Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Dinner

Yesterday might have been Christmas Day, but Christmas is not over yet. Today is our family celebration on my husband's side. Most everyone will be in this year, everyone except my daughter and her husband in snowy Taos, New Mexico, and her cousin and family in Maryland. We will gather to eat, but not all in one room. We've grown that big. The women get the table, the men get the tv trays, key word, tv.

We have our list of food assigned to bring, the usual meats, casseroles, desserts. Two items on the list stood out to me this year, not just because they sound delicious, but because they have a connection to a story I heard while I was interviewing former Pilot Mountain students. It's a Griffith family quirk that I also found alive and well a hundred miles away in this valley.

The first meal I ate at my future husband's house those many years ago was Sunday dinner. That meant roast beef, a southern tradition. It also meant mashed potatoes. Everyone at the table served themselves an ample helping of potatoes and commenced to denting in a little well at the top of the pile, so I did, too. I'm from the north, western Pennsylvania, and when we had mashed potatoes, we also had gravy. So that first Sunday dinner meal, I waited for the gravy to be passed around. No gravy.


Everyone put a generous scoop of green peas in that little well, even dribbled them out like green lava from a crater. Never heard of such a thing as peas on potatoes. Couldn't imagine the taste, either. But there they were, eating peas and potatoes like it was an everyday occurance.

Fast forward a lot of years (and a lot of peas and potatoes) and there I am listening to a man tell how he learned to like peas.  He couldn't stomach the taste of them until his family moved to the South Mountains.

So what happened, I asked.

The first day he ate in the school cafeteria he saw students making dents in their mashed potatoes and spooning their peas into those dents. He was extra hungry that day, he remembers some sixty years later, and wanted to eat everything in sight, even peas. He tried it their way. Liked it. Learned to eat peas with, and then without, mashed potatoes.

So is this a cultural thing? Southern? Mountain? A mommy thing? Or am I just behind the times in culinary delight?

As for me, give me a lonely pile of peas beside, not on, my mashed potatoes.

Catch of the day,


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