There is something so insatiable about the holidays, all the waiting and wanting. Maybe it comes from our childhood wishes and dreams, and the disappointments when we didn’t get what we wanted – materially or emotionally. Our amped up expectations fueled by family and fantasy. And so many of us wobble into the holidays not at all sure of what to expect, missing those who left us way too soon, and missing our families. We enter the season hungry for something.
Mine was not a traditional family, so Christmas was as unconventional at my childhood home as was Thanksgiving. My mom brought home all the strays she could for any of our many Christmas meals. Most of all thought, I remember that we made all of our presents. I honestly can’t remember any store bought gifts. Some of the stocking stuffers might have been purchased; I remember little things like toothbrushes, small games, and packs of cards. But the presents that went under the tree were few and were all made with love by us for each other. We did have a father and grandparents, but they lived far away and we rarely, if ever, saw them and never for Christmas. We were a little family and grew it around the holidays by adding strangers and friends.
A few days before Christmas my mom always organized Christmas caroling in the neighborhood. This might have been before photocopying worked the way it does today because I remember the worn carbon copy looking carols we’d typed up and distributed to those few carolers who didn’t remember the words. Our neighborhood was 2 blocks wide and about 8 or 10 blocks long – College Terrace in Palo Alto – we covered most of it. All of the streets there were named after universities in the US. We’d go out in groups but there must always have been someone tending the stove at our house because the mulled wine and mulled non-alcoholic cider were always hot when we came back.
And then there was the food. It might just be my aging memory, but it seems as if Thanksgiving kicked off an entire month of cooking lots every day for a month, and Christmas was just the culmination. We had Mexican food, especially enchiladas, Chinese food, borscht with potato pancakes and all manner of other wintry food… plus the traditional turkeys, cranberry relishes, biscuits and more. But as much as I loved our food, I loved this funny little tradition our family had – pop-calling! It must come from the expressions “to pop in” or “to call on” people. I will never know the roots of our expression since all of my ancestors are gone, but on Christmas Eve or even Christmas night (after we’d done all of the presents and cooking at our own home) we’d get in the car and just pop in on people. I’m not sure who started this in our family, but we certainly programmed our friends and neighbors to expect these surprise visits from us. We didn’t usually stay long, or not at the first houses we visited in the evenings, but we were offered egg nog and whatever was left of their desserts. This was the best part of Christmas for me, another way to extend our family – being welcomed even when we weren’t expected.
I hope the holidays for you bring you the joy you deserve and the comfort you need. If you are in the neighborhood between Christmas and New Year’s pop into the Nomad Chef. We are waiting to welcome you the 27th, 28th, 30th or 31st of December (yeah, New Year’s Eve!) with a cozy, warm drink of something warm and a lotta love. Seriously! We don’t want you to be hungry for anything (just email if you plan to stop by one of those evenings). And if you want to sit down to our holiday anti-holiday dinner, come to dinner on the 29th for a more traditional unconventional Nomad Chef dinner! Hope to see you soon!