I Hate Christmas

 

I’m about to espouse a view so controversial, so unpopular, that I hesitate to even go on for fear of pitchforks and torch fires. I hate Christmas.

There, I’ve said it.

I know, I know, it has its flaws, it’s over-commercialized, there’s an increase in waste that’s bad for the environment; fuck all that, I HATE Christmas.

Now you’re getting the idea.

Look, I was raised Catholic, so I am well versed in the Christian view of the “Reason for the Season”, and I get that an increased emphasis on the material has diluted the religious nature of the holiday. While I do mourn the loss of this spiritual aspect of the celebration, I’m not overly religious, so, while unfortunate, this is not a major issue for me. I am a believer in climate change and do recognize the stress that periods of increased consumerism puts on the environment, so, yeah, that’s a point against Christmas, but it still doesn’t get to the visceral loathing I have for this holiday.

Since lists seem to be the shit on the interwebs, I will literally count the frickin’ ways that I despise this holiday.

The Music – Oh, good God, the music! I believe that most Christmas music should be considered a war crime. I’m sure it is used by unscrupulous interrogators when waterboarding fails. It’s sappy, capitalizing on myths of a perfect home and loving family. Some of it is a bit rapey. But, the worst part of Christmas music is that it’s been meticulously crafted by the pop music gods to become weaponized earworms. If a virulent insinuation into generations of popular culture can be considered a form of immortality, then Burl Ives has attained a sort of godhood. His velvet smooth baritone instantly triggers unwanted olfactory illusions of Christmas trees and peppermint. My brain will be fucking playing these song, again and again, well into June and they make me want to puncture my eardrums with an ice pick.

The Colors – If you know my art, then you know that I am not one to shy away from color. I would completely own the title garish. But Christmas, with its red and green, its silver and gold? Holy fuck, this entire season is as soothing to the eyes as being peppermint pepper sprayed by angry elves. I mean, I have to give props to the fact that the colors harken back to the holiday’s pagan origins, but then the Christians had to make it way too metal. According to holyfamily.org, the points of the holly leaf represents the thorns of Jesus’ crown and the red berries represent the blood that Jesus shed on the cross. Totally badass, but does it have to be everywhere? Must we suffer, as well?

Presents – Hear me out here, because I recognise that presents are the biggest selling point for this holiday.Full disclosure: I’m not so much into material things. So take what I say with that in mind. I’ve never felt entirely financially comfortable, so the added expense that comes with gift giving is a bit stressful. A birthday coming around is one thing, but every freaking person I know? And there is the second stressor. Who do I give a gift to? Do I give a present to my boss? My mailman? How much do I spend on my wife vs. my bartender? Then there’s the what to get. Do they already have it? Will they ever use it?

Elf on a shelf – Okay, this is a newer one. No childhood trauma involved. I’ve actually just recently heard about this. WFT? I’ve already got enough paranoia. I’ve already believe in the surveillance state. Now, a children’s story
is telling 10 year olds (I have no idea what age group would be reading this book) is purporting that an inanimate doll is watching, judging their every move? How fucked up is that?

Santacon – Again, not a childhood generated manifestation. Let it be known that I am a drinker. I drink beer. I like beer. I still like beer. No, seriously, I enjoy drinking. That being said, what I’ve seen of Santacon is a walking disaster. I’ve already said that I am a drinker. I have no issue about someone drinking to excess. And, as we are only human, some of us will be total assholes when we are in our cups. Santacon takes this to the next level. As a drinker, New Year’s Eve is a celebration that I avoid, preferring to eschew the company of amateurs. Santacon, on the other hand, is an event I avoid, because they drink competitively and I’m just a hobbyist.

I’m not big on holidays overall. Other than International Nachos Day, I have no personal connection with any holidays. In fact, it doesn’t take much for me to celebrate. Arbor Day. Joe Hill Day. If we get to eat, drink and be merry, then I’m all for it. But Christmas is a holiday societal pressure and existential depression for me. That being said, Merry Christmas everyone. And Happy Holidays! Have fun!

