The holidays are a time for togetherness, charity, and frivolity. It’s also a time for stuffing your undeserving gut with mountains of sugar-coated, gravy-drenched, frosting-encrusted yummy stuff. God bless America. But along with the happiness, laughter, and X-mas Eve hummers, there’s the misery, the gluttony, and the Citibank overdrawn fees. You gotta take the good with the bad, and thankfully there’s plenty of comfort food to help temporarily chase our blues away X-mas morn.
Given that, here are my top five favorite tummy-stuffers and bottom five stomach-blech-ers.
EL T'S TOP FIVE MOST FAVORITE X-MAS GULLET FILLERS
5. Strawberry Candies
Worth a 7 1/2 hour drive.
Each X-mas, Ma Tremendo makes these awesome homemade strawberry-flavored candies that are rich in wonderful calories and artery-hardening butter. Whenever I remember the sweet tangy taste of those candies, I get all Prousty in my remembrances of X-mases past, although I resist writing 700 pages about it. These uber-sweet treats are perfect for post-turkey palette cleansing or as a quick pick-me-up if you plan to jog to Toledo. E-mail me if you’d like the recipe.
4. Meat Logs.
Horny Santa ain't the only one delivering meat X-mas Eve.
Ma Tremendo is a big fan of the mail order catalog, especially if said catalog promises buckets of meat being delivered to your door. Unfortunately, these are not Omaha steaks but rather yule logs of a different sort: pepperoni, salami, smoked ham, summer sausage, and assorted flavors of beef. And doggone it, if they are not just as tasty as all heck, especially with some crackers and a fizzy spirit or two. Just a word of warning, though, if you see a loved one horking down on some X-mas sausage, it’s probably best to keep them away from any open flame for at least 12 hours.
He's probably thinking about all the pies He's missed out on.
Pumpkin, cherry, pecan, strawberry, there’s no end to the parade of pies coming out of the Tremendo family oven. I get a tear in my eye when the pies are laid out on the family dinner table like a Busby Berkeley dance sequence. I swear, last year there was more pie on display than at a Hannah Montana concert. But at least here, I got to eat some.
The breakfast of Champurrados.
Champurrado is hot chocolate, but this ain’t no Swiss Miss. And it shouldn’t be confused with champurado, which is a Philippine rice pudding. This drink is a complex mixture of flour, hot milk, Mexican chocolate, brown sugar, molasses, and aniseeds (or in some recipes, chili powder). Ma Tremendo sometimes skips the flour and uses baking chocolate and cinnamon, usually at Halloween. Either way, it’s good stuff. An ancient drink popular from the Southwest to South America, champurrado is a nice companion to a X-mas tree, an El Tremendo quilt, and filthy Christmas carols on a cold December night.
For those of you unlucky enough to not know a Mexican, tamales are corn meal dough wrapped and steamed in corn or plantain husks filled with spiced meats, or dried fruits, or if you are poor, air. The origin of this prominently Latin American dish can be traced to ancient Native Americans. Tonto liked his with horse meat. Running Bull was a Skittles man. And Geronimo loved white folks.
Eat them up, yum!
X-mas time is tamale time in Mexican households. At Chez Tremendo, the things are like currency. I could easily be bribed to clean the garage, paint the wrestling ring, and hand-wash Tata Tremendo’s masks with a dozen steamy tamales. They dominate every meal of the day during this time. X-mas breakfast is usually comprised of chorizo and eggs, tamales, and plenty of hot chocolate. Nana Tremendo put on the tamalera (steam cooker) just days after Thanksgiving and the smells of ground corn, chili powder, and angry swearing sailed in the sweet December air.
Be careful not to overdo it on these bad boys. Too many tamales and you’ll be spending X-mas Eve sucking face with a porcelain queen, and I don’t mean Anne Hathaway. The Tremendo clan never complained about eating tamales long after the tinsel and booze-stained stockings were packed away. Past the avarice of X-mas morning, they were probably the only things we could afford to eat. (And unwrap. Har har.)
