the 12 meals of christmas
December 28, 2006

And two in particular:

Christmas Eve
Christmas Day

It's December 21, and I arrive home to find men laying new flooring in our house; the furniture is in all the wrong rooms and Bryan and I are immediately sent to procure felt pad floor protectors. Mom still manages to put baked salmon with cranberry-thyme crust (panko crumbs are my mother's new favorite ingredient), perfect green beans and a green salad with balsamic dressing on the table a couple of hours later (okay, I help with the dressing).

The next day the house is approaching normal, but we're hardly into dinner planning mode. Yet out of the kitchen still comes grilled shrimp skewers with lemon and garlic over angel hair and a feta and tomato salad. I'm starting to think my mother's fridge has magical food-producing properties (do you get that when you become a mother?), though I step in for the preparation on this dinner. (But magical refrigerator or not, I make a note to myself that Mom isn't allowed to be in charge of adding cayenne pepper any more.)

December 23 and we're getting down to the real business of The Menus. Mom and I spend all morning on the sofa over coffee with a stack of Bon Appétits, occasionally eliciting opinions from Dad and Bryan. ("Yeah, I like mushrooms, but I wouldn't eat that.") Tonight is a prelude to show: an extended trip to the new Central Market, Mediterranean lamb shanks, creamed cauliflower (the way only Mom's food processor can do) and salad with strawberries and almonds.


And now it's time to go out. There is no better broiled snapper anywhere than at S&D Oyster Company. You never order anything else—except for a tray of fat oysters so the waiter will come and mix equally legendary horseradish red sauce at the table. (It's considered within the realm of polite dining to ask for extra crackers to eat up the rest when the oysters are gone.)

S&D is in an old Dallas grocery store building, so it's fitting that the next day's lunch is at Babe's Chicken, which lines its walls with photos of Main Street, Roanoke, circa 1908—including glimpses of the warehouse that became Babe's. (The thing is, Main Street, Roanoke looks pretty much the same these days.) At Babe's, the saying goes, you can eat whatever your li'l ol' heart desires—so long as it's chicken. It's greasy, it's crispy and there's lots of it (and, should you tire of it, the corn, mashed potatoes and biscuits are also as God and the State of Texas intended them to be). I need to eat at Babe's maybe once every 10 years to get really full.

In fact, it's possible I've eaten enough this week for...a week or two, if not 10 years. For us, that's Christmas.