Friday, December 10, 1999
December is normally my favorite time of year, if you don't include the nine months when temperatures get above 50 degrees. I guess cold weather lost its appeal years ago when I realized that without sub-freezing temperatures, I'd never receive a seasonal greeting from the local plow jockey offering to keep my driveway clear for only $80 per storm. I remember going to Seattle one February to interview for a job with a company now branded a maniacal monopolist. Even in the throes of winter, everything there was still green, including the grass. Transfixed by the lush scenery, I suddenly had an epiphany if we moved to Seattle, I'd have to mow the lawn all year 'round. Well, I didn't take the job, but around this time of year I often think that if we in Carlisle enjoyed the same winter temperatures as Seattlites, all that winter precipitation would simply wash off our driveways into the wetlands. Then we'd be getting greeting cards from local plumbers offering to pump out our basements ... for $80.
Despite its meteorological faults, my favorite holiday gives December its special appeal. No, it's not Christmas that gets me all goose pimply. Oh, I like Christmas all right, with its colored lights and jingly cheer. And I can't knock the presents, although I think I enjoy watching my family open their gifts more than I like opening my own. My wife, Jennine, says that's because I never like anything anybody gives me it's either the wrong color, too expensive, or clearly intended for someone who dresses in current styles, not those of the fifties. "On the contrary," I respond, "I like all my gifts so much that I prefer to preserve them in the bottom of my dresser drawer, to be savored for decades, rather than wear them out in a few short years."
It's actually the other gift-giving holiday, Hanukkah, that makes December my favorite month but not for the daily giving of gelt nor the ritual lighting of the candles. It's not even because it lasts eight days, elevating it above most other holidays, save spring break in Ft. Lauderdale. Rather, Hanukkah has something even more unique: it is the one time of year that I'll take over the kitchen for a day to cook my favorite meal stuffed cabbage and potato latkes. Some might think that another big meal right after Thanksgiving wouldn't seem so appealing. But put two plates of food in front of me one with heaping mounds of turkey, stuffing, potatoes mashed and sweet, and cranberry sauce; the other adorned with only a single cabbage leaf stuffed with a beef, rice and raisin mixture, all covered lightly with stewed tomato sauce and complemented by one delicately fried potato latke garnished with a dollop of apple sauce and then tell me one will be my last meal for a month. I'd grab the stuffed cabbage and latke plate without hesitation, and worry about the consequences later.
Unfortunately, this December won't shine as brightly as usual. I'm on a diet that forbids beef and anything fried! That puts a serious crimp into my Hanukkah plans. Which leaves me with two choices: skip the cabbage and latkes this year and go for a low fat alternative; or go ahead and make it anyhow just for the pleasure of watching my family and our friends, the Goldbergs, enjoy this annual feast. Of course, I could always preserve my share in the back of the freezer for a post-diet treat. I suppose that's one present I won't savor for long.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito