December 23, 1996

I've made my list and lost it twice
so I'm really not sure if I want to be naughty or nice.
The Families are coming to town.

In two days my partner's parents will meet my parents for the very first time. Leslie and I have been together for almost ten years and they have yet to set foot in the same city, much less the same house. This is Leslie's idea and since I ran out of excuses, D-day is upon us.

The preparations have been ongoing for almost a month and a half now. Leslie asked, "Why don't we have your parents up for Christmas this year?" and the floodgates of chaos began.

First, there was the Christmas schedule to contend with. My family opens presents Christmas Eve and then cooks all Christmas day and eats at around 4 pm. This gives ample time to peruse the two pound See's candy box, play with all your new stuff, nap and eat at a leisurely pace. After eating enough to keep a small village in good spirits for seven months, we retire to the living room and watch It's A Wonderful Life. My father has seen this movie so many times he starts to twitch when he hears Jimmy Stewart's voice. We all make bets on when dad will start cursing Frank Capra and throwing things at the TV.

Leslie's family zips through everything Christmas Day. With timing and discipline, but that's no problem for them. Like a well-oiled Swiss Army watch they descend onto the Christmas Tree at 8 am, open all the presents in a polite and fair, one-at-a-time-fashion. Breakfast is served soon afterwards and then the Christmas supper is prepared and served by noon. Soon after that everything breaks up and we are usually home by 3 pm.

After we struggled with the timing of the whole affair, the menu came looming over out lives. My mother is possibly the best amateur cook in America. With her well worn Joy Of Cooking cookbook, a few spices and an oven preheated to 350 degrees, she can pretty much take over the world. Leslie's mom has long ago given up meals that take more than a touch of salt and a bag of Bird's Eye frozen veggies.

I want to make a meal that will establish me as a good cook in my own right. I no longer want to be the gravy stirrer! I want it to be my menu, my wine selection and my desert that makes people wonder what the hell happened to their waistline.

Leslie, on the other hand, really just wants everyone to get along and have a nice time. She has almost nothing to prove to these people while I am a wild-eyed maniac. The conversations have gone something like this:

"So, I'm thinking boned game hens with a wild rice and pine nut stuffing. One for each of us. I saw it in this magazine." I hand her the glossy photo.

She reads and hands it back. "Why don't you make something you know your good at? How about the flank steak?"

"What kind of presentation can I make with a big hunk of beef?" I start to rub my right eye, rather roughly.

"Okay, why not do the Bar-B-Qued turkey? That's always really good and my mother likes it." She smiles, hoping to appease the beast.

I begin to push my right eye back into my scull and scream, "NO!! I can't do the turkey. That's my mom's recipe. I need to establish myself. How about this flaming meat thing here?" I show her another gourmet magazine. "It'll only take about three days and a couple hundred bucks."

I'm ashamed to admit it but the house is a mess and there isn't a piece of tinsel to be seen. Our Christmas tree is in the garage, giving the cars a very rustic look. We can't put anything up in the house yet because we are "having someone in" tomorrow. It is the first time I've ever had anyone besides my mother or my partner clean my house. I have guilt about this. Having a woman clean up after me for free is okay but paying someone is exploitative. Figure that out!

So, two days from now, both families will meet in our living room. They will arrive at 11 am, presents will be opened soon after that. A plate of hors d'oeuvres and some fondue (Leslie's family is Swiss, if you haven't figured that out yet.) will be served around noon and supper will be between 1 pm and 2 pm.

The menu is Spicy Pumpkin Soup to start with, main course Coq au Vin, green beans with a lemon and garlic sauce, dilled red potatoes, sautéed veggies and a nice green salad. My mother is making desert, a French apple cake. Leslie convinced me keeping my mom out of the kitchen would create more havoc than letting her in. We'll see about that.

I figure I'll either get through it just fine or I'll be checking myself into the local loony bin at around noon. Wish us luck, and tell me about your Christmas!


Please send me your comments and suggestions. Email me at lmjimene@ix.netcom.com.

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Copyright, 1997 by Laura Jiménez.