A Feast for Christmas

There is nothing that gets me in the Christmas spirit quite like the mouthwatering aroma of cooking food on Christmas Day. Being a family with both Italian and Syrian roots, we have a little bit of everything. Of course, this year is going to look different than past years, but that doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate my favorite holiday fare.

Arguably, my favorite thing to eat on Christmas Day is baked corn. My great aunt used to bring it over, but she has since passed, so we make it now. I made it myself last year. For those who might not know what baked corn is, it’s a delightful marriage of creamed and regular corn, flour, butter, sugar, milk, and eggs, all baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 minutes. 

Beautifully sweet, this dish is a perfect side to your December 25th meal. The texture is almost reminiscent of moist scrambled eggs…with the occasional corn kernel.  Although this recipe makes roughly half of the recipe we use, it still looks pretty similar.

Then there is eggplant parmesan. This is a more recent favorite of mine, all thanks to my uncle, who brought it a couple years back and set a new standard for the Italian dish. I love eggplant parm, but a gripe I often have with it is that the eggplant blends in too much with the pasta, to the point where you can’t tell where the pasta ends and the vegetable begins.

Not so with this eggplant parm. The eggplant is breaded nicely and stands out, the sauce is sweet, and the dish is as rich as it ought to be. My uncle works as a chef, so truthfully I wouldn’t expect anything less than excellence with his culinary creations.

But my uncle doesn’t stop at the savory, because every year, he and my aunt bring over a ginormous dish of Christmas cookies. From peppermint chocolate chip cookies to buckeyes to peanut butter blossoms, there is something for everyone. I particularly like this one dessert that they make with honey, dates, and pieces of pizzelles, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to find the name. Regardless, it is safe to say that I always save room for dessert.

I also like eating roasted vegetables on Christmas Day. Being a “flexitarian” who eats meat very infrequently, even on holidays, I find that tucking into sizable portions of roasted vegetables fills me up substantially. My uncle makes these delicious rosemary potatoes (a medley of sweet potatoes and white potatoes), and two years ago I made roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar and honey. My sprouts were a big hit with everyone, which made me feel very giving that Christmas season.

Last but not least is the Syrian side of things. We order food from Mary’s Restaurant downtown every year, and in truth our Christmas Day feast wouldn’t be the same without it. I don’t eat it myself, but the baked kibbee (meat mixed with bulgur wheat and spices that’s baked and then cut into squares) is very much beloved at our table. My personal favorites are tabouli (a parsley salad studded with tomatoes, onions, and bulgur wheat) and hummus (a chickpea puree featuring olive oil, tahini, and lemon).

I associate all holidays with the food that I consume during them, and Christmas is certainly no exception. I am thankful that I’ve been able to eat so much good food over the years, and although this year might not feature the same fare, I can think back on past meals and appreciate those. 

With that being said, this year won’t be any less special.  I love being in the company of family more than I love the accompanying food. Yes, I have always been an enthusiastic eater, but it doesn’t matter what I’m eating as long as I’m eating it with my family.

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