Dating Ethnic Foods for Christmas

Pamela Hill NettletonEssaysLeave a Comment

Our family of six sisters had a tradition as we dated in high school and college. If you brought a boy home for Christmas Eve dinner, you had to force him to bring along a traditional dish representing his ethnic heritage. This was how we learned to embrace exotically diverse non-Scandinavians, not to mention expand our culinary experience outside of all things white and flavor-free. Eventually, as our custom continued over the years and down through the younger sisters, we created a legacy of sorts. Where other families’ holiday tabletop decor ran to holly boughs dotted with berries, ours evolved into a motley assortment of oddball kitchen concoctions that were only occasionally edible. Secure in our own superior annual consumption … Read More

A Bad Gifter

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I give bad gifts. Size 5 shoes to size 11 feet. Yogurt makers to the lactose intolerant. Diaries to the discreet. Sheet music to the relentlessly tone deaf. It’s not that I am thoughtless—I’m thinking, I’m thinking, believe me. It’s just that I have this holiday weakness of idealizing my friends and family, sometimes to the point of making them unrecognizable. Since they are the finest people I know, and you would think so, too, should you ever have the good fortune to get to know them, I choose to believe that they are nearly flawless. At least, come shopping time. Trying to select the perfect scarf, handbag, or tie for the people behind the names on my list, I … Read More

Baking for Nobody

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I just baked 12 dozen Christmas cookies for no one. I do the baking every year; the “no one” part I’m still getting used to. When I ran a magazine, I’d make a batch of these each December week and bring them in on Mondays for the staff. A junior editor who became a senior editor and went on to launch food magazines and publish cookbooks dubbed them the “Like Heroin Cookies,” a moniker I treasure. It was hard to stop eating them. The art director came to my desk one afternoon. “Are there any of those cookies left?” he asked hopefully. I shook my head. “O-kay,” he said, sounding like Eeyore, and shuffled out the door.  When the scent … Read More

Christmas Jell-O

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IT JUST WOULDN’T be Christmas without Jell-O. Holiday traditions are built around this concoction of sweeteners, dyes, and stuff that hardens like amber to preserve the items that are lovingly placed in it. The lunch ladies at St. Raphael’s Elementary School were masters of suspending the four food groups in Jell-O. Carrots were an odd and particular favorite—not traditionally sliced, but shredded in a frenzy. Flurries of carrot peelings, snowing in Jell-O. Now that I am an adult and have struggled myself with kitchen mysteries, I wonder how they managed to get those carrot peelings to stand on end as the Jell-O hardened, forever ethereal in a vertical dance of keratin. My pitiful attempts only result in a clotted mass of … Read More

‘Heartland’ is family-friendly but not unbearably cheesy

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For all its wholesomeness, “Heartland” is not sickly sweet and doesn’t sidestep the realities of life. Heartland is a family show without corruption or treachery, a cowboy show that focuses on women, and a western show set not in the United States but in Alberta, Canada. It’s also Canada’s longest-running one-hour drama series and was renewed for its 16th season. It is available in the United States via Netflix and UPtv. It’s compellingly addictive television—comforting and homey, simple and true, peopled with handsome men in cowboy hats and competent women who can handle horses, cattle, and business. Adapted from a series of 26 young adult novels by Lauren Brooke, Heartland tells the story of the Bartlett-Fleming family raising horses and cattle … Read More

In ‘Severance,’ a bleak look at soul-stealing office culture

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The Apple TV+ series “Severance” sends us back to work in prepandemic corporate America. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, work-life balance was a term corporations used to lure new hires but an evasive concept to operationalize in day-to-day cubicle life. That changed—overnight. COVID-19 lockdowns forced what Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter call the “complete collapse of the work-home boundary” in a March 2022 Scientific American article. Analysts predict the workplace has changed forever: Zoom instead of air travel and commuting. Flexible hours that let parents work after their kids are in bed. Working from home—or anywhere. Heightened awareness that employers should support workers’ mental health. Corporations that promoted work-life balance as long as it didn’t interfere with productivity suddenly scrambled to reinvent themselves—and sublet … Read More

Tennant’s Fogg travels to find himself anew

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‘Around the World in 80 Days’ offers an ode to taking chances. A century and a half ago, Jules Verne wrote Around the World in Eighty Days, and readers began to imagine that the world might be shrinking a wee bit. The new Masterpiece series on PBS, starring the transcendent David Tennant, reimagines and recasts the central characters and chunks of the narrative in a modern retelling of Verne’s adventure story—which has already been retold many times, including in the classic Academy Award–winning 1956 film. A sedentary British bachelor, Phileas Fogg (Tennant) rarely leaves home except for a daily walk to his men’s club, where he eats the same meal each day and eschews anything out of the ordinary. Reading a … Read More

How Molly Burhans is helping the church fight climate change

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A young cartographer is helping the church catalog its land holdings so it might address the environment, human migration, and sustainable land stewardship. At first, Molly Burhans thought she’d be a ballet dancer. It had been her dream through middle school, her focus in high school, and her major in college—until a foot injury caused her to drop out and move back home to Buffalo, New York. Although that seemed like a setback, it placed her on a path to becoming possibly the most awarded and well-known Catholic environmentalist in the world at this moment. She is almost certainly the most well-known cartographer. In 2021 the Sierra Club honored the then 32-year-old with its EarthCare Award, previously awarded to the … Read More

‘Ted Lasso’ shows a better way to be a man

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Apple TV+’s ‘Ted Lasso’ is a skillfully crafted story about masculinity that is compassionate and supportive. Ted Lasso is teaching boys how to be men and men how to be good people. Right there on television, where the opposite usually happens. The American series—named for its main character and produced in London for Apple TV+—was nominated for 20 Primetime Emmy Awards its first season alone, scooping up Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and other awards along the way. It was just renewed for a third season. The premise will feel slightly familiar to fans of the 1989 film Major League: An owner of a United Kingdom soccer club hires American coach Ted Lasso, hoping he’ll be incompetent and drive the team into the … Read More

True Grit

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Some folks just know what they’re supposed to do. He never wanted to be anything else. Sitting at a desk and pushing pencils in an office justwasn’t his style. The nubby grip of a good suede glove, the creak and groan of a broken-in saddle, the strip ofrawhide wrapped around his hand—they felt right from the first time he climbed to the topfence rail to watch his daddy work the quarter horses. His left wrist hasn’t been the same since that last trip to the emergency room in Abilene. Hiswalk has a bowlegged roll that will never go away, even if he takes to wearing wing tips and athree piece suit, which ain’t likely. A little sawdust, a lot of … Read More