Saturday, December 18, 2010
Christmas Magic, Tamales and George Bailey
Everywhere I roll,
Cookies and candied treats, its food that I like to eat
Where’s my Pepto-Bismol?
Christmas is rich in the many ways that we celebrate life. Part of that celebration includes our tradition of sharing special meals with friends and family. The tradition of the Christmas meal can look very different around the world. For example, in the Czech Republic the Christmas Eve meal involves Carp as the main dish with fish soup as an appetizer. Not bad if you are a fish fan.
Then of course there’s something called Stargazy pie. This delicacy is traditionally served in Cornwall (located in Great Britain) on the 23rd of December. This pie is made of baked fish whose tails are arranged towards the center of the pie with the fish heads all poking through the flaky crust around the rim. They are supposed to be gazing skyward but try walking around the room and tell me if you don’t feel like you’re being followed.
Here in the U.S. of course, Turkey and Ham are the traditional staples. But in my world, it was Tamales. Tamales are made of masa, a corn based dough which is then filled with meat. Ours usually included pork and beef. It was then wrapped in corn husks and steamed. How many ways can I say “Mmm mmm good?” The tamales were served with mole, atole, Spanish rice and refried beans making quite a feast. My grandmother would sometimes make sweet ones that had raisins and sugar. But of course the fillings and recipes are as varied as there are people around the world. That’s the beauty of the tamale.
Tamales are hard work to make and that’s why part of the fun is the camaraderie that is built when a team of family and friends get together to create a tamale making production line. As a child I would ditch that work, leaving it to the adults. Then, the adults included my grandparents and parents. I am now part of that production line, helping to keep our tradition alive. And now there are youngsters that come and eat tamales for the Christmas holidays at my table. Those youngsters are my grandchildren. Maybe someday they will write a blog recounting their memories about Christmas. Maybe they will wonder what was a "blog".
There is a magic that Christmas spreads across our lives. We celebrate in part through sharing meals. It gives us a time to remind others that they are important to us. The Child in the manger reminds us of this eternal truth. One that speaks to us across time and one that has relevance for us during these difficult times; that there is no greater gift to give, than to give love. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
It’s love that transforms the heart.
That’s the magic of Christmas.
To my friends and readers from around the world, thank you for making Mangia with Mario fun to write.
To my readers in Vietnam; Chuc Mung Giang Sinh
To those is France, Joyeux Noel
To those in Germany, Fröhliche Weihnachten
To those in the Nederlands, Zalig Kerstfeast
To those in Slovenia, Vesele Bozicne Praznike Srecno Novo Leto
To those in Colombia, Mexico and Ecuador, Feliz Navidad
And to my friends in Italy, Buon Natale
And of course to all here in the USA….A Very Merry Christmas
Oh by the way, on my list of my favorite movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Go buy a copy this year.
In it, our hero George Bailey loses his fortune thereby losing his way in life and losing the spirit of Christmas. Thinking that everyone would be better off with him dead, George is about to jump from a bridge when an angel named Clarence (who’s trying to earn his wings) intervenes and shows George how much his life means. George rediscovers the magic of Christmas. The movie closes with George discovering a note from his angel that contains this message.
"Dear George: Remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings! Love Clarence."
Merry Christmas my friends!