Ever since I was a little girl, growing up surrounded by malls and diners on Long Island's North Shore, I dreamed of Christmas. I would flip through my mother's December issue of Better Homes and Gardens, entranced by page after page of holiday decor, Christmas cookie recipes, and glittering, gorgeous, ornament-festooned Christmas trees.
It was torture.
For I am a Jew.
No Christmas for me. "How about a Hanukkah bush?," I asked?
"No, we're Jewish! There is no such thing as a Hanukkah bush!," was the reply.
Mama Vamp had a mean streak back then.
But that was a long time ago, in a land far away. (Maybe, not so far away, but it's not like I've visited the Walt Whitman Mall lately.)
I'm grown-up now and could quite easily purchase a Christmas tree for my home. I could live out my Better Homes and Gardens holiday dreams. Yet, I don't.
Last night, however, was different from all other Christmas Eves before. It was one in which I was invited to a spectacular Christmas Eve repast with presents under the tree, festive caroling (if singing along to Adele's "Hello" counts), and children dressed in their holiday best. And, the food...
Unsurprisingly, the feast was planned and prepared by two Jewish gents - my pal Peter and his comrade in bromance, Josh. It was a holiday miracle for that little Jewish girl who grew up on the Island: Two nice Jewish boys cooking up a Christmas Eve dinner that would have me too full to ever dream of sugar plums again.
First up? Ham. Not just any ham. We're talking a platter of sliced, luscious Iberico. They followed that up with Beau Soleil oysters with a tart mignonette. The remnants of the bivalve wonders are pictured above.
That was only the start. In the kitchen, the pair were prepping a massive Prime Rib, aged for no less than 50 days...
They lovingly saved the drippings for their fatty goodness, dribbling them generously into muffin tins to bake up Yorkshire Puddings.
As if that wasn't enough by way of rich starch, Peter whipped up a Potato and Sweet Potato Gratin. And, because something green was called for, there was a heaping pot of Creamed Spinach...
But the meal's pièce de résistance, was an "only Peter could come up with this" creation: Torchon of Foie Gras served with Manischewitz en Gelee, Roasted Peanuts and Toasted Challah...
Which brings us back to Judiasm. The Manischewitz gelee snapped it all back into place for me.
I was enjoying myself thoroughly, but at the same time I had to recognize that Christmas is not my holiday. It never will be.
Then my friend Max rubbed Kosher salt in the wound. This afternoon, I read his latest on Saveur - an ode to the importance of Jewish Christmas, extolling the virtues of "finding freedom in a holiday that leaves you out in the cold." And, as he eloquently rhapsodizes about Sichuan specialties and dim sum in Flushing, he shares a worry.
Is "Jewish Christmas" becoming too popular a phenomenon for its own good?
To that I say "Bah humbug!" There is enough Lo Mein to go around. And, I do not see Gentiles around the globe giving up their twinkling trees and Christmas hams for our Hunan holiday.
So tonight, no guilt - just a Jewish gal at home in Brooklyn with Chinese delivery for dinner.