A Foodie Christmas Story

25 Dec

MarketIn my family, food defines holidays. Butcher-made hot dogs reign on the Fourth of July. Red beat eggs take over Easter. And Thanksgiving’s solidified by Nana and Pop Pop’s home-made mashed potatoes. But no holiday compares to the food fest known as Christmas.

Christmas isn’t marked by a single food or even a traditional dish. Instead, it’s comprised of all of the favorites, no matter how strangely they pair together.

Christmas Eve breakfast — 9:00 a.m.

It all starts with Christmas Eve breakfast. Every Christmas Eve my family wakes up and heads down to Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market. If you haven’t been there, it’s a mecca for food lovers, boasting everything from Amish shoofly pie to an oyster bar.

While the market houses to two diners and a hand-rolled doughnut shop, my family loves to start the morning right with a warm rotisserie chicken, washed down with fresh-squeezed orange juice. The combination has no right making sense, but it does.

Next, we divide and conquer, scouring the market for our yearly stands. I typically head up collecting gyros (pronounced YEE-rows for those non-Greeks) and an assortment of cheeses mostly consisting of Gouda.

While I man the cheese charge, my dad and brother collect salami (always choose Genoa, always), crab legs, and lamb chops. This leaves my mom and sister to confuse the Mexican food stand by forcing them to deconstruct their nachos, only so we can recreate them later.

Christmas Eve lunch — 1:00 p.m.

Finally, after scurrying around the market, we head to Grandma’s.

Never ones to show up empty handed, we offer a gyro plate, and then dig into home-made lasagna. Grandma’s from a region in Northern Italy and she lets it be known through her stoffer-shaming lasagna.

Christmas Eve dinner — 7:00 p.m.


After Grandmas, we waddle back home where my family continues to eat — this time the nachos we gathered at the market. With nachos, it’s all about the cheese. If

Christmas breakfast — 8:00 a.m.you’re not using an authentic Mexican cheese then you might as well eat Taco Bell.

We wake the next morning to hunt down presents hidden around the house (Santa likes to make me work for our gifts, turning Christmas morning into a present hunt). Then we sit down to a breakfast of bagels and locks (my dad’s favorite).

Christmas lunch — 12:00 p.m.

As I’ve learned over the years, you’ve got to skip Christmas lunch. My mom will inevitably make something delicious, yet a true Christmas eating champion must bypass the distraction and save room for the main event.

Christmas dinner — 7:00 p.m.

Market1My mom pulls out all the stops for Christmas dinner. It starts with a charcuterie and cheese plate appetizer, but don’t fill up there. Next we cover the kitchen table with a plastic table cloth to prepare for the kitchen destruction known as eating crab legs. My mom warms up butter, my dad’s on cracking duty, and my siblings and I dig in.

But we’re not done yet. After appetizers and crabs, it’s time for the formal dinner. We all sit down to rack of lamb, roasted Brussels sprouts, and cheesy potatoes. We’ll inevitable toast to the year, argue about Obamacare, and in the end, cherish our time together as a family.

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