Let me start by saying that Christmas and Advent is my favorite season of the year. Even before I was a true Christian I loved it . Well, minus about ten years right after my folks split up-but I got over that. I love the Christmas music-they could start it in October and I'd be okay with that. (Yes, that's ME you hear blaring TSO on Halloween!) I love the feel good movies on tv. I love the decorations, again, even if they go up way too early. Most of all I love the feeling of good will toward others that you can find in many places, minus, perhaps, the malls.
But today what's on my mind is FOOD. The Christmas season (if you call it holidays instead, that's okay. Just replace it in your mind because I say Christmas) is filled with holiday dinners, potlucks, cookie exchanges, goodie days, and many more forms of food torture. Well, torture if you don't enjoy it or can't eat it anyway.
I love the cooking, the baking, and the experimenting that comes along with these little escapades. I enjoy cooking for others way more than for myself. I know what I like. I want to know if I can get you to like it. Potlucks are always great. I tend to bring main dishes the rest of the year because I'm way picky about my protein intake. If I bring something I can eat, then I'm good even if everything else is not on my "okay to eat" list. At Christmas I almost always bring a pineapple casserole out of St John's Lutheran (Salisbury, NC) Feast of Love cookbook. My aunt gave it to me, my family made the casserole, and it's been a must have ever since for Christmas.
I love cookie exchanges, too, though I've never gone into a "real" one. I'm talking about the "you must make six dozen cookies to trade, two dozen to share, etc." type of exchanges. But I would totally do it. Just don't expect me to make 'em from scratch because I am hoping you'll actually eat them. I tend to employ "helpers" in my baking. And they won't be pretty, iced and painted cookies because I don't do that. (Stick figures, anyone?) But they WILL be delicious. I promise that much.
But this week I discovered something I really don't like about potlucks and cookies this time of year. Many people have a tendency to not label the food they bring. I try to always do this because I want folks to know what they're getting. How'd you like to hear "wow, great chicken salad Edie!" and be thinking, "Um, geez, that was spinach dip." Yes, that's extreme but it does happen. Ever since my kids entered preschool I've been a bit fanatical about not ever including anything with peanuts in it. Preschools and public schools alike drill that into us now. Nothing with peanuts may pass the property perimeter! Hey, some kids have allergies that really are bad enough that being in the room with a peanut could truly mess them up. I respect it.
But I have a tendency to forget that not everyone is as over-the-top nuts about labeling as I am. So yesterday I bit into a divine-looking deep dark chocolate cookie. It had a little jam in the middle like a melty and looked scrumptious. It's a bit of a classic in my book, so I gave it a try. Then I thought to myself, "what is that strange taste in the cookie? Oh crap! That's peanut butter!" All my life peanut butter cookies have always been the color of peanut butter. Always. Never seen one that wasn't. Until now. This cookie looked like chocolate. It smelled like chocolate. But it was actually chocolate and peanut butter. If you like Reese's then that sounds divine. Heck, to me it sounds divine! But it's also a sure-fire way for me to end up in bed.
This year I somehow developed a sensitivity to peanuts. I don't go into allergic shock or anything. I just get a killer migraine. And I do mean killer. If I don't get something kill the migraine, I'm likely to kill the first person that speaks too loud. So I watch out for those bloody peanuts. That and basil are my known villains in the food world. But this time I had no clue. And today I've got a killer migraine. (Please note, I do not blame the baker of the wonderful cookies for this happening.)
So here is my plea to all of you who cook for potlucks, exchanges, goodie days, gatherings or any other form of food sharing: Label your food. Peanuts are one allergen out there, but others include soy, wheat, gluten and all kinds of other stuff. I'm not saying you have to give an ingredient list, but at least tell folks "these are peanut butter cookies" or "whole wheat banana bread." Believe me, those of us with allergies are grateful and we'll ask for more information if we need it.
For those of you organizing these events I have another plea. Please ask your participants to label their food. Offer some form of paper and pen (index cards work great). Binder clips or masking tape are helpful for putting the label on the food. Easy to provide.
And to all of us-happy eating!
Merry Christmas to all of you!