We have family from all over. Helena Montana, Chicago Illinois, Boise Idaho, Dallas Texas… and the starting point in San Diego California. Our family is big. I have 13 cousins, and 6 aunts and uncles (counting the spouses as family). We all make it a point to get together frequently. When I was growing up, we would typically drive out the 50 miles east from where we lived and go to the ranch where my grandparents had set up residence, in Boulevard California, which might as well be in the exact center of nowhere. It is a 70 mile trip to get to the nearest grocery store from there. Truly out there. But Saturday morning we would all pile in the car and drive out there. My uncle Joe used to live in two trailers on the property with his family to avoid having to pay property tax. Three of my cousins were raised there. We made regular pilgrimages, and so did the other uncle’s and aunts. The brought their kids and we would all go down in the basement (see carpeted entertainment room with a pool table and lots of stuff to play with) and have adventures. Or you could brave the mountain elements at 3,800 feet and investigate the sheer enormity of the property. The used to raise pigs and rabbits for eating as well. Meat has been a huge part of my family’s existence. Rotisserie prime rib, breakfast steaks, sausage and bacon, seafood like you wouldn’t believe: bbq oysters, Scottish salmon, ruby red ahi, whole steamed crab and freshly caught lobster. We are a family of food, and drink, and general merrymaking. We don’t think it’s weird to give each other meat as a Christmas present. It’s quite a sign of respect, actually.
When the family celebrates, we do it with class. Overflowing with fine wine, beer and spirits. Slathered in sauces and seasonings. Cooked slowly in its own juices. We know how to party, and the knowledge of how to do so has been passed on down to the next generation. Fuck man. We even made crepes after dinner. Maybe 20 to 25 of them. They all got eaten, amazingly enough. We all love food.
Tonight was no exception. We were in full form, as the new generation (of which there are 6 currently) of kids played at our feet. A number that will be going up by 3 very soon. Two cousins announced that they were pregnant: my cousin Jessica (her first) and my cousin Bruce’s wife Megan (her second). My cousin Lauren is well on her way to number two, and very close together (only 6 months between birth and getting pregnant again). Our name will go on. And the genetic sequence will be preserved on into the years and be spread to generation after generation. So soon there will be 9 total kids. Wow. I don’t know if they’re going to get past our mark of 13 but anything is possible. It’s just so enriching and rejuvenating to be around all those fresh faces. Chloe is such a little princess. Christian is Bam Bam reborn with the drooliest face you ever saw. Kid just doesn’t swallow.
Anyway. I was given baseball steaks (which I had never heard of before), queen’s oats, Russian tea cakes, chocolate and peanut butter chip cookies, and sour cream cinnamon bread, and I consider these to be very excellent gifts. The gift of food is to say: here, eat this yummy thing and may it bring you sustenance, excellent flavors and many other good feelings. How could that be a bad thing? Apparently, it is not the norm for people to give each other fine top sirloin as a Christmas present. Some people also may not have a good idea of what a bond it is to sit and enjoy good food with the people you love. And hear nothing but laughter and chewing noises all night long, occasionally augmented by the giggles of happiness that little kids make as they run and play.
So Christmas dinner was a smash hit. We bbqed a 7 bone prime rib for a good long while. My uncle has a digital meat thermometer sensor that monitors the core temperature and the outside temperature of the meat at all times and sends the data to a little handheld display that fits in your pocket. So he was watching the meat slowly increase in temperature until he had it cooked just right, tender and rare, very rare. We like our meat bloody and covered it its own juices. This is the only way I know how to do it, and I’ve tried well done meat, and it tastes dead, dry and uninteresting. Rare meat is tender, juicy and flavorful. We had twice-cooked potatoes and a green salad, spinach casserole with French onions and bacon on top. An my aunt Chrissy made Swedish meatballs. Damn. It. What a feast.
My evil grandparents came, despite all the general pessimism around that possibility. My dad was sure that they’d bail, but sure enough, they were there for dinner. All 19 of us, having a great time and eating wonderful food. If which I am currently full of. To the brim.
I hope you out there got a chance to spend time with whoever it is that you love, and had fun today. If there’s anything to be learned, it’s that the bonds of family transcend distance and time. We all know when to come back together again and rejoice. Even if our lives have scattered is to the wind, we are always together.