Monday, December 29, 2008

Blessed Abundance

Puppy SnuggleI could not be happier or more relaxed than I am right now; not even if I were a 6-week old puppy with a belly full of milk all snuggled up with my brothers' and sisters' puppy breath in my face, lolling under a heat lamp.

My baby sister and I met up with our spouses and our dad and some good friends out at Lake O' The Pines to celebrate Christmas together. We sorely missed our Mom, middle sister and her beautiful family and were sending them our thoughts and prayers moment by moment. It turns out they muddled through and had their own special celebration, for which I'm so thankful!

Those of us who could gathered up at the Lake and celebrated in true East Texas fashion: by cooking and eating anything that would stand still long enough for us to stuff it in a pot. And while I call this "true East Texas" fashion, I've noticed that most groups think this is a unique quality of their culture. I've heard it especially from groups with a strong religious affiliation, like Irish Catholics, or Midwestern Methodists, or German Lutherans, or Chinese Buddhists, or Persian Muslims, or American Jews. Maybe it's because religion always seems to center around holidays and the community that shares them. When you find yourself in the midst of a gaggle of celebrants, someone will inevitably pull you aside and let you in on the secret, "Nobody eats quite like we eat at [insert holiday name] time!" I love it! I've heard it just often enough to know that I am far from having experienced all the holiday feasts I would like to experience. I really hope I get to hear that exact phrase with every imaginable accent before I die. So even though we celebrated in "true East Texas fashion" you can assume that aside from some characteristic spices, this is exactly like the big holiday gatherings that you know.

If, as they say, you are what you eat, right now I'm a glorious mish-mash of:

  • boiled shrimp
  • shrimp and oyster gumbo made with spicy chorizo para asar
  • rice
  • grilled steak
  • sautéed brussels sprouts
  • steamed asparagus
  • sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts, made from scratch!)
  • pumpkin pie
  • key lime pie
  • fried crappie (aka: white perch) that our neighbors caught in the lake on Christmas Day
  • chips and chili con queso
  • more boiled shrimp
  • bacon and eggs
  • creamy mashed potatoes with cheese
  • beef jerky
  • homemade deer sausage!!!
  • venison tamales
  • homemade chili
  • fried eggs
  • more sufganiyot! they were so popular we demanded a second batch from the baker...
  • Mom's King Ranch Chicken, from when she visited right before Christmas
  • fried cheddar cheese (you might have to be from East Texas to "get" this one)
  • chocolate covered pecans imported all the way from West Texas
  • buñuelos
  • meringue cookies which we improvised poorly but ate anyway
  • beef jerky, did i say that already?
  • oranges
  • big red tomatoes sliced raw and covered in salt and pepper
  • pears
  • and one more key lime pie!
ContentedThis represents ridiculous abundance in my life, and I take it as symbolic of all the goodness that overflows in my everyday existence. Everybody who was there contributed, cooked a little, cleaned a little, ate a lot, laughed a lot more than they ate and had the freedom to have their own best time. You could walk when you wanted to walk, sleep when you needed to sleep, eat when you were hungry, and read as much or as little as you liked. There was always a pot of coffee on, or something bubbling on the stove, and there was a board game in progress more often than the TV was on. I did my job as the gumbo fairy to spread roux through the countryside: we swapped bowls of gumbo to the neighbors for the crappie and everybody came away happy. My dogs are pleasantly exhausted from swimming in the lake every morning and barking out the window at the browsing deer every night. I hope I can take a little bit of this feeling and carry it with me into the coming year, and share this satiety and happiness with everyone I meet. It is this exact feeling that I wish upon every person I meet when I say to them "Merry Christmas!" "Happy Holidays!" or even simply "God bless you!"Contented Deer

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