I just returned from a trip and since it was December 1st and I was really trying to be organized this year, I actually thought of Christmas. Some of you Martha Stewarts already saved your turkey carcass from Thanksgiving, spray painted it silver and turned it upside down to make a Santa's sleigh or something but I'm not that good yet. But Christmas planning did come to mind and I went to the kitchen to jot down some ideas. That is when I discovered my first problem: all the counters are full.
What are they full of, you ask?
All things ethnic.
On any given day my kitchen would be considered fairly international, reflecting flavors & tastes acquired in different places. But this is different. There is a foreign invasion in my kitchen!
Let me explain...
My eldest daughter just finished a semester in Beirut. She has lived on four continents with us. But now that she is older and traveling on her own, she is touching down in places we have not lived and absorbing things of her own. Normally I find this very cool. But today it is upsetting my Christmas plans!
Here are some things I found:
Ginger root and lemon for making tea because she had a sore throat. Ok, that´s not too bad you say, even I do that.
But do you have leftover oil from amazing Lebanese potatoes with red pepper and cilantro & onion on your counter?
How about almonds floating in a honey-coma? I didn´t think so.
Heaps of dried fresh mint to add to teas, Argentine mate and other things.
A citrus wreath she's working on. (I'm hoping this will have something to do with Christmas!)
Zatar, a mix of spices & sesame seeds added to olive oil that she puts on her toast in the morning.
And this takes the prize: Her own café corner out by Dad's grill for making authentic Turkish coffee over our camping gas burner - because it HAS to be gas. (I am not kidding.)
I threw this in for extra because it is also on my counter: a lovely chutney pot (you know, those lovely sweet or salty mixtures of side garnishes for Indian food) that her Norwegian friend brought last week during her visit here. (My daughter had been home for barely 24 hours when she had an international guest!) That week the kitchen was filled with the delicious smells of India (where her friend had spent her semester) and Lebanon as they cooked and laughed together.
My friends in Spain are always sympathetic about my two girls now living far away, studying and pursuing international interests. They can't imagine how I can possibly stand to be so far away from them. (And it IS so very hard.) On the other hand, they say, you raised them like that, what did you expect? So, there it is. I raised her to love and absorb cultures & languages and she's doing just that.
I realize that Christmas comes in lots of colours & flavours...I only ask for a little counter space!
In case there was any doubt that she had no more room in her heart for Spanish food, I found this advertisement on (naturally) the counter the other day. It is highlighting a smoked ham leg (you may know it as prosciutto or jamón serrano), a delicacy here and very typical for the holidays. The 3 kids have conspired to get Dad to buy one (they come in differing prices according to their quality) and they are busily on campaign! The writing says with determination: "We have not given up! Love, your hungry kids." Very subtle.
So, rather in spite of myself (and my Christmas plans), I find myself opening wide my heart this Christmas to embrace the amazing variety represented within our family. It will definitely NOT be boring.
I only ask for one thing this year: You guessed it! Counter space!
Like I tell our guests tongue-in-cheek: ¨Mi casa es tu casa. Pero mi cocina es MI cocina!¨ (¨My house is your house. But my kitchen is MY kitchen!¨
Hoping the nations invade your kitchen this Christmas, too!
Cover photo by: JD Hancock