December 10, 2018 | BITE: My Journal
Better Not Shout. Better Not Cry. Christmas is Near.
My Grandson Zac at Rockefeller Center.
My birthday, December 22, is so dangerously close to Christmas that I can't be blamed for feeling that the tinsel and the trees were all about me. My parents made a point of celebrating Christmas and my birthday, so I would not feel deprived. I asked for a doll house. I got a dollhouse, but it was small and low rent compared to the dollhouse of my cousin Adrienne which had electricity and tiny rugs and a family living inside.
Me and my cousin Adrienne in Miami in 1938. She’s older but I’m taller. Her toys were always better.
Nat Greene’s, my parents’ woman’s specialty shop on Livernois and Seven Mile Road in Detroit closed latish on Christmas Eve. We didn’t ever get a Christmas tree till they took it out of the shop window to bring home. It was artificial, of course. I hated that. Sometimes it was pink and once it was chartreuse. I wanted a real tree, tall and dripping needles, smelling green, with gingerbread cookies and miniature animals. I read supermarket magazines. I knew what a Christmas tree should be. Cheated again.
Don and I with our New York Post colleagues in 1960.
Then in 1941, right after Pearl Harbor, brother Jim was born on Christmas Day. The upshot is I can never get enough Christmas. In the early years of my marriage to Don, I made the most of Christmas. One year I made plum run conserve for everyone. For a few years I made bourbon balls and almond crescent cookies from Paula Becks “Fine Baking” packing them in vintage tins and cut glass pitchers. I baked orange pour cakes from my sister-in-law’s recipe and wrapped them in cellophane on antique bread boards for friends who didn’t love those bread boards as much as I did.
In 1966 we bought the little Church on top of the Hill at the Zena four corners near Woodstock.
Don Forst and I had open house Christmas Day. The desk in the back room became a buffet with with rare roast beef, curried rice salad and chopped chicken liver. My German friend Sigrid has real candles on her tree so I wanted real candles, too. I bought them and the holders in Yorkville where all the food shops were German and I discovered almond paste critters.
Elvis is always the Star at the top on my miniature Christmas Trees.
When Don and I split, there was no more Christmas buffet and only a modest tree standing on a small table.
In the past few years, my niece Pamela has sent me live trees, small, with lights that flash when you plug it in. I set them up in my office where I spend most of my time. I decorate with my collection of small animals, mostly pigs, tin cutouts from Mexico, a small chef in whites, a mouse dressed like Jo from “Little Women.” I put a small sparkling Elvis at the top of the tree.
This is Eddie today at Red Farm. I couldn’t find a photo of him younger, sautéing potato pancakes.
That was before Red Farm opened and we had Hanukah dinner with friends at Eddie Schoenfeld’s and his wife Elisa’s. Eddie made hundreds of potato pancakes. I brought the salmon caviar from Russ and Daughters. Elisa made her famous dessert.
Brother Jim has the rescue dog Michey on his lap during Christmas gift exchange. Son Gabe stands behind column.
My guy Steven and I did Christmas in Hong Kong and Christmas in Venice. When Steven died, I was alone without family in New York. It was easier to send checks to nephews and nieces than buy the right gift. I started visiting brother Jim and sister-in-law Mary in Chicago. I would fly Christmas morning. The highway to Laguardia was empty.
My sister-in-law Mary makes lasagna for 20 look easy. Then she puts together two pies and baked them.
Jim and Mary did a major Christmas with a tall tree, ornaments collected over the years, and a collection of children and grandchildren gathered for lunch -- Mary’s fabulous lasagna and Caesar salad. Once I watched her effortlessly make two pies between her late breakfast coffee and the first arrivals.
Nico wanted to show Zac Central Park and the Ladies Pavilion where he and Anne were married in 2012.
This year, it felt like Christmas early when Steven’s son Nico came to New York with four-year-old Zac. In the beginning I wasn’t all that excited about having a grandson. I didn’t feel like a grandmother. Nico and Anne (she’s a urological surgeon) live in the other Venice, in California. They brought Zac to New York when he was two and he disrupted dinner at Red Farm. I was not impressed.
Zach loves books. Every week he brings several home from the library. Today he’s shopping at Barnes & Noble.
But now he’s four, taller than most 6-year-olds and smart. He loves to read. He brings home half a dozen books from the library every week, Nico told me. It was a cold, sunshiny day. Nico took him to see “Imagine” and Balto the dog in Central Park. Then we met at Barnes and Noble. “Find some books you like,” I told Zac. He settled on the floor and began to read a story book he’d chosen. But he didn’t want to buy that book because he’d already read it.
Zac stopped and studied each of Bergdorf’s Christmas windows. He especially liked the white one.
He chose the “ABCs of Biology” and the “ABCS of Space.” His dad pulled out “Super Fun Mazes” and a “Big Fun First Grade Activity Book.” He’s four and not even in kindergarten yet but he’s reading first grade. Snob that I am, I want to take an ad in the Times proclaiming his smarts.
At Fiorello, he ate the ravioli burrata and a triangle of pizza. At Red Farm he asked for chopsticks and slurped a whole Shanghai dumpling. “I like the five flavor one,” he said finishing off two five flavor chicken dim sum. He didn’t say so but I think he didn’t want to eat the shrimp and snow leaf pea dumpling because it was shaped like an animal and had eyes.
Zac devours two Shanghai dumplings at Red Farm and especially liked the five flavor chicken dim sum.
As his dad packed up their pajamas in an overstuffed suitcase the next morning, Zac finished his breakfast yogurt, two of them, and picked up a book --“I Really Like Slop.”
“Sit next to me so I can see the pictures while you read to me,” I said. He snuggled in.
Nico sent me photos of Zac making parfaits at home from a recipe in a cook book.
At home the next morning, Nico sent me photos of Zac making “yummy parfaits” from a recipe in a cookbook.
Please forgive me if I’ve gone overboard. Maybe you have super cute grandchildren too. But are they anywhere near that smart?
I would never have guessed how much a four-year-old would love the book of slop. Zac read it to me.
“Did you eat any slop on your way home?” I wrote in an email.
“They gave me some in a box on the plane,” he responds in an email from daddy.
More BITES You Might Savor...
Unfinished Tastings Bocce USQ Red Farm