The first thing I said when I woke up this morning was: “No more butter. Please don’t make me eat any more butter.” And then, because there was nothing else to eat for breakfast, I stuck a square of macaroni and cheese topped with a dollop of tomato puddin’ in the microwave.
If you’re unfamiliar with tomato puddin’, let me enlighten you on how it’s made. Two cans of chopped tomatoes are mashed with five pieces of white bread and one cup – yes, one cup of sugar. This concoction is then baked until all the natural health benefits of the tomatoes have been removed. Also good to know is that according to my family, this dish counts as a vegetable. Just some trivia.
Christmas in my family is predominantly loud. This year, though the pair of almost-octogenarians presided over only two braches of the family tree – my mother, father, me, my two brothers, my aunt, her husband, her two daughters, one daughter’s husband, his two children, her three children, and a dog – the decibel level was impressive. Everybody’s stories needed to be told at the same time, their recipes recounted in maniacal tones. The children seemed unable to have as much fun if someone wasn’t screaming and the camera’s shutter clicked so often the room began to resemble a disco rave.
I love my family very much. But I am a quiet person, and it takes a little time adjusting to the chaos of the (almost) entire Cohen clan. Fighting passionately about the rules of Mexican Train dominoes, telling the story (again) about that embarrassing thing you did at your baptism (like poop your baptismal dress) when you were a few months old, or belittle other family members’ sports teams as creatively as possible. It’s very Norman Rockwell, but a little louder and with less pastel. I like to think that since the other half of my family is so very German, my American family is so very American just to balance out my genetic chi.
Before we eat Christmas Dinner, the whole gaggle circles around the table to bless the food. I figure that the food needs all the blessings it can get if it’s going to nourish my body, rather than just the cellulite on my thighs. I’ve already oogled the food – two roast turkeys and gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes drenched in brown sugar, greens, sweet corn puddin’ (the lack of ‘g’ is not optional), tomato puddin’, biscuits, mountains of mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and for dessert two pecan pies, apple crumble, and my aunt’s justly famous banana cream pie. As if chanted by a Greek Comedy’s chorus, the words “butter” and “sugar” jingle through my mind.
It’s Christmas, so I take some of everything, and it’s not really until the reality of post-holiday leftovers sets in that I regret my family’s liberal use of fat. But it’s ok. I’ll take some long walks on the beach, stretch my legs as I watch another season of Dexter from the couch, and keep my mind sharp on card games and dominoes. And I’ll store up an extra layer of blubber to last for the rest of winter. I hear it’s cold in New York.
Aunt Lynda’s Corn Puddin’
It took quite a bit of work to track down this recipe. But I got it. And you should make it – when it’s cold outside and you’re in need of some comfort food. Or you’re feeling particularly skinny.
3 cups canned corn, drained
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1/3 stick butter, melted
Beat together the eggs until they’re light and fluffy, then gradually add the sugar so that it doesn’t form lumps. Add the salt, flour, and corn, milk, and butter – mix well. Grease an oblong pan, pour mixture into it. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour in a 350 degree oven until firm and golden brown.