Laura Zoeller

Downsizing Christmas dinner

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Another Christmas has come and gone. The presents that were so meticulously wrapped and placed gingerly under the tree (I actually finished early!) have been opened and played with and taken upstairs. It’s funny how much less time is involved in the unwrapping of gifts than the wrapping.


Similarly, the cooking of a holiday meal is an extremely time-consuming endeavor for many people. For years, I did the same thing; I cooked a ham, mashed some potatoes, made Jello salad and several sides. I would then add fresh rolls, several pies, a couple of vegetables and often a cookie tray as well – just for the five of us.


The prep work took days, and on Christmas morning, I started dinner before the first gift was opened. In the hours that followed, I would listen to my kids play with their toys but couldn’t see them because I was in the kitchen cooking. About mid-afternoon, I would call the family to the table, and the feast would begin.


About 20 minutes later, everyone was full. A few more minutes of conversation may have ensued, but shortly thereafter, the kids would ask to be excused to return to their toys, and I would begin the cleanup.


That took another hour or better. All of the food had to be put away, the dishes had to be washed, the counters scrubbed and the floor swept. The fridge usually had to be rearranged to make room for all of the leftovers.


By the time it was all said and done, I had spent little time with my family on one of the most important holidays of the year. Any time spent together before dinner was stressful for me, hoping that everything would cook to perfection, and any time spent together after dinner, I wasn’t guaranteed to be awake.


Besides, we are farmers, and we raise our own food. It is nothing for us to have a roasted chicken dinner on a random Tuesday just because we have birds in the freezer. Steak is just another cut that comes from the cow. Roasts are cooked so often here that my kids say that is all we ever eat. We are very blessed where food is concerned.


So a few years ago for Christmas dinner, I made cheeseburgers and french fries. Another year, we had frozen pizzas. And this year? Soft tacos.


The kids love the simple food just as much – OK, maybe more – than the whole rigmarole of the dinners I used to make. I love that I can whip up dinner in a short period of time, allowing me to watch the enjoyment on the kids’ faces while they use their new toys. My husband loves that I am less stressed (read: less cranky), and as long as we eat something, he doesn’t mind what it is. It works for us and is beginning to feel like tradition.


But in keeping with our old tradition, I still fall asleep after we eat.



Laura Zoeller can be reached at zoeller5@hughes.net.


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