Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Southern Living" Christmas Propaganda

Those of you who know me are aware of the fact that I am a bit of a bah humbug around the holidays.  I realize that I could get kicked out of the South for admitting that to you, but there it is nonetheless. 

Christmas in the South is supposed to look like the cover of Southern Living Magazine's holiday edition.  Our dining room tables are supposed to glow in ethereal light from the flickering candles held in sterling silver candelabras.  Glittered pinecones and other yard debris should be artfully scattered about amongst the good china thereby giving the appearances of a winter wonderland.  Whatever mystery meat strikes your fancy should either be coated in oil or honey so that it is very shiny and it should sport the mandatory red cherries decorated in a crisscross pattern across the top and--if you want to go the extra mile--you could slap a ring of pineapple on on it as well.

Every flat surface in your house should hold some sort of nutcracker, be-ribboned bowl of pecans or silver tureen overflowing with clove oranges.  When my brother and I were little, one of my mother's "fun" Christmas projects involved us shoving cloves through thick orange skins.  It smelled nice enough, but I still have calluses on my fingers to this day as a result of that little family project.

Another family project involved buying wood birdhouses, covering them with pasty icing strong enough to adhere tiles firmly to the space shuttle and decorate them with candy.  We gave them to our friends so that they could enjoy a "gingerbread house" for Christmas and then have a birdhouse for the rest of the year.  Adorable, n'est ce-pas?  Nice enough, but assigning that project to a six year old and a ten year old is ill-advised in light of the fact that they will be decorating with candy.  Ethan and I looked like Lucy and Ethel at the conveyor belt of the chocolate factory.  To this very day, I can't look at a candy house without getting a wee queasy.

Then, of course, there is the Christmas food.  Here in Wilmington, we have have all kinds of different traditions.  There is the Christmas Oyster Roast (I do not recommend going that route while pregnant).  There is the Christmas Flounder:  A tradition started during the Great Depression when it was a hell of a lot cheaper to go out to the sound and gig a big 'ol flounder than spring for a turkey or ham.  There is also Christmas Spaghetti which is a favorite in the Council household because we are all completely sick to death of holiday food by the time Christmas rolls around that same vein...there are Christmas Fajitas. 

Of course, we have all of our different preferences for Christmas meals, but whether you go turkey, cow, pig or tofu...wait, scratch that--we are below the Mason Dixon Line, after all.  Anyway, no matter what a Southerner chooses to put at their Christmas table, we all agree on fixing it the exact same way:  Rent a flat-bed truck, go to Costco, fill the truck with all of the butter they have, go home and start cookin'.

I remember one year where I was assigned to bring the collards to Christmas dinner.  My grandmother and great-aunt literally interviewed me for about half an hour with regard to my collard cooking methods.  They were greatly disturbed by my admission to cooking the collards with chicken boullion instead of fatback (I ill-advisedly submitted to questioning outside the presence of counsel).  Rather than suffer the indignity of having collard privileges taken from me, I told Grandma and Aunt Louise that I would do things their way.  When the appointed day came, I cooked the collards with chicken boullion and threw in a hambone after the fact for show.  They loved my collards.

Of course, having my little Baby Belles is oh-so-slowly--but surely--bringing me around to holiday cheer.  Rather than throw my hands up in frustration when Baby Belle 2 can't resist wearing the garland thereby pulling the Christmas tree down on top of herself, I calmly untangle her and set the tree up like a bowling pin for the next inevitable round.  What it all boils down to, boys and belles, is that you can't help but catch some of their innocent Christmas wonder.  Plus, it's really damn fun to torment them with the Elf on the Shelf.

Ho to the Ho-Ho, ya'll.


  1. No one has been able to answer this for me: What is fat back?

  2. I couldn't honestly tell you which part of the pig it comes from, but it is surely a gross one. All I know is that they have it wrapped and ready in the meat department at the grocery store with the label "fatback." Blech.