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Christmas (Guacamole) in Shanghai

It wouldn’t be Christmas without my (newly-dyed) hair being accidentally dipped into gluten-free très leches cake halfway through dinner. Wouldn’t it?

This morning, faced with the prospect of cooking a Christmas dinner for 9 people, and no menu plan in mind, my brain ignored the obvious red flags (like, for example, the fact that I only own four plates, a single frying pan, and approximately zero forks) and went straight to a feverish desire to serve chips and salsa (why? I’m not quite sure, but chips and salsa are often on my mind and it was also what I had for dinner last night). The smart thing would have been to either A. Cancel dinner and go out to eat ‘a la The Christmas Story’ or B. to have spent the week ahead planning a menu.

But when do I ever do the smart thing? I haven’t thrown a dinner party in so long, but in some ways, this is exactly my element. Back in the Elmhurst, A and I used to host so many dinners and brunches and a part of me has simply missed it.

why yes, free Christmas cupcakes are quite metal
why yes, free Christmas cupcakes are quite metal

The menu started out from my desire to roast a chunk of a dead animal (despite my fervent vegetarianism) and determining that nothing is better than roasting the aforementioned animal in a beer glaze (if the old Le Creuset Dutch Oven has taught me anything, it’s that nothing beats a day of staying in and braising). Next, I tried to figure out some way to incorporate avocados into a Christmas dinner. When I determined to make Guac, bam, I had half a menu. To that, I added dessert (flan, which is one of the desserts I know off the top of my head and which doesn’t require crazy ingredients I can’t get in China, and gluten-free tres leches, which was really just an excuse to add condensed milk to something) and cheese (in grits, because Polenta is easy to make, and because grits are southern? (somewhere in my mind, that all made sense). And so MexiChristmas was born.

And yes, I may have eaten enough eggs to make my doctor raise her eyebrows, ‘tsk!’, and remind me about my cholesterol again (and probably the fact that we ate raw egg, of all the places, in China) And you know? Out of all my holiday ‘traditions’, this was by far the least bizarre. My last Christmas was spent, out of all places, in Beijing. The one before that, in Sunnyside, but I don’t quite remember it, the one before that, at LAX, being bumped from flight to flight because of the two-week-long ‘downpour’. So, I guess I haven’t really had a traditional holiday ‘back home’ in years.

At the end of the day, this Christmas was a little more like Earth Day 2010 than it should have been, (the TD courtyard readying for TD-DDD-Day four years ago seems like a familiar sight even now), and I got a few unexpected (and slightly off-putting) Christmas messages, but isn’t it time we make our own traditions? Honestly, at the end of the day, Christmas, or any other Holiday really, is what you make of it. Without the label of a holiday abroad, today would have been like any other day, spent lounging around Shanghai or drinking wine at irresponsible hours of the day. In fact, Christmas eve was downright normal, as I spent it like any other night, not filled with anticipation for gifts, but in bed, drifting off slowly to a National Geographic documentary and lightly buzzed from off-brand NyQuil.

And so, continuing this line of ‘traditions’, my Christmas ended listening to Beyonce, two pork hocks, and three cups of Mint tea.

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