Saturday, December 25, 2010

LOAVES AND FISH (SHRIMP)



When my twin sister, Joy, and I bought a house in South Carolina, our parents and brother started a tradition of driving from New Orleans and flying from Los Angeles (respectively) to visit us for Christmas.

This turned out a very dysfunctional and forced lesson for us about how to be grown ups and host and make a scrumptious dinner for five.

Our first year as hosts didn’t pan out well (no pun intended) because we didn’t shop for food until Christmas day. Seriously. I don’t know what we were thinking.
We were genuinely surprised that all the major grocery stores were closed.

Thank God there is a small, yet well-appointed 24-hour grocery store on the beach near our house that never closes. We bought up its entire produce in 15 minutes at 10a.m.

I had already bought the turkey, and felt accomplished. It was sitting cold and naked in the bottom shelf of the fridge with its legs tied together with string.

Neither Joy nor I had considered that we needed to get food for side dishes before Christmas morning.
Joy also needed to figure out what SHE was going to eat as her main course because she’s a vegetarian and hates eating animals, and she especially hates when animals’ legs are tied together.

One year, my mom got Joy a TOFUrkey from Whole Foods, which was made of soy and we all agreed it looked greasy and odd and Joy pushed it around her plate and doubled up on mashed potatoes instead.

“I don’t like it when it LOOKS like an animal,” Joy said. “It’s disgusting.”

The next year, mom got her a “Field meatloaf” from Whole Foods, which was pretty much a brick of buckwheat.

“CARDBOARD!” Joy declared. It had the same fate as the TOFUrkey.

Yet, as we frantically ran around the beach grocery store, specialized vegetarian dishes were the least of our problems. We had to figure out what we were going to do with just five potatoes the grocery store had left, and most of the five were all wonky and mis-shaped.

“BROCCOLI! WHAT ABOUT BROCCOLI??” We yelled to each other, looking in our baskets at the colors of the food already represented. (Our mom told us there should always be something green in every meal).

Wine! Canned cranberries! Butter!
We spent close to $100 that morning (F.Y.I. no one usually spends more than a case of beer and cigarettes $20 at that place). Because we spent so much, we were entered to win a drawing for $50 worth of groceries.

“Good luck,” the cashier said as we left, and I don’t know if he was talking about the drawing or us assembling a meal with the food we just bought.

Joy and I high-tailed it back to our house and had our brother, Franklin, come over and we (plus Google) got the turkey dressed and in the oven and boiled potatoes while Joy put up Christmas decorations and cleared off the dining room table.

Joy and I kept getting irritated with one another, because that’s what twins (couples) do when they live together and get stressed out.

“I THOUGHT YOU GOT THE FLOUR FOR THE GRAVY.”
“I DON’T EVEN EAT GRAVY, WHY WOULD I BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE GRAVY ???”
“GREAT, EVERYONE IS GOING TO HAVE, LIKE, ONE SCOOP OF MASHED POTATOES.”

I sulked as I buttered day-old bread, while Franklin peered into the oven to check on the turkey, pouring chicken broth over it. Our parents were set to arrive in fifteen minutes.

“Those tied-up legs are HORRIBLE!” Joy said.

Our freak-out wasn’t necessary because our parents aren’t the fancy types that would turn their noses up at a NON-TABLECLOTHED TABLE or anything.
I think we just realized the responsibility of being hosts WAY too late and really wanted to make up for it in the thirteenth hour. (This is what procrastinators do).

Our parents arrived right on time and made very nice comments about how it smelled great, and we tried to keep them in the living room so they wouldn’t see how little food we had to serve.

We were waiting for a Christmas miracle, like when Jesus turned the fish and loaves of bread into…way more fish and bread.

My dad dropped wrapped presents under our under-decorated tree and then picked up a non-descript plastic bag and said he was going to go to the kitchen.

“UM…why are you going in there dad?” we asked. “What do you need? The bread is already buttered, if that’s what you were wondering.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he told us and we followed him into the kitchen. It was then when we saw the Christmas miracle we were waiting for.

He pulled out a pan from the cupboard and poured some oil into it. (He politely ignored the wonky potatoes on the stove, looking dry.)

“What are you doing??” we asked again. “We don’t have anything else to cook.”
He gave us a “don’t worry about it” stare and pulled out of the plastic bag an entire bag of fresh, large Louisiana shrimp.
Dad=Jesus.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” we shrieked. “Where did you get that???”
“I drove it up here, on ice,” my dad said. “Now do you have any crab boil?”
Being native New Orleanians, we did. And Tony C’s.

Our dad whipped up a shrimp and onion dish that was better than anything they serve at Acme Oyster House and it became the most delicious appetizer, and main meal for Joy.

In fact, it was so filling that by the time all the rest of the food was eaten and our Duncan Hines boxed cake was iced, everyone was too stuffed to even eat a piece.
“Well, here’s to a successful first Christmas in your house,” my mom toasted at the end of the meal.

Joy and I were friends again and that point, and said, yes, well, it was totally not a big deal. Franklin rolled his eyes.

The turning-a-little-food-into-more-food theme continued throughout the holiday, when we got a call saying that OUR NAME WAS PICKED FOR THE $50 GROCERY GIVEAWAY.

JESUS CHRIST!” we shrieked.

We redeemed the $50 the following week. We didn’t buy potatoes.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

-Jenny

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