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October 15, 2009

Muriel's Christmas Dinner (by Margaret Ullrich)

My friend Muriel hasn't recovered from last Christmas. The poor dear had tried to please everybody. Solomon couldn't have pulled that off. Muriel was willing to go with the flow, but she was caught in a tsunami. Her husband Tom is a simple man with simple tastes. He just wanted a bird with stuffing and cranberry sauce. He should never have had children.

Their eldest, Donna, keeps up with trends. Muriel had asked Donna to bring appetizers. Muriel expected celery sticks with cream cheese, crackers and cheese cubes. Donna waltzed in with an oriental party pack and assorted seafood and chicken wing platters. Something for everyone. Uh, huh. Tom backed off when he saw the eggrolls. "I don't like Chinese."
Donna said, "I got you BBQ chicken wings."
Ignoring her, Tom said, "They don't serve bread." Tom went to the kitchen for bread.

Then Betty arrived. Betty lives in a commune and supports the rights of everything and everybody, except those of the hostess. Betty always carried tofu because she never ate dairy products or anything with eyes or eggs. Muriel had prepared a nice salad for Betty. Not good enough.
"Were the pickers paid a decent wage?"
"The lettuce had a union label."
"I only eat organically grown food. Did they use manure."
"We had to scrub the carrots with bleach to get the E coli off."
"Oh... okay."
Tom heard E coli and reached for another slice of bread.

Finally, their son Bill arrived with his wife Carol and their children, Krystal and Jason. Bill and Carol had every allergy in the book. Bill also had cholesterol and Carol had her waistline. They avoided the platters and drank water. Krystal, a tender hearted child, burst into tears when she saw the wings.
"Oh, those poor birdies. Do you know how they treat chickens, Grandma?"
Muriel figured the birds were better off than she was. They never had to make a holiday dinner for the family. But this was her granddaughter.
"Krystal, dear, these birdies lived in a happy place where they laughed and played and sang songs for a long, long time. Then one day they just went to sleep and woke up as chicken wings and they were so happy they jumped onto the barbecue."
"Oh... okay."
Who says the next generation knows it all? Tom heard Muriel's tale of the laughing, singing chickens with the kamikaze wings, figured she'd finally lost it and ate more bread.

Ignored by his elders, Jason gobbled a fistful of seafood appetizers and started wheezing. Muriel packed away the appetizers before her children could start a food fight and led them to the main event.

The table looked like a sailboat regatta designed by Martha Stewart. Every dish had a tiny flag listing ingredients. Muriel did not want to call the paramedics again. Krystal cried when she saw the turkey. When Betty reached for the potatoes, Bill said, "But they have eyes". Betty meant to kick her brother, but got her sister-in-law, Carol, who screamed and kicked back. Muriel yelled at her kids. It was just like always. Damn.

After everyone had eaten what they could, Muriel brought out a carafe of hot cranberry apple cider. This was her gift to herself. Seeing all the different coffees at the market made her go woozie. Whatever happened to plain coffee, black or with cream? The adults didn't say a word while visions of cappuccinos, espressos and lattes danced in their heads.

Betty had made the dessert. It was just what the doctor ordered. No eggs, no cream, no butter, no taste. Tom just saw a pumpkin pie. It looked fine. Tom helped himself to a slice and thought that Betty was returning to the food of her mothers. But, something tasted... off. Maybe a new spice?
"Betty, what's in this pie," he asked.
"Tofu."
"Geez." Tom reached for the bread. Jason had wheezed through the whole meal. All in all, it had been just another family holiday get together. God help Muriel. The holidays are back.


Have a great weekend. How can you miss - you're in Winnipeg!

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