December 5, 2011

Merry Christmas, Happy Cheer and Gastronomical Fear – In and Out of the Quad-Cities

Contributed by Gail McPike and Toni Hall

Don’t get us wrong – we love the holiday season and simply adore Christmas. We like street carolers – as a matter of fact, the Cub Scout Pack from McKinley School has been kind enough to grace Gail’s front porch with their melodic greetings for as long as we can remember. We love traditional Christmas music – George Beverly Shea belting out a 100-year-old hymn sends shivers down our spines. And we love Nat King Cole’s little ditty about “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire.” And this brings us to the crux of our conversation today. Christmas and the December Seasons bring out some mighty strange eating habits.

Feasting and celebration are linked back to Biblical times. Noah had his Feast of the First Fruits, Father Abraham had a feast to celebrate Isaac’s move to solid food, the Ancient Greeks had feasts, the Romans had their bacchanalia’s, and King Arthur’s giant round table wasn’t just for decoration. But these days, we seem to cram more eating into the 40 days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than a person can shake a stick at. Every family has their own custom – we want to share some of ours.

First, eating and company – when people drop by in December, you’d better have a little something for them to sink their teeth into. Everybody has their favorite little treats; cookies, cakes, mincemeat pie, tarts, candies or one of the hundreds of treats available at the store. Current Trophy Husband, Frank, has a bizarre affection for fruitcakes. Stashed somewhere in the back of the liquor cabinet is a sliver of 20-year-old fruit cake. Each year sometime around Christmas, he pulls the carefully wrapped bit of cake out from its hiding place. He consumes a bit, dampens it with bourbon and then religiously rewraps the thing back in old cloth and tin foil. Psychedelic hallucinations must follow, because he can soon be seen mouthing the words to The Christmas Jug Band’s song “Santa Don’t do it – Don’t shave on Christmas Eve.” Speaking of Santa, we probably created some stomach distress for that jolly old elf with a few treats in our day.

As kids, we always made sure Mr. Kris Kringle had a snack when he arrived. It’s not our place to comment on our status of naughty or nice. Thinking back, we were probably in that grey area that could go either way. We were clever for our age. We realized the importance of bribery at an early age. And we went out of our way to put down some awesome treats for Ole’ Santa.

Now, Santa and his reindeer obviously traversed the state of Oklahoma in a North to South route. He arrived at Gail’s house sometime between six and seven on Christmas Eve. One can almost see him circling overhead, as the family prepared for their annual Christmas Light ride. No sooner had mom, dad and the kids piled into the trusty Rambler did Rudolf lead the team to drop off the goodies. And – at this early hour of a no doubt hectic night, Santa preferred Hydrox Cookies and a short snort of cow juice.

For those of you who lack a personal relationship with the “bearded one,” let us fill you in. Santa loves Hydrox Cookies. These were a crème filled cookie similar to an Oreo. And, in case you are thinking generic knockoff, the Hydroxes were invented a full five years ahead of their now famous cousin. Santa craved them, because the cream filling is subtly tart and the outer cookies crisp. They hold up to a milk dunking without leaving a nasty crumb mess on your fur lined suit. Further, in those days, Hydrox cookies contained no lard like the Oreos of the day. This made them fit well into the diet of a guy who had to clear about a zillion chimneys before the night was over.

Toni “Christmased” in South Central Oklahoma, which obviously came later in Santa Claus’ schedule. He didn’t arrive at her house until well into the early morning hours of Christmas Day. By then, Santa was beginning to grow tired of his store-bought favorite. She and her cousins created a gigantic pile of homegrown treats and milk. Being a jolly good fellow, Santa laughed like a bowl full of jello and consumed her 1,000 calorie pile of goodies.

Today, Santa still stops by our house, but his tastes have changed. The cookies and milk have been replaced by Anderson-Erickson’s diet eggnog with a short shot of Jim Beam. Generally, Gail buys CTH Frank a Deluxe Fruit Cake from Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas. She has to hide it, or Santa will cut off an unhealthy slice of that pecan packed treat on his way up the chimney.

Well, the old clock on the wall says it’s time for us to go, but before we sign off on our favorite time of the year – we want to share a bit of trivia with you. The Oklahoma State Flower is the Mistletoe Plant. Buy a sprig and share it with a loved one – but don’t eat the Poinsettia leaves.

Have a Happy December …..