Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas at Big Gray

Here in the real world Christmas is finally behind me. Actually, so is Easter. I managed to keep up the tree and Christmas decorations till January 27, my way of saying I hadn't seen enough of friends and family for the Holiday. At Big Gray, Christmas was a special occasion for me as well. From the time Kim crawled out from the attic and hung Christmas lights around our round window at the very top of the house, Christmas has also been a very public celebration .We decorated in our usual anarchistic way, but always managed to end with a beautiful house. Our dining room with its five over sized windows was a cold place in the winter, but on Christmas was transformed into a spacious warm and inviting place to gather and eat.The party was always on Christmas Eve so I could spend Christmas day celebrating with my actual family. Often, I was in the minority of those who both celebrated Christmas and had a family in New York. But at Big Gray, in spite of our association with the feast, we all did Christmas Eve, had a big Christmas tree, and participated in a sit down dinner for as many as 20 plus individuals. I met many brothers, sisters and parents of family members along with scores of friends during those parties. It was always interesting and informative to meet the families of the people I lived with, particularly when family members stayed as two or three day guests. The dinners were crazy affairs, mixed-up and delicious. I learned a lot about cooking for people doing those big Christmas Eve feasts. As many of you know, I am now a private chef and get to both practice my passion for cooking and get paid for it.If you're interested, my daughter Jenn and I are planning a blog on food. If you think I have a lot of opinions about living with people and are still reading this, you'll love (or hate) my opinionated take on food, restaurant reviews, restaurant customers , cooking, eating and life in general.

But back to Big Gray I loved the way our group of Christians , Jews , Atheists and Goddess worshipers managed to put aside our differences and create a joyous, loving celebration . We evolved a Kris Kringle style of gift giving to create some Advent drama. Sometime before the big day, we all picked names out of a hat and became that person's Secret Santa. I enjoyed the bartering sessions after the hat picking , where we secretly exchanged names so as not to have to buy for anyone we currently hated. Then, we would leave small presents for the person of our choice leading to the surprise final gift session after dinner on Christmas Eve. That was fun.

Inevitably, after one of our long Christmas dinners, there would be a feeling of unrest in the room . A chant would silently begin, then fill the house with a crescendo: "Toothpaste, toothpaste, toothpaste! " the crowd would shout,accompanied by the raucous stamping of feet and wild cheers. Then, I would reluctantly rise to my feet and explain that it was time to repeat an ages old tradition at Big Gray. At one of our first parties, I would explain, in order to entertain the guests, Richard (our first Fire Chief) and I enacted three stirring performance pieces.The three were named, "Toothpaste", "Bacon" and the awe inspiring, "One-Armed Janitor".For those readers who saw them only once, they are I know, embedded in your psyches. No further description is necessary. And for those readers who somehow missed Christmas at Big Gray, all I can suggest is invite me over for a big family meal and get me whacked.