Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cooking/Baking (not recipes) (10/16/08)
TITLE: Diana's Dinner Dilemma
By Seema Bagai
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My turn for what? I stare blankly at my sister-in-law, wondering what family tradition I’d be dragged into now.
“The Christmas Eve dinner, of course. Since you and Logan are going to be in town this year, we thought you could host it. You’re always raving about your grandmother’s recipes.” I feel my blood pressure and temperature rise and I know it isn’t because I am sitting with my back to the fireplace.
“Sure,” I reply with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. “We would be happy to have all of you over.” Why can’t we go to Mom’s again this year? I know Logan and I agreed to alternate holidays between our families. But, going is one thing; cooking is something else entirely.
In the flurry of shopping and baking, not to mention work, I procrastinate on setting the menu and going grocery shopping. The Sunday before Christmas, I pull out the recipe box Gram had made and given to me as a wedding present. I’m sure she included all the Christmas recipes in here.
I settle down at the kitchen table with some freshly-baked gingersnaps and a steaming mug of cocoa to peruse the recipe box. Memories of Christmas dinners with Gram and Grampa make my mouth water.
Roast turkey with savory stuffing. That would be a perfect main dish. I can picture it on the platter Aunt Becky gave us. Wait. Vanessa is a vegetarian. Clicking open the web browser on my laptop, I find something called tofurkey. I print out the information and move on to the side dishes.
Since the fake turkey comes with stuffing, I don’t need to make any extra. Oh, but Logan’s father is gluten intolerant. He can’t have the bread stuffing. I’ll make rice instead. There’s a coupon in the paper for a box of instant rice.
Seasoned mashed potatoes. Mashing them was always my job. But, they are also made with milk. Logan’s brother, Liam, is lactose intolerant. I’ll just serve plain boiled potatoes. Guess that means no egg nog for him, either. I’ll pick up a bottle of apple cider.
A plain tossed salad should be safe. I’ll be sure to have some fat free dressing on the side for Logan’s mother who is always reading labels and counting calories. Green bean casserole with crispy onions. I scan the recipe card and realize it’s made with cream of mushroom soup. Logan has a mushroom aversion. He won’t even eat the other food if there is a mushroom somewhere on the table. I’ll just serve the green beans plain.
Dessert. The cookies are already baked. Hang on. Liam’s wife is a diabetic. There are sugar free cookies at the store. I’ll make sure to have some. Of course, we have to have Gram’s prize-winning pecan pie. No, better not. Vanessa’s husband, Neil, has a life-threatening nut allergy. Fruit? That should be safe.
I study the menu as I make the grocery list.
Cookies (regular and sugar free)
As much as I’m trying, I can’t picture all these dishes arranged on the dinner table. It does not look like the festive Christmas dinner I pictured. It looks like something they would serve in a hospital. I can’t serve this meal. Nothing on this menu says “Christmas dinner” to me. Well, except for the cookies. There has to be a better option.
After a few clicks on the computer, I have an idea. Grabbing the phone, I dial a number.
“Hello. Bayside Inn. I’d like to make reservations for eight people for Christmas Eve dinner.”
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