Christmas dinner with the in-laws
Do you know whom you’ll be sharing dinner with Christmas Day? With any luck, the decision was easy, there will be no hurt feelings, and you won’t be too tired to eat after all the preparations.
I can only remember one time in my life that I have cooked Christmas dinner. My husband and I were living in a narrow city apartment with a galley kitchen that was part of the open dining/living room area. We both had to work that day — one of the demands of being in the news business. I made baked ziti, we ate cookies. and I think both of us were wishing we at his mom’s.
Dinner with my Italian in-laws is truly a feast. It starts with the snacks ... fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers and a platter full of stuff that I don’t even get to eat because I’m too busy kissing cheeks, catching up, taking care of the kids and finally getting a sip of a requisite Brandy Alexander (sometimes made with ice cream) that is part of the celebrating.
Dinner can be summed up in one word for me — lasagna. Yes, there’s fresh pork, Grandma Pico’s broccoli with lemon, and much more, but when the lasagna comes out it’s like a Christmas miracle to me.
In my Franco/Germanic-American family, never in my wildest dreams could I imagine this kind of lasagna. Growing up, we did have lasagna for our celebration, but it was on Christmas Eve. One of my sisters hosted the annual event, and I remember one year over-hearing a conversation about how she used cottage cheese between the layers of noodles and sauce. Is it any wonder why I ate salad and filled up on cookies? I guess cottage cheese and ricotta cheese have something in common. I’m just glad my mother-in-law knows the difference. One of my other sisters makes fruitcake. There’s always ammunition for teasing when you come from a big family.
Back to the dinner table, where roasted chestnuts and dessert are being served. Cousin Angela doesn’t bake, but she does stop at the bakery in Brooklyn and she brings us the most beautiful tray of Italian cookies I’ve ever seen. There’s also my mother-in-law’s blueberry pie. This is a new tradition adopted in honor of my daughter, who can’t have dairy or nuts. Grandma also makes her favorite macaroni and sauce, as a substitute for the lasagna.
This year my daughter will also have some Italian cookies she can eat, thanks in part to my colleague Irv Dean. He sent me a link to, in his words, “Any cookie recipe you could want, it seems!” Click here.
I was thrilled to find I could easily adapt the recipe for Italian Cookies. There’s a few more I’ll be trying also. Thanks, Irv.
What are you doing for dinner? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.