Right now, I am heating up some green lentils for lunch. I can hear the microwave groaning, and soon the kitchen will be filled with the smell of, well, green lentils. Then I’ll dump them on a plate and dig in.
I, of course, don’t want to eat green lentils for lunch. And as I hear my meal heating up, I’m thinking about all the stuff I would much rather have today: a pimiento cheese sandwich, a burger and crinkle fries from Burger Boy, the chicken parmigiana from Dino’s, a hot fudge sundae, those buttermilk mashed potatoes Brandon used to serve at Sel et Poivre, a slice of cherry cheesecake, a Reuben, some coleslaw, some onion rings, please.
In fact, if I really had to get serious about the ranking, green lentils would probably come in at the bottom of the list of what I really want to eat right now.
And yet, green lentils are what I’ll have. And why is that? Because over the past 10 days, I have surprised even myself by how much holiday food I can put away.
The eating extravaganza started Dec. 23, the afternoon my mom and stepdad Peter were set to arrive in Kentucky for Christmas. I had long put off doing my holiday baking as I knew that once the thumbprint cookies and butterscotch fudge were anywhere within arm’s reach, I had absolutely no willpower to stay away. But with my parents arriving in just a few hours, I decided the smell of sugar melting into butter was exactly the aromatic welcome they deserved.
So Gabrielle and I spent an hour or two stirring chocolate and butterscotch in the double boiler and spooning jam into the heart of shortbread.
By the time my parents arrived, the kitchen smelled lovely. But when we went outside to take the suitcases in, I realized my mom had decided she, too, would celebrate our reunion with food. Tucked into four big bags, she’d stuffed five dozen perogies, her famous cheese biscuits, a couple jars of caviar, the spicy mustard I like from the North End and her tourtière turnovers, which are the French-Canadian version of hand-held meat pies.
About 11 the next evening, my little brother Matthew and his girlfriend Jennie started to unload their bags onto our driveway. Those bags were also stuffed with food, most notably Jennie’s mom’s incredible spring rolls and four huge blocks of thoughtfully-selected European cheese.
Having all of this incredible food in my fridge and freezer was absolutely tantalizing. A few times, I opened the fridge door just to look at it all, planning on when I’d eat what.
The first night we were all together, we had perogies — mashed potatoes and cheese wrapped in dough, pan fried, topped with bacon and onions and served with cold sour cream. As if that weren’t enough, we polished off my mom’s cheese biscuits, I heated up some crab Rangoon I’d made a week before and we cut into those beauteous wedges of cheese.
On Christmas morning, the feasting continued, with smoked salmon, bagels and cream cheese for breakfast. We went to my in-laws for dinner, noshed on ham and corn pudding, and then hauled ourselves back home. But by midnight, we were hungry again, so we pulled out the homemade pimiento cheese, tourtière and cranberry oatmeal cookies my mother-in-law made, and I ate. Oh, but I ate.
By now my belly had become nearly canine in its poochiness, but I didn’t care; I traded my jeans for tights and went right on eating. Mealtime at our house had become merely a suggestion, and I ate whenever I felt the least bit hungry or, frankly, if I just noticed something sitting within my vicinity.
Dec. 26 was my turn to cook a five courser that started with sherry-spiked mushroom soup and ended with chocolate-orange cheesecake. And, of course, the next several days were filled with those leftovers, which also included all the traditional Christmas fixings.
By the time everyone was packing to leave, my chin had developed a twin and I was out of breath by simply going up the stairs. As I hugged everyone goodbye, I felt dread, not just because they were leaving but because I knew what penance I now had to pay for my indulgences.
And what is that price? Green lentils, dear readers, which, I hate to say, are ready now.