The holiday season is a minefield of political etiquette, moral dilemmas and culinary faux pas. First there is the choice of whom we spend our holidays with, always an exercise in doing no harm.
Do I accept the invitation from good neighbors who are glum because Romney lost the election? Will I have to hide my happiness of four more years with Obama while my hostess serves up a turkey that, like Romney, was not pardoned -- and is now stuffed and feathered by his party? No, I'd rather gleefully celebrate this election with a democratic feast for all, not just the one percent.
Do I drop by for dessert with my good friends who, in the wake of Washington's vote to allow recreational marijuana, are offering the most exquisite handmade marijuana chocolates and hot toddies boasting a "mellow high?" Since I come from generations of teetotallers and was advised long ago by an astute therapist that with my nervous system, "drugs would be redundant," a Thanksgiving high is not an option. I'd be horribly silly, fall asleep or become a menace on the road.
This Thanksgiving was particularly fluid, with multiple invitations that overlapped. Any decision seemed sure to offend. At one point ,I was supposed to schlep across town for three different Thanksgiving suppers -- until I realized that I would feel like a bloated bird myself from such excess. So after much nervous debating, I finally chose one traditional feast with Amanda's family, then dessert and a holiday movie with my friend James. It seemed the perfect solution to a complex kinship system. And since I'm a remedial cook, I was only expected to purchase a pumpkin pie for each Thanksgiving. Everything seemed settled. I could relax while the world around me spun in holiday and culinary anxiety.
Ah, but I hadn't factored in the logistics of my politically incorrect pumpkin pies. Because Amanda has this year been diagnosed with Diabetes 2, I choose a beautiful, low-sugar pumpkin pie from our local PCC, a natural, organic and sustainable cooperative that makes Seattle -- and pumpkins and diabetics -- proud and sated. This delicious, yet healthy pie would be added to a dessert table piled high with my hostess's own inspired creations: agave-sweetened (no sugar) pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and cherry chocolate chip cookies.
For James' Thanksgiving dessert drop-by, I stood in the endless queue at our famous Bakery Nouveau, which is the Holy Grail for pastry aficionados. With its signature twice-baked almond-chocolate croissants, blackberry chocolate mousse, divinely elegant French macaroons in pastel colors and flavors -- from salted caramel to blood orange -- Bakery Nouveau is necessary to any festivity I attend. Hosts now expect these French ecstasies from me. So I patiently waited my turn to purchase a frothy delight of a French pie: Crust so light it looked like it might levitate if not layered with richly spiced pumpkin. The gorgeous pie was topped with little dollops of bourbon-infused whip cream like sugared, white caps.
Everything was perfect -- until I woke up on Thanksgiving morning to consider my cross-town travel and realized I'd have to take both pies with me. The Bakery Nouveau pie needed a fridge to protect that ocean of whipped cream. But how could I ask Amanda to store the glorious French pumpkin pie in her refrigerator for James while offering such a humble pie to her? And I certainly didn't want to tempt her with so much sugar when she was doing so well with her diabetes and sensitively low-sugar desserts? What to do? I felt trapped by two pies.
My politically incorrect moral dilemma may seem like nothing in a world besieged by rockets falling on cities and soldiers fighting for their lives and global warming and all of us marching right over a fiscal cliff -- but in my little life, this was suddenly a problem of great magnitude.
As I was meditating on this conundrum, I suddenly remembered the old Bible story of King Solomon, who was asked to choose between mothers, each claiming a child was her own. Solomon's legendary decision is still used today in legal battles; it's called "splitting the baby," and has provided many a Midrash for its wisdom. Why not split the pies half-and-half for each dinner? Everybody would then enjoy the option of sugar or sugar-free?
What a novel idea: Trust that adults could make their own decisions about their own bodies and their own health and their own futures. Like in an election. And there's nothing politically incorrect about that. For this post-election holiday season, whether democrat or republican, sugar or sugar-free, bon appetit!
Brenda Peterson is the author of 17 books, including Duck and Cover, a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year," and the memoir, I Want to Be Left Behind, named as a "Top Ten Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year," by The Christian Science Monitor. For more: www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com
all photos by Brenda Peterson