As today is the Saturday before, it is too late to ask you to save my Thanksgiving, but I am hoping you can save Christmas. I live with my partner of three years, and we will be spending both holidays, as we always do, with her family. This includes both of her parents, her stepparents, three grandparents, a great aunt, four siblings with spouses and significant others, and three grandkids, one neighbor, two local cousins, five dogs, and a blind cat. No kidding. I can’t complain. My family lives in London where I am from, and her family and friends are all very friendly and accepting of me and our relationship. (My first year there her father directly told me that there were two teams on the holidays: the ladies chatting in the dining room — including gay cousin John — and the men watching football in the living room. His daughter doesn’t like football, but even though I am a girl I was still welcome to pick whatever team I fancied best.) I love them, and I love the holidays.
I also love to cook. I mean really love to cook,and I am good at it. Unfortunately, my true love can’t boil water without a mishap. Because of this it has always been her duty to bring the traditional green-bean casserole. I hate green-bean casserole and disdain having to make it every year for both occasions. I have asked to bring something else and have always been told no — this is all we should worry about and maybe some wine. I have cooked for her family on other occasions and they love my food, but the mothers have a system for who brings what to these two dinners and there is no compromise. It’s not like I am asking to take over the turkey or the ham. I just want to make real food! There are clearly enough mouths to feed.
— Tired of Cooking At the Kids Table
Dear Cooking With Kids,
I have to admit I was hoping for a more dramatic Christmas emergency than a frustrated cook. Are you sure you don’t need me to go to the North Pole and help Santa dry out or tell Mrs. Claus to stop pinching the elves’ butts? I’m just saying I am here for you if you need it.
Are you sure your in-laws love your food? What if they are just pretending so as not to offend you or your girlfriend? I don’t want to be mean, but you might look into this, just to be certain. Maybe check with someone like gay cousin John, the great aunt, or one of the kids. Whoever has the loosest lips.
If they still insist that everyone likes your cooking, then you will need to stage a small revolution. Why not bring the casserole and another dish? As you said, there are plenty of mouths to feed. Just make sure it fits the theme, but doesn’t challenge anyone else’s territory (i.e. don’t bring another kind of stuffing or an alternative sweet-potato dish.) I doubt they will turn down the food in your face. It’s the holidays, and you can simply say that you brought it as an additional gift to be shared with the whole family, etc. Hopefully, after they enjoy it you will have your foot in the door.
Don’t go over the top the first time; keep it simple and unobtrusive. Maybe a nice white-wine Jell-o mold or additional vegetable side or gree- bean alternative. This way you stay in the world of green side dish and only threaten displacing the dish you brought in the first place.
If this doesn’t work or is shot down by your partner, then you may need to resort to less becoming methods. I know — but sometimes the holidays must be taken forcibly. Either learn to grin and bear it or pay the cost of winning. You could sabotage someone else’s dish or kill off a relative. When the next holiday comes up, you call the moms-in-law and offer to bring their dish. I don’t condone this method; I am just identifying it as a possible solution for a desperate woman.
Much love and fulfillment of your culinary dreams,
Your Uncle Mat
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