Putting Down Roots


the unofficial sponsors of Christmas
December 23, 2011, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Lacking any sort of uniting spiritual fervor or similarity of interests, the main thing my family comes together around on the holidays is food, which is to say, my sister and I spent the bulk of today looking up recipes, making extensive lists detailing what we would cook for all meals between dinner tonight and lunch on the 26th, and grocery shopping for the various items that would comprise those meals. The time that wasn’t spent planning was spent preparing the first bits of such food (after a lunch of leftover curried squash soup, I set bread dough to rise and mixed up molasses-ginger cookies with toasted pecans and chocolate chips. Kirstin and I tagged-teamed on the cranberry salsa to go with tomorrow night’s turkey, and then she made homemade gnocchi with squash and sage for our dinner. Somewhere along the way, the bread–a rosemary olive oil loaf–came out of the oven). We’re serious about our eating.

The traditional Popper Christmas Eve dinner is, inexplicably, potato latkes. (It used to be latkes and ham, which we all enjoyed mostly, I think, for the slightly off-color irony of it, but now the meat eaters settle for turkey breast). In recent years, we’ve discovered that using equal parts celery root and potato makes them three times as delicious. Let me tell you: celery root is an unsung hero, a delicious and hearty vegetable most of the world cannot identify. And so it was that, last December 23rd, when we were combing the produce section at Publix and yelling over the crowds–“nope, russet and gold potatoes are NOT the same thing! You want the ones with Idaho on the bag!”–we discovered only two tired-looking celery roots, sad brain-shaped vegetables that were squishier than they shold have been. We sidled up to the produce manager, who looked at us with an expression that said, “oh, so YOU’RE the type of people who eat this thing. Hm.” He went back to the coolers and came out looking dejected: there were no more. We had already explained that they made the latkes so superior, so he didn’t want us to go without. He wrapped the ones we had up specially and stuck an orange “free!” sticker on them:  if they would have gotten thrown out anyway, at least they can go to a good home where they’d be appreciated.

The latkes were fabulous, and the whole meal long, we toasted Alfredo, the produce manager at Publix who had handed over the secret ingredient.

Today, we were back at Publix, and though the celery roots were numerous and firm, the brussels sprouts were lacking. So, of course, we asked. Clarification: we asked Alfredo. We were walking away, our plastic sack filled with beautiful leafy mini-cabbages from the back, when it occured to me to say something to Alredo. I turned around, mentioned how we’d talked about him all last Chrismas, and thanked him for the veggies today. “Oh, yeah,” he said, “I definitely remember you.”

So far this week, we’ve managed to learn about cruises from a woman giving out free-sample cups of coffee at Kroger, bring a free coffee (two creams, two sugars) to the cashier there who asked where we’d gotten ours, explain the various preparations of artichokes to the cashier at Publix, and hear all about the Solstice dinner and pet rat of the girl who bagged our groceries.

For the record, every single one of those people has been invited to our house for dinner. We’ll see who shows up.

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