Honorable Mention: X-mas M&Ms, Egg Nog.
EL T'S TOP FIVE LEAST FAVORITE X-MAS GULLET EMPTIERS
5. Fruit Cake
Under-appreciated dessert or Snack of Satan?
What would any bad X-mas food list be without the clichéd fruit cake mention? I would be remiss and shunned by my 80s standup comedian friends if I didn’t at least casually list it. Honestly, I’ve got nothing against the stuff and probably have never received it as a gift. As long as it’s dunk-able in champurrado, even hippo shit is delicious. Not that I have anything against hippo shit.
4. Mail-Order Cheese Spread
These things come in tubs, just like Tom Arnold used to.
Um, nasty. Ma Tremendo orders these things with the meat logs mentioned previously. These heavily processed cheeses have flavors like ‘swiss & ham’, ‘crab delight’, ‘port wine’, and ‘elf vomit’. And some of them have nuts in them like almonds and crap. Eww. I don’t know whether to eat it or use it to take the squeaks out of the door hinges. But to be respectful of Ma, I just choke it down and revel in the chemical burn. Not even Jesus would like these cheeses.
3. Brazil Nuts
I couldn't find a good pic of a Brazil nut, so here's Pat Buchanan, a plain nut.
Every year since I turned 18, I get a stocking full of fruit and nuts. Yup, just apples, oranges, and a nuttier assortment than the cast of The View. But I kid. Santa has long decided that stockings full of army men, Matchbox cars, and Ball Park Franks were reserved for Kid Tremendo, not boring Adult Tremendo. I guess he thinks I need the fiber because the damn thing is stuffed with a month’s supply of peanuts, filberts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, and these gross things that look like a zombie’s big toe. Brazil nuts. Honestly, X-mas is the only time I’ve ever seen these. And not only are they harder to crack than John Woo’s handwriting, they taste waxy and medicine-y. Santa, leave the Brazil nuts out of my stocking. I’ll deal with the hate mail from those slum-living, limbo-dancing, wife-beating Xuxa-watchers.
2. Soy Milk Egg Nog
I'm getting woozy just looking at this pic.
Being the lactose-intolerant little luchadore that I am, my ‘tomach is a bit sensitive to all things dairy. So I drink Lactaid and plenty of soy milk. I don’t mind soy milk at all, in fact I rather like it quite a bit, but egg nog, love it or hate it, was meant to made with moo cow milk. I tasted the soy milk version the other night and I wasn’t sure if I was drinking in or peeing it out. Wow. More boring and listless than an Akiva Goldsmith script, this stuff has no place on the X-mas dinner table, booze or no booze. I say, let the sensitive artists and pant-and-sandal wearers dunk their yeast-less fruit cake in this junk. Enjoy, hippies!
1. Communion Wafers
I have angered Jebus, on His birthday even! Naw, we're cool.
So if almost everything I’ve done the past 30 years hasn’t already reserved my spot on the Greyhound to Hell, this surely will. Like every good Catholic I know, I go to church at least once a year. Maybe on X-mas, maybe on Easter, maybe if someone dies. Being the sentimental sucker, I choose to go on X-mas Eve, mostly for the icky and gooey feelings of togetherness and the X-mas carol choir. But would it kill the frickin’ church to add a little flavor to the communion wafers? They are thin, dull, and flavorless. These things are meant to represent the body of Christ, not Posh Spice. Maybe replace them with a fig Newton? Or maybe one of Ma Tremendo’s strawberry candies? Hell, I’ll be there every Sunday. Something must be done. This is a time when the church needs to bring back disillusioned young Catholics tainted by the recent scandals. And what better way to lure kids than with sweet candy? Eh? Eh?
Ticket for one, please. A window seat.
Dishonorable Mention: Mail Order Petits Fours, Hostess X-mas Sno Balls (which are disgusting year-round).