Diana’s Dinner Dilemma
by Seema Bagai
“It’s your turn this year, Diana,” Vanessa announces.
I take a sip of after-dinner coffee and stare blankly at my sister-in-law, wondering what Marshall family tradition I’d be dragged into this time. “My turn?” I sputter.
“The Christmas Eve dinner, of course. Since you and Logan are going to be in town this year, I figured you could host it. You’re always raving about your grandmother’s recipes.” I feel my temperature rise and I know it isn’t because I am sitting with my back to the fireplace.
“Sure,” I reply with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. “We would be happy to have all of you over.” Why can’t we go to Mom’s again this year? I know Logan and I agreed to alternate holidays between our families. Going is one thing, but hosting is something else entirely.
In the flurry of shopping, decorating, and baking, not to mention work and choir practice, I procrastinate on setting the menu for the big meal. The Sunday before Christmas, I pull out the recipe box Gram had made and given to me as a wedding present. I’m sure she included all the Christmas recipes in here.
I settle down at the kitchen table with some freshly-baked gingersnaps and a steaming mug of cocoa to peruse the recipe box. Memories of Christmas dinners with Gram and Grampa make my mouth water.
Roast turkey with savory stuffing. That would be a perfect main dish. I can picture the bird being presented on the platter Aunt Becky gave us. Wait. Vanessa is a vegetarian. Or is she vegan? What’s the difference anyway? Clicking open the web browser on my laptop, I find something called tofurkey. I print out the information and move on to the side dishes.
Since the fake turkey comes with stuffing, I don’t need to make any extra. Oh, but Logan’s father is gluten intolerant. He can’t have the bread stuffing. I’ll make wild rice instead. There’s a coupon in the paper for a box of instant rice.
Garlic seasoned mashed potatoes. Mashing them was always my job. But, they are also made with milk. Logan’s brother, Liam, is lactose intolerant. I’ll just serve plain boiled potatoes. Guess that means no egg nog for him, either. Better pick up a bottle of apple cider.
A tossed salad should be safe. I’ll be sure to have some fat free dressing on the side for Logan’s mother who is always reading labels and counting calories. What else? Green bean casserole with crispy onions. I scan the recipe card and realize it’s made with cream of mushroom soup. Logan has a mushroom aversion. He won’t even touch the other food if there is a mushroom somewhere on the table. I’ll just serve steamed green beans.
Dessert. The cookies are already baked. Hang on. Liam’s wife is a diabetic. There are sugar free cookies at the store. I’ll make sure to have some. Of course, we have to have Gram’s prize-winning pecan pie. No, better not. Vanessa’s husband, Neil, has a life-threatening nut allergy. Fruit? That should be safe. But what fruit is fresh in December? Apples I guess.
I study the menu before making a grocery list:
- Boiled potatoes
- Green beans
- Tossed salad
- Apple slices
As much as I’m trying, I can’t picture all these dishes arranged on the dinner table. It does not look at all like the festive Christmas dinner I pictured. It looks like something they would serve in a hospital. But, if I serve them the dinner Gram used to make, the one I really want to have, one or more of my guests will end up spending Christmas in the hospital. Won’t that give Vanessa something to talk about?
I can’t serve this meal. Nothing on this menu says “Christmas dinner” to me. Well, except for the cookies. There has to be a better option.
After a few clicks on the computer, I have an idea. Grabbing the phone, I dial a number.
“Good afternoon, Bayside Inn,” said the voice on the other end.
“I’d like to make reservations for eight people for Christmas Eve dinner.”
Read the previous story, "The Christmas Story" by Suzanne Williams.