Outback Tonight

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Luster Kaboom
Chow Bella took a bite out of the holidays earlier this month with our annual "Eating Christmas" event at Crescent Ballroom. No worries if you missed it -- catch the essays here through the holiday season.

My grandma is tired, she explains, and this Christmas it's going to be real easy: We're going out for Christmas Eve dinner.

My grandma announces this on Thanksgiving. We've cleared the table, dishes are soaking in the sink, and everyone is picking at their slices of pie. This is the traditional time for proclamations in my family. "No presents this year except for the kids," someone always says, but it never goes down, so I take this "out on Christmas Eve" thing as an empty threat. As the night creeps closer it becomes clear that grandma is not kidding. I hold out hope that someone is going to jerk the wheel, but no: We're going to Outback Steakhouse.

I don't wanna besmirch the place too much -- there are worse chain restaurants, and I'm not above the perverse charms of the "bloomin' onion" -- but the last place I want to spend Christmas Eve is Outback Steakhouse. I try reasoning. How bad could it be?
It is very bad.


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Zest for Life

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Luster Kaboom
Chow Bella took a bite out of the holidays earlier this month with our annual "Eating Christmas" event at Crescent Ballroom. No worries if you missed it -- catch the essays here through the holiday season.

Being a type-A psycho, I approach Christmas the same way a warlord might hope to vanquish an enemy: swiftly, emotionless, and with admirable precision.

Each winter I set out to conquer the holidays, checking items off lists that I have no intention of checking twice, attending an obscene number of parties, and almost always committing to one recipe whose ingredients list, steps, and photo-free instructions would make mere mortals quiver.

It's sort of like a game. Actually, it's sort of like Game of Thrones. Blood and tears will be shed. Yelling and betrayal are inevitable. And don't you dare make Khaleesi get the dragons. Though, if we're being practical, they might prove handy when it comes to the baking part.

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Glue Christmas

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Luster Kaboom
Chow Bella took a bite out of the holidays earlier this month with our annual "Eating Christmas" event at Crescent Ballroom. No worries if you missed it -- catch the essays here through the holiday season.

We've all seen them: Magazine photos of expertly iced Santa cookies, leaning jauntily against gorgeous crystal bowls of nut-megged eggnog. HGTV ads featuring chafing dishes heaped with glossy sweet potatoes. Internet banners depicting painstakingly styled cranberry relish. Billboard portraits of big, shiny turkeys, bursting with fluffy stuffing and wearing paper frills on their legs.

I love the holidays, but I hate photos of holiday food. They're all bullshit. And they've ruined me.

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Eating Christmas: Tonight, Dec. 16, at Crescent Ballroom -- True Stories, Hanukkah Lights and Burritos

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Luster Kaboom
Tonight's the night! Head downtown at 7 to Crescent Ballroom to hear some of the Valley's best writers bite down on the holidays, in the form of "Eating Christmas" -- our third annual Christmas/Food mash-up. We'll even light the menorah in honor of the first night of Hanukkah.

Here's the lineup:

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Eating Christmas: Chow Bella's Third Annual Holiday Literary Event Goes Down Dec. 16 at Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix

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Luster Kaboom
Hey, what are you doing at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, December 16?

Wrong answer. You're heading downtown to Crescent Ballroom to hear some of the Valley's best writers bite down on the holidays, in the form of "Eating Christmas" -- our third annual Christmas/Food mash-up.

Here's the lineup:

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A Gherkin Christmas for This Girl

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Brandon Huigens
Once again this year, Chow Bella writers are gnawing on the holidays -- in the form of stories of Christmas and food. Hope you have some Alka-Seltzer handy. Enjoy.

I am a Midwestern transplant in a southern elementary school. I am 7. It's nearing Christmas, and I have a school assignment. I have to share a holiday tradition that's unique to my family.

Unique? I've got unique coming out of my ears. I have a bizarre accent, say words like "bubbler" and "davenport," and would much rather be traipsing around Disney World right about now. I refuse to wear pants. My last name might as well be written in early Cyrillic script. I am from a strange, distant place called Milwaukee. My parents are divorced. And I may or may not have told choice classmates that I have a pet raccoon that lives under my bed.

Maybe "weird" is a better way of putting it.

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Carrots & Milk & a Merry Christmas to All

Once again this year, Chow Bella writers are gnawing on the holidays -- in the form of stories of Christmas and food. Hope you have some Alka-Seltzer handy. Enjoy.

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Smuggled Sugar Packets and the Art of Compromise

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Brandon Huigens

Once again this year, Chow Bella writers are gnawing on the holidays -- in the form of stories of Christmas and food. Hope you have some Alka-Seltzer handy. Enjoy.

By Ada Malcioln Martin

A product of divorced parents, a crazy Jewish Panamanian dad, and a bi-polar Anglican mom of West Indian descent, you could say that my view of the holidays has always been a bit skewed and shrouded in religious ambiguity.

I have siblings, but I grew up practically an only child as both my parents were married previously and produced children in their previous relationships. Jose and Ruby surprisingly had a progressive and amicable relationship which I contend was largely because early on my mom willingly allowed my father to raise me in the Jewish faith. As for their personal relationship, let's just say that they stumbled upon one another.

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Grandma's Contraband Christmas Cookies

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Brandon Huigens
Once again this year, Chow Bella writers are gnawing on the holidays -- in the form of stories of Christmas and food. Hope you have some Alka-Seltzer handy. Enjoy.

When my mother and father divorced in 1990, lots of things changed, but not Christmas. Christmas was divided up before the split, and it stayed that way after. My brother and I spent Christmas Eve with my mother and her family, Christmas Day with my father and his.

Food-wise, it was no comparison. Dad's family had great dishes, sure, but Christmas Eve dinner at the Quinns' was incredible. Smoked ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans with bacon. Sometimes, Grandma would shake things up and serve Mexican food of the Den-Mex variety, dishes picked up from her childhood in Colorado, a blend of New Mexican and Tex-Mex traditions. Lots of cheese; lots of cream. As distracting as Santa on the Doppler radar and the mountain of presents under the tree were, the dinner table held my attention.

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Kisha's Jalapeno Poppers: The One Essential Ingredient for a Merry Christmas

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Brandon Huigens
Once again this year, Chow Bella writers are gnawing on the holidays -- in the form of stories of Christmas and food. Hope you have some Alka-Seltzer handy. Enjoy.

By Sativa Peterson

When I was a teenager I once risked the wrath of my mother by boldly declaring that I would NEVER learn to cook. That way, I said, it would never become my job. She didn't take the bait. She just looked at me with a raised eyebrow -- the muscle twitching as it worked to curb her desire to verbally clobber me.

More to the point - I didn't want to learn to cook because that was my mom's job. And frankly I couldn't imagine a time when that wouldn't be her job. Besides, I wanted to hang out with the unruly mob of cousins.

One holiday my cousins and me were all piled on the couch watching television. A diaper commercial came on at the exact same moment that our youngest cousin Kisha crossed in front of the TV. "Look at the baby!" said Tom pointing to the screen. Kisha (thinking he was talking about her) became enraged. She went from zero to demonically possessed in a mere moment. She turned to face all of us, "I AM NOT A BABY!" she screamed. We froze for a second before busting up in laughter. No way was I going to be stuck in the kitchen and miss this.

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