SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
People, we need to talk about holiday food.
I know what you’re thinking: “The holidays are over! Don’t make us rehash holiday hash!”
Yeah, well, these days you’re never far from the next holiday. We have to nip this problem in the bud, before we’re all eating rosewater Valentine soup.
(Yes, I’m late posting this column. Like the TV networks, I dropped everything important and fun in favor of the Olympics.)
It used to be simple, if strange. Pumpkin cookies at Halloween. Cranberry sauce and stuffing at Thanksgiving. Eggnog at Christmas. Spice flavored crap here and there. (Not literally crap. Ew.)
It was, quite frankly, food most of us wouldn’t even think of consuming any other time of the year. But during the holidays it was a “special treat” that somehow we felt duty bound to try despite our better judgment.
Most holidays have some questionable variation on this. Much as my brother and I liked to blow things up as kids, we didn’t consider going out looking for fireworks once Independence Day was past. New Year’s Eve party hats look ridiculous on January 2nd, especially once the wearers sober up. On Halloween we get away with stuff nobody even tries the rest of the year, unless they’re in San Francisco or a Washington, D.C. hotel room.
But now it’s out of control. For instance, in late summer last year Starbucks started selling Pumpkin Spice Latte.
I’ll leave off the debate about whether latte, by itself, it inherently ridiculous.
Dunkin’ Donuts pimped its pumpkin products in September. Brueggere’s Bagels has a pumpkin bagel. A pumpkin bagel! Oh, the humanity.
Now, some of this doesn’t bother me much. After all, it’s a free country when it comes to food, as long as you escaped the spice scented reach of the Bloomberg Administration. You want pumpkin yogurt? More power to you; as far as I’m concerned, yogurt joins buttermilk among those items that I refuse to taste because it’s impossible to tell if they’re spoiled.
But come on. Pumpkin Pringles? Ice cream? M&M’s? Good ingredients are being wasted. There’s only so much chocolate in the world.
There’s pumpkin-spice flavored vodka, and a beer made with pumpkin and cranberry juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I suppose, as with the non-holiday version of those products, they taste better the more you drink.
If you’re full but still craving, you can get a pumpkin scented room deodorizer. You’ve long been able to get holiday spice scents, although the eggnog scented candle wasn’t a huge success.
Once Christmas approaches, you can leave the pumpkin and go to eggnog, which at its best is enriched in some nice, holiday buffering booze, and at its worst makes people violently ill. After all, it’s got milk, cream, and whipped eggs in it. And, of course, you can get it with pumpkin spice.
If you’re not careful, it’s a recipe for a sweet treat and a sour stomach. I’ll stick with hot chocolate, because … hey, chocolate.
But people love eggnog, to the extent that you can now get it in cupcakes, marshmallows, cake mix, bubblegum, popcorn, and of course milkshakes. You can even get eggnog flavored candy corn, thus taking you all the way through the fall and winter holidays. Next they’ll be dying it green for St. Patrick’s Day.
And why do people go for all this stuff they wouldn’t touch in June? White chocolate peppermint Pringles? Gingerbread shakes? A turkey shaped ice cream cake? (Although still – it is ice cream.) White hot cocoa lip balm?
There’s also roasted turkey Doritos. Perfect for that college kid who can’t make it home for the holidays, or someone who’s been smoking some questionable green leaf and doesn’t much care what flavor his snacks come in. Or both.
I’ll give you milk chocolate Lays potato chips, which at least combine two “normal” flavors. But pumpkin soup? Pumpkin martini? Shaken, not seeded.
Turkey and gravy figgin’ holiday cola???
As for fruitcake, no one has actually eaten any in all of recorded history. Oh, some people claim they have—but they’ve never produced proof. The truth is, the same dozen fruitcakes have been exchanged across the country every holiday since fruitcake was invented in 1866, by a guy who was drunk on eggnog.
(I kid. The first fruitcakes were “consumed” by Romans, just before the empire fell. Coincidence?)
Personally I’ll add to the list of weird holiday food: candied yams, which are just wrong, and cranberry sauce, which only exists in this dimension from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Also banana nut bread ice cream, which I realize isn’t so much holiday only, and certainly beats the heck out of pumpkin spice Eggo Waffles.
“Leggo my pumpkin spice Eggo!”
“Um … ok, it’s all yours.”
Well, every flavor has its advocates, and it’s not like I don’t enjoy questionable snacks. I used to eat salted pumpkin seeds by the ton. At one point my blood pressure was higher than the national debt, although they’ve since traded places. Still, I think I’ll pass on the idea I once read, to stir cranberry and ginger into mayonnaise, making a holiday themed sandwich spread. It goes on pumpkin bread, I assume.
I’ll stick with the basics: Fudge, no-bake cookies, and my personal choice in foods that are holiday only and a bit ridiculous when you think about them: peanut brittle. I can break my teeth and stop my heart at the same time!
Sheesh … I gained ten pounds just writing this.