This six-pack is only Christmassy on the outside, on the inside are the usual silver cans, but it’s the only Christmas-themed beer packaging I’ve seen — some kind of scarcity instinct kicked in and I mindlessly put it in my shopping cart. They should make pretty Christmas beer cans. Frosty the Beer Mug. Have Yourself a Beery Little Christmas. I Came Upon a Midnight Beer. The Twelve Ales of Christmas. Silver Cans. All I Want For Christmas Is Brew. For Unto Us a Chilled One’s Poured. I Saw Mommy Drinking Asahi.
I spent Sunday morning preparing Christmas dinner. The apartment was warm and fragrant with baked things and spice, with the squash, onions, apples and chicken roasting in the oven, sage and rosemary. Then I had to pack up everything and take it to Nakatsugawa. Unfortunately we couldn’t take the good smells with us too, the best part of making Christmas dinner and the only thing this year that made me feel that it’s Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. I think the mother-in-law forgot about the existence of the holiday because she seemed surprised, or maybe thought it strange to celebrate on the 23rd rather than on Christmas Eve. I should tell her about the twelve days of Christmas, that’s a lot of Christmas. She got into the spirit after a glass of cheap champagne. All of us were hungry and it seemed like we spent hours eating, then sat dazed and stuffed, ashamed to want to go to bed at seven o’clock but powerless to prevent it.
We left much earlier than usual the next morning. It started to snow and Sam panicked about driving conditions. Of course first we had to make our customary stop at the McDonald’s drive-thru for coffee. He hates waiting when there are other cars ahead of him, especially RVs. The RV people take forever to order. We can never figure out why. Are they ordering massive amounts of food? Are they unfamiliar with the menu, which is always the same? Do they not consider what they’re in the mood for until they get there and sit dithering? How can an order for fast food take so long? If there are more than two cars Sam parks and goes in, it’s quicker. That morning Sam was happy to see the drive-thru empty and started pulling up to the pick-up window. I asked him how they’re supposed to know what we want if we don’t obey the rules and place our order first. This is not a Telepathy McDonald’s drive-thru.
When we got back to Nagoya I wanted to stop at one of those huge supermarket/malls. I haven’t been to one in a long time. It was thrilling. It was enormous. There was so much stuff. Busy counters sold roast chickens and Christmas cakes near the entrance. Fields of mini tomatoes and strawberries. So many brightly colored pizza packages that when you finally looked away you still saw pizzas. Two large platters of the most beautiful big prawns, a giant paella warming up next to them. I’d forgotten about free samples. The paella wasn’t ready yet, but I had a bite of beef and spare rib. Big mistake, they don’t season the meat at all before cooking so it’s completely bland and you only taste the sauce they leave out to dip it in. Sam refused to partake of samples because it disgusts him how greedy people are, crowding around and gabbing things and they don’t scold their children for taking more than one sample. And how can you be sure there’s no double-dipping going on? It’s all very vulgar and unsanitary.
A seabed of frozen crabs, gratins of oysters and scallops in their shells. An orange expanse of smoked salmon, an island of roast beef. The party platters of fried things, sandwiches, sushi, all went fast. Yet more pizzas, this time already baked and ready to eat. Then the chicken, the raw and the cooked, an army of chicken. Deep-fried, teriyakied, plain roasted, dozens of pathetic little bodies, hundreds of legs. Sam felt bad for the chickens, how many had sacrificed their lives for these people and do they even thank the chickens, do they even notice? A slaughter of fowl, a holocaust. The supermarket changed for us. The red banners proclaiming a Merry Christmas seemed to drip with blood, the crowds of shoppers oppressive. We escaped to the relative non-violence of the cheese section and loitered in the beer aisle until we felt better. Brew Christmas.
From Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy:
“The kitchen was full of delicious smells. Newly baked bread was cooling, frosted cakes and cookies and mince pies and pumpkin pies filled the pantry shelves, cranberries bubbled on the stove. Mother was making dressing for the goose. … Then he had to run to the attic for sage; he had to run down cellar for apples, and upstairs again for onions. He filled the woodbox. … After supper Mother put the stuffed, fat goose and the little pig into the oven to roast slowly all night.
“Mother and the aunts and the girl cousins were taking up the Christmas dinner. He looked at the crisp, crackling little pig lying on the blue platter with an apple in its mouth. He looked at the fat roast goose, the drumsticks sticking up, and the edges of dressing curling out. … He looked at the bowl of cranberry jelly, and at the fluffy mountain of mashed potatoes with melting butter trickling down it. He looked at the heap of mashed turnips, and golden baked squash, and the pale fried parsnips. He swallowed and tried not to look anymore. He couldn’t help seeing the fried apples ‘n’ onions, and the candied carrots. He couldn’t help gazing at the triangles of pie, waiting by his plate; the spicy pumpkin pie, the melting cream pie, the rich, dark mince oozing from between the mince pie’s flaky crusts.
“All grown-ups at the head of the table must be served first. They were passing their plates, and talking, and heartlessly laughing. The tender pork fell away in slices under Father’s carving-knife. The white breast of the goose went piece by piece from the bare breast-bone. Spoons ate up the clear cranberry jelly, and gouged deep into the mashed potatoes, and ladled away the brown gravies. … At last Almanzo’s plate was filled. The first taste made a pleasant feeling inside him, and it grew and grew, while he ate and ate and ate. He ate till he could eat no more, and he felt very good inside. For a while he slowly nibbled bits from his second piece of fruitcake. Then he put the fruity slice in his pocket and went out to play.”