Accenti Photo Contest

December 2017


Escaping Christmas Dinner

by Emma Pivato


There was the year I made lutefisk for Christmas, just to insert a little of my Swedish heritage into the vast Italian milieu in which I have found myself for the past 45 years. That was a bust. I put it down the garburator. My husband, Joe, was disappointed. He loves fish, parmigiano and radicchio, but he is really picky about all other food.


No lutefisk for Christmas, then. Of course, there was always the turkey that Joe purported to hate. My goal was to cook the perfect turkey and then serve it in a tranquil, cheerful atmosphere. It never really worked out, however, even when I became skilled at cooking it upside down to keep it moist but rather flat chested. My brother pointed out that the gravy and dressing were not up to my mother’s standards.


I finally gave up. I know now that it was impossible, and not my fault. The only way to get her turkey-infused magnificence into the dressing and gravy was to overcook and dry out the turkey. Like salmon rushing up-stream against impossible odds to produce a new generation, the turkey must exhaust and expend itself in the service of producing these delicacies.

Basically, I don’t like Christmas. I don’t like bauble hanging or gift-wrapping, or receiving cards or presents that I am then obligated to reciprocate. I don’t like crowds and bustle and stupid bells clanging away. I do enjoy shopping at Christmas time – but only for myself. I usually buy some exciting new kitchen or cleaning device like this year’s treasure - Dyson’s latest portable vacuum!


What I also enjoy very much is the faux tree Joe establishes outside the window wall of our living area. He constructs it of various branches artfully arranged and hung with lights, and it grows bigger and geometrically wilder each time he makes it. And I do like to display my nativity scene prominently inside the front door so that those who visit will be reminded that all this other nonsense is not what Christmas should be about.


This year for Christmas, I will prepare Vitello alla Valdostana, a dish my mother-in-law taught me to make. Contrary to what the title implies it is made of pork, not veal. As a child, Joe refused to eat pork and hence, his mother’s need for deception.


It’s very easy to make: Slice the tenderloin thinly on the bias and pound it. Sandwich two pieces together with thin slices of mild white cheese and ham and a sprig of fresh rosemary. Roll in whole-wheat flour seasoned with salt, pepper and Mrs. Dash. Fasten with toothpicks if you are fussy or a clumsy flipper. Brown both sides in hot oil and then add a generous splash of dry white wine. After it boils off, flip the meat, cover and finish cooking on low heat to keep it tender.


I will prepare this meat dish as part of a pre-Christmas dinner for the assistants who work with our disabled daughter, Alexis. As for Christmas dinner itself, Joe, Alexis and I will go out to a nice restaurant!


Emma  Pivato, a retired psychologist, advocate and academic, currently writes mystery stories and is working on a memoir of family life with daughter Alexis.  

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