Christmas is more than visions of sugar plumbs

Garrison Keillor once wrote that “A big orange and some fresh pine boughs and ‘Silent Night’ are all I need, and cookies, of course. They are the strings that when I pull on them I pull up the complete glittering storybook Christmases of my childhood.” There isn’t a holiday that smells better, looks as good or satisfies the mind and appetite as well as Christmas. It is a time of reminiscence, particularly through its delectable assortment of foods. Whether it is a certain kind of choco?late or fruit always found in your stocking, the slight sting yet essentially sweet taste of a candy cane or the spicy scent of gingerbread – these foods will never fail to take your hand and lead you down memory lane. Two weeks ago during Thanksgiving, I sat at the kitchen counter and watched my mother cook. I watched as she glided around the kitchen, quietly checking on every simmering pot and roasting vegetable. The air was thick with the taste of dessert. Nutmeg had been sprinkled over each sweet, releasing the spice’s particles into the air, the kitchen now a Christmastime reverie. I was amazed at how quickly my mind was flooded with images of Christmases past, carols by the fire and desperate acts underneath the mistletoe as a teenager. This “bringing to life” amazes me – the fact that our little noses can conjure up images and memories that we’d thought we’d forgotten -it’s almost magical. For example, I cannot help but think of my boyfriend Rye when a cooked steak is on the table. I’m sure that he would find it funny to know that charred cow makes me miss him. This idea of locked-away memories being summoned by scent and taste is a nice one, especially during the holiday season. Of course there are the skeptics (like my boyfriend) who don’t appreciate the clay animation movies that are constantly playing on television, or the versions of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” that clog the airways. But even Scrooge drank the milk of human kindness, and changed his ways, and I’d like to think that the people who tend to see Christmas as a “hokey” tradition or a sappy holiday, soften a little when the smells and tastes of Christmas begin to come out of hiding. So, Merry Christmas. I hope that you find something special this holday, or that you simply enjoy it to the fullest extent-maybe a snowball fight with a little brother, caroling with friends, eating with your family or feeling that sheer excitement at the sound of ripping wrapping paper. I hope the smells of this holiday season bring you back to a special place. Eat well and be well.