Laurie Notaro Tells What Happened The Year They Served Brie and Blueberries to Her Mother on Christmas
Ah, the holidays. Christmas is all about love, sharing, sweetness and light -- and keeping the antacids handy. In keeping with the spirit of the season, Chow Bella presents "Eating Christmas," in which some of our favorite writers nosh on the real lessons we learn this time of year. Today, Laurie Notaro has a cheesy tale to tell.
Please join us Wednesday, December 12 at 7 p.m. at Crescent Ballroom, as we present Chow Bella's first-ever public reading, featuring several entries from the "Eating Christmas" series, read by the authors.
At the mention of the word "brie," I was immediately terrified for my sister.
For the first time in our lives, Christmas Eve was not going to be at my mother's house, and my sister had stepped up to the plate.
"I've done it for forty years," my mom had announced suddenly. "Figure it out on your own."
It came as a significant shock to most of my family; how would our holiday stay intact if we changed venues? What about tradition? No one's ever decided to light a Christmas tree in front of the Empire State Building, it would be heresy! We had never had Christmas Eve anywhere else, and it was very much akin to my mother canceling the holiday altogether.
What were we supposed to do now, gather at the buffet at Outback, my parents' favorite restaurant (but only before 5 pm), or, even worse, meet up in the parking lot of the casino where she'd suggested we have Thanksgiving? If we started having milestone events at the casino, I had no idea what the future held for my family, but if this was the direction we were heading, it wasn't good and could only involve myriad single wides on a dirt lot somewhere in West Phoenix with a cardboard sign that said "Notaro Village" in Sharpie nailed to the mailbox. And possibly a communal outhouse.
But my baby sister Lisa took it in stride. She simply shrugged and said, "So? Let's just have Christmas at my house."
"Do you--do you think we're ... allowed?" I stammered.
"Why not?" Lisa said. "She was the one who said she was sick of being everyone's Christmas servant. In my book, that leaves it wide open."
I thought about it for a minute and it seemed plausible. Why couldn't we have it at Lisa's house? Our traditional Christmas Eve antipasta was easy enough to recreate, I knew where all of the good Italian delis in town where. I knew how to make roasted peppers and garlic in olive oil; I could roll up proscuitto and sopresetta. It could actually be like Christmas!
Until my sister said, "And I'm thinking about making this thing I had at a restaurant that was so good. It was brie baked in blueberries!"
Brie and blueberries, the hair standing up on my neck screamed. Not only are we changing locales but we're also introducing unknown variables? I began to panic. Didn't she know how this might tip the balance of the holiday dynamic? Everything had been the same, exactly the same, on Christmas Eve for as long as I knew. We used the same plates. We sat in the same seats. We had the same arguments, although the subject of Jill Biden's promiscuity was a new topic introduced in 2009 and we had to clear the room of everyone under 18.
And now, brie and blueberries? That might knock us out of orbit, only to end up at the casino next year! It wasn't Italian, I knew that, but what nationality are blueberries?
I looked at my sister and she was so excited. She had just taken on a lot, I knew, and if need be, I thought, I could do damage control once my mother saw the new dish on the anti-pasta spread. I would take the blame. She hates me the most, anyway, and I could just say that I borrowed the recipe from my husband's kin, who have been in the United States for so long that they are an eighth of everything, including Pilgrim, Native American, Slave Owners, Abolitionists, Share Croppers and People Who Eat Cornbread. It was the cornbread faction that made my mother cry when I got engaged.