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by C. Jeanette Tyson

Dear Santa,     
    Iíve been really good this year, I swear.     
     Iíve made approximately 730 waffles and 632 pancakes from a wholesome multi-grain mix, served them slathered in real maple syrup, and have just about lost the five pounds I put on from eating what the kids left behind.

    I have taken every out-of-town guest to Gueroís and ZTejas. This in no way reflects on my own cooking; itís simply a matter of civic pride.
     I introduced my three-year-old children to frog legs. They had no opinion as to whether they tasted like chicken but the phrase ďFrog legs for breakfast!Ē induced peals of laughter for weeks. And that was just in me.

     I have learned to take my own meals on the plane and not be embarrassed about it, as they do in many third world countries.
     Everything I made from recipes in Bon Appetit turned out great. Really, both dishes were quite tasty.
     On principal, I refrained from buying Martha Stewart's Living though I believe my Easter decorations suffered from it.
     Which reminds me: I made the twins twin birthday cakes again this year; Jay-Jay the Jet Plane and his sidekick Gracie. They werenít the hit Bert and Ernie were. To be honest, Iím not sure how long I can keep this up. I see myself thirty years from now, cigarette dangling out the side of my mouth, dropping ash into my drink, trying to figure out how to make Fred and Ginger out of a box of Duncan Hines. Or Donnie and Marie. Or would that be Arnold and Marie? So please, please give me a lot of credit now.
     Speaking of cake, I told a friend my favorite flavor of ice cream was vanilla. For several days afterward I worried what this said about me. Bland and unimaginative? Simple and classic? Strong grounding for things more flighty and fabulous? I know what youíre thinking. And no, I donít usually have that much time on my hands.
     Goodness and light stream through my fridge now, Santa. Gone are the three bottles of A-1 that lent taste to bachelorís-choice cuts of cheap meat. Gone are the pre-sliced cheese, pre-packed salad, caffeine-free, sugar-free cola. It wasnít real food so I donít miss it. It wasnít even my food. The divorce should be final soon. Very soon. Not soon enough.
     Iíve been fairly disciplined on the calorie front: even though eggnog showed up on the shelves before Halloween, itís December and Iíve not yet bought any. When I do succumb, I promise to get the real thing this year, not soy.
     After a first, most atmospherically-charged date there, Iíve decided I can never go to Fonda San Miquel again; that the memory should be enshrined. However, I reserve the right to change my mind on that.
     I think you can see, Santa, that from a culinary perspective Iíve been pretty good. Maybe not Emeril good or Nigella good, but nice in my own hectic way.
     And really, were the naughty things so naughty? Yes, Iíve shown up to many dinner parties this year with spinach filo from the freezer section at Central Market. Yes, the cat has found a home in the basket on the dining table and Iíve let it. The six-burner Viking has been used to heat more cans of soup than Iíd like to admit. Whole Foods has cooked most of the chickens on their rotisserie and Iíve not turned one carcass into stock. Guilty as charged with the bribery of my children with marshmallows. (Only once!)
     But itís that time of year, Santa.
     Just a couple of weeks ago the biblical rains came. I would drive across Redbud to see what they were doing with the dam. One day it would be open, gushing, flooding, overwhelming. Another day shut, all held back. Itís that time of year.
     We look back over a thousand and ninety-five meals to congratulate ourselves on the opportunities taken and ponder the ones lost. Good and bad, authentic and fabricated, shared and suffered, satisfying and decidedly not.
     At least thatís what it was like around my table.
     Címon Santa, stuff my stocking. You know I deserve it. We all do.
C. Jeanette Tyson is a freelance writer, lover of eggnog and hot chocolate with peppermint, and of Maddy and Jackson, age four.


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