Food for Thought
by Kathryn Jenkins
The After Eights and eggnog in my fridge seem out of place now. They scream holiday indulgence. Like lonely leftover presents, unclaimed under the tree, they don’t belong here anymore; they look wrong and it’s time they were gone. The plate of mince pies, snow-topped with icing sugar, no longer holds the same magic as last week. “Into the freezer then, you guys - see you later!” The untouched chocolate torte follows suit as I anticipate the thrill of a slice of Christmas in February. Ditto the pineapples: bought for Christmas Day when we ate so much they never got a look-in. There they are, still sitting on the counter with their shriveled spikes and orangey-brown scaly skins – both ripe to perfection but a week too late.
I’ve been feasting happily on holiday leftovers for several days and tonight’s dinner plate again plays host to an array of family favourites, each with its unique character. Because Christmas is a time for remembering and reminiscing I go back in my mind’s eye to my childhood Christmas dinner table and watch how the different generations gathered around it interact. And suddenly I’m struck by a funny thought: if all of us at that table were items of food, what would we be?
Some items are impeccably turned out like the extra stuffed pepper, its stemmed hat a perfect fit. It evokes memories of Gran, sitting upright in her starched apron, her features a bit wrinkled around the edges but regal and, like the pepper, full of surprises. The brussels sprouts, sitting cozily together, are everyone’s favourite old maiden aunts, gossiping and smelling slightly of cooked cabbage. A piece of quiche, drying out but still limp, is the pallid twenty-year old college boy who’s been told to sober up from last night’s festivities and is still much the worse for wear. The sozzled grandpa, aka the pickled onion, shares a risqué joke with the horseradish sauce, the sexy sister-in-law not even half his age; and one jolly uncle – now and again smoothing a ruffled family feather – is the gravy, making everything more palatable. And at the head of the table, in pride of place, sits the turkey (dad), plump in body and still hot from his morning in the kitchen. Mum, to his left, is the sage stuffing; the thing that holds it all together, the embodiment of Christmas cheer.
Only now in retrospect can I appreciate what we all, in our crinkly Christmas-cracker hats, brought to that table. Conversation between young and old was, I recall, lively and happy. And there was me, in the middle of it all, a quiet child but one sometimes needing to be the centre of attention – a plain trifle with a cherry on top.
And like those assorted characters at the Christmas dinner table long ago, the items on my plate today shouldn’t really go together either, but somehow they do. I take time to admire the hodgepodge before me. One bite leads to another, now savoury, now sweet, and before Iong I’m feeling good about the unusual smorgasbord I’ve set out for myself. When I’m finished I lean back, only to hear a mince pie calling my name, and I wonder if it’s not too late to grab one out of the freezer. It’ll go well with the eggnog.
|Kathryn Jenkins was born and raised in Yorkshire, England and moved to Calgary, Canada in 1989. For the past 11 years she’s lived in British Columbia's sunny Okanagan Valley. She only recently embarked on writing as a hobby and hopes to do more.|