eliminate the potential for poisoning the guests or having them surreptitiously spitting out their food in their napkins.
After all, who would really know? They could venture a guess but would anyone have the audacity to question me directly? (I thought maybe my sister but . . . )
For the next 10 days my oven (which apparently has a self-cleaning feature I was not aware of) became a test kitchen like the ones you see on TV.
When the test period officially ended, I had only one edible recipe to show for my efforts and that was a chocolate pudding pie with graham cracker crust.
Plan A was a dismal failure.
Plan B took shape immediately: Antonio’s II down the block.
Christmas Eve I packed our fridge with the catering order and went to sleep confident that I had made a smart decision.
Though more costly, it would ultimately save everyone at the table from having to lie graciously.
And then in the quiet of the evening I realized something quite profound: I had done so much fussing and stressing about the meal that, for a time, I nearly missed the true spirit and meaning of Christmas.
The holiday is not made one iota special by the food you serve—but rather by the glorious people around the table who you are abundantly blessed to share it with.