Before we moved and had children, my husband and I would spend Thanksgiving with my parents and Christmas Eve and Day with his parents. My sister always alternated Thanksgiving with her in-laws and I thought our way made things much simpler and fair for everyone since my family didn’t celebrate Christmas. After we moved and decided to stay home with our kids for Christmas so they could wake up in their own house, things changed for us, but we still kept several, if not all of my husband’s family’s traditions that my husband brought to our family.
While I love a good macaroni and cheese (Kraft blue box original), probably my next best comfort food is Chinese. It could be take-out, eat in, buffet, I don’t care. It is the best food in the world. It might even be my first go-to comfort food.
When I was a kid, we used to go to this place near our apartment. I don’t remember the name of it, but it was on Horace Harding Blvd. in Queens. It wasn’t brightly lit. That’s how we kids knew it was a fancy restaurant. My one vivid memory is being dressed up, so it may have been for some kind of school congratulatory meal. I remember the owner knew my parents. He’d greet us at the door and show us to our table, talking to my parents the whole time. My Dad was a friendly guy, and everyone loved him. It was like going to Cheers.
We would sit at a large round table, covered with a white linen tablecloth. My parents would order: two from column A, one from column B, duck sauce and mustard. My mother put a dab of hot mustard in her wonton soup. I have never dared. Everything was put in the center and we shared, serving ourselves. This was the one place that no one ordered soda. We had a glass of water and of course, the hot tea. I loved those small tea cups, and I would put in more sugar than I should have. I think that was where I got my love for drinking tea. For dessert it was always either vanilla ice cream or pineapples with a fortune cookie. I would get the pineapples, but I think I only got them because they came with a toothpick that I used to pick up the small chunks of pineapple.
We used to bring Chinese take-out to my grandmother’s house sometimes. My grandmother’s house was kosher, so she never ate any of the food, and she made us eat on paper plates because we couldn’t put the non-kosher food on hers. We had to sit in the dining room and eat, and then clean up and take all of our leftovers with us.
As an adult, it took us a couple of years to find our perfect Chinese take-out place in our new town. My barometer is the fried rice, the egg rolls, and the spare ribs.I like really fried rice, brown in color with nice chunks of pork. My egg rolls also need to have little bits of pork in it and a nice crunchy shell. Spare ribs – the more burned, the better.
There is something warm and comforting about the smells and tastes of Chinese food. I really don’t know what it is.
My husband’s family has a tradition of eating Chinese take-out on Christmas Eve, and so we’ve adopted that for our family. We even have a Chinese take-out box ornament for our tree. Our kids know it, and look forward to it each year. It is a really nice tradition and ritual for them. They get a new pair of pajamas; we eat Chinese take-out, and we bake cookies for Santa.
It’s warm and wonderful.