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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A Merry Un-American 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.

At around the age of 7, I began to notice that the way we celebrated Christmas was odd. Un-American.

For starters, my two younger brothers and I hung our stockings on our bedposts, not from the hearth, like the other kids who lived around us in semi-suburban Washington D.C. For another, there was a suspicious dearth of blinking lights and piney wreaths at our house: just the old wooden nutcracker-soldier, hauled out for yet another December's worth of service, and maybe a poinsettia in the living room somewhere -- not center stage, but there.

And there was a Jewish star on top of our Christmas tree.

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I'll Be Home(Made) for Christmas

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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Nobody Messes with the High Priestess

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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.

My friend Shawn struggles to make sense of the ham that sits in a tin-foil tray on the buffet table. "Would ya look at that? Ham!" He says, sounding exactly like the recently deceased Ruth Gordon, whom he's been imitating since he got off the plane from Texas a week ago. "I thought California witches would be vegetarians."

I know how he feels. This looks like any old potluck; chips, potato salad, store-bought cake. Where's the stewed pine cones? Where's the roasted goat?

A woman wearing a green, velour gown with a lace-up bodice -- from which her misshapen bosom threatens to spill -- sidles up to the buffet and leans protectively over the cake.

"Nobody touch this. I get the first slice!" Then, as if she heard how petty she sounds, she cackles, and tries to sound like she's joking, "Nobody messes with the High Priestess!"

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A Picture-Perfect 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.

It's the day after Christmas, and my spouse is showing photographs of dumplings to total strangers.

"We were going to make treacle, instead," he is saying to a pair of twentysomethings in the grocery checkout line, holding up his phone to display a picture of our holiday goose, the star of our recent Charles Dickens-themed Christmas feast. "But then I found this Yorkshire pudding recipe and, well, you know!"

The nice young couple exchange dismayed glances.

"Here's a shot of the whole table!" Tevye exclaims, beaming at the picture he took of our holiday repast.

When I met him, this man did not take photographs of food. He cooked expertly and was a pretty good baker, but after he pulled a pan of pain au chocolat out of the oven, he didn't spend a half-hour taking their picture. He just ate them.

I've ruined a perfectly good Jew from Long Island. And it's all my mother's fault.

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Taking the Gilt off the Gingerbread

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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 feel obligated to create an elaborate December for my daughter.

When I was eight years old, my mother bought Martha Stewart's first Christmas book and she and I tried to create everything within its pages in just one month, which made for a beautiful, delicious--stressful--holiday season.

We dipped pinecones in scented wax for the fireplace. We baked gingersnaps, almond crescents, meringues, and two-tone, mint candy-cane cookies that we delivered to everyone in a three-block radius.

As we moved through the month, I didn't understand why one holiday dinner required so many stores, or why we needed to hunt down both red and green aluminum foil to dress up baked potatoes. But I embraced elaborate undertakings, like the Croquembouche -- cream puffs stacked in a Christmas-tree shape, encircled by a web of spun sugar.

Nothing topped our gingerbread mansion.

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