My late mother-in-law, born in this country to parents who emigrated
from Sweden, sometimes had a party for her children and grandchildren
on Little Christmas Eve. It was her way of compromising, because
Christmas Eve was a big night in her tradition for home and food, but
my little family was going to church. On those evenings we would enjoy a groaning smorgasbord that filled her table: Swedish
meatballs with lingonberries, smoked salmon with mustard sauce, strong
black coffee and pepperkaker for dessert.
I miss her. Since her death in 1998, the charming Swedish horses have all gone to one set of grandchildren, and I doubt I will see them this year. The children will hang paper Swedish flags on their dad’s tree. And we have many little red wooden figures on ours as a reminder.
Filling in a blank from yesterday’s comments, childhood friend and I are pretty sure her ancestress Daisey and my dad’s friend Eggnog were related, having a family name in common. I once asked my dad why his friend Charlie, a high school classmate, had been called Eggnog? In his unbelievably dense drawl, Daddy replied, "Because he drank some once."
I pressed and received the further detail that Charlie had quite a lot of eggnog at a debutante party, and nearly fell into the punch bowl.
Eggnog became a pilot in WWII and died while flying a mission in Europe.
He is one of the long-gone friends my dad never forgot. I’m sad that I can’t plug him directly into a family tree, but I know his family was related by marriage to my mother’s family and that ties him right back to my dad again. My hometown, Jane Austen’s Village, really was that small in the 1930’s, when my dad was in high school. Everybody knew everybody, or I guess I should say everybody who was white knew everybody else who was white.
So I am thinking of Daddy and Eggnog this morning. Hope they’re drinking one together at some heavenly debut party.
But you wanted to know about the meat loaf, didn’t you?
A few years ago we had the extended family here for Christmas dinner. I felt some pressure to do a big beef meal, since others had done so in the years immediately prior. I ordered a prime rib, so many ribs per person (am I thinking of the right thing?). Pure Luck is not a big meat eater. If he’s eating beef, he prefers it ground. He was not excited about prime rib.
With a slight attitude, I asked, "Well, then, what sort of festive main course do you want to eat on Christmas Day?"
"Meat loaf," he replied.
"You want meat loaf?"
"You think it’s festive?"
"I think it’s very festive."
There was a moment of silence. I gathered my composure. I smiled and meant it.
"All right, then. We will have a Festive Christmas Meat Loaf."
So you see, what makes it festive is not the ingredients (although I do add cheerful grated carrots), but the attitude of the cook and the one who will consume it. It’s now a family story of a gently joking nature. Sort of like Eggnog’s nickname.
I hope my children will be telling it to their children some day.