I Love Cooking

 

I love to cook. To be fair, I am a hedonist, with food being a major area of enjoyment. If I had to go out to eat every time I wanted a nice steak, or stir fry or BBQ or anything else, I’d go broke. Not to mention that, there is something special about being able to prepare food “just the way you like it”. Even more hedonistic, I just enjoy the very act of cooking. It is the perfect intersection between science and art, between order and chaos, controlled conditions and crazy randomness.

I credit this love for cooking to my family. I was brought up to believe that a man’s place is in the kitchen. My grandfather was, in addition to being a drill sergeant, a cook in the army. My uncle held a number of food service jobs in his time and their guidance gave me my start in the culinary pursuits. Not to leave out people like my grandmother and my aunt Pat, both have (or had in my grandmother’s case) some mad skills, but, ultimately, I consider cooking to be an essential manly art. Normally, when one talks about food and family, it tends to be a discussion of cultural or ethnic roots, but we just liked food. We were equally happy spending hours layering phillo dough to make baklava as we were wrapping little sausages in Pillsbury croissant rolls out of a tube to make pigs in a blanket. Growing up with the Irish side of my family, we had our share of potatoes and pot roasts and stew, but we made everything from spanakopita to fried chicken to refried beans. When I was a teenager, my aunt Pat married a man from a Lebanese family, and I have made dishes like tabouli, hummus and baba ganoush ever since.

I feel at peace when I am in the kitchen, chopping vegetables or stirring a sauce, just waiting for the moment it takes on the right consistency. My bedtime reading regimen will occasionally include cookbooks and I will often scour the internet for new recipes to try. My favorites are complex, long, drawn out affairs, involving ingredients that must be searched for at specialty shops. Bonus points for ingredients that bring a look of confusion to a shopkeeper’s face when I ask for it. I love toasting and grinding my own chilis for chili powder. There’s something so visceral about touching and smelling and seeing all the different parts that will combine to make something glorious. There have been several times when I don’t even care about eating; the process of creating is the goal unto itself. That being said, I’m usually starving by the time whatever I’m making is finally done.

I’m always surprised that more people don’t cook. I consider it to be an essential life skill. Particularly for anyone with a special diet. I have a friend (I’m looking at you, King Biscuit) who is a strict vegetarian, but does not cook. He is constantly complaining about how hard it is for him to find good food. Of course, it’s going to be hard. There are countless places to get food in most urban areas, but how many of these are actually good? From this group, one must take away any of those that don’t match one’s diet profile, be it vegetarian, vegan, paleo, gluten free, etc. Then, one’s personal tastes must be taken into consideration. For instance, I can (and have) eaten Ethiopian food, but I just don’t like it. I have a thing about texture and I find most Ethiopian food to be too mushy for my tastes. This leaves a very finite number of restaurants to choose from and even these are going to get boring after a while. When one cooks, they are limited by only budget, time and effort.

So, favorite foods. Ceviche, BBQ, almost any meat, sushi. I don’t like sweets, other than a weakness for pie.I love chili, Irish stew, shepherd’s pie. Not a huge pasta fan. Not really into carbs at all mostly, though I do appreciate a good nan. I like heat, spicy food. Not ghost pepper, painful hot, but the complex, numbing type of hot. Kim chee, Sichuan fermented chili-garlic sauce. I love sour. I’ll sip on vinegar, pickle juice and eat limes whole. I hate eggplant, but love baba ganoush. I hate avocado, but love guacamole. Goat is probably my favorite meat, and I’ve had a wide selection. I’ve eaten beef, pork, chicken, rabbit, squirrel, alligator, rattlesnake, bear, elk, venison, boar, buffalo, and those are the ones I can remember. Oh, yes, I’ve even eaten donkey sausage.

Why am I saying all this? Well, I’m hoping to talk about some of the more complex and entertaining recipes I do. I know this is only peripherally related to my work as an artist, but it is such a quintessential part of who I am, that I’m going to be talking about cooking. Figured I might as well lay some groundwork. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and I will come back with some recipes soon.