Friday, December 21, 2007

Dysfuntional Christmas

(Actual photo of dad's lobsters.)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to be spending time with the family this Christmas, however, there are a few quirks that need adjusting on many levels when it comes to the whole “Christmas festivities”, which happens to fall on Christmas Eve for us. The entire family rounds up at my parents’ house at 7pm. Every single year, my father makes the feast of 7 fishes, because it’s basically the Italian tradition. During the course of a decade, one by one, each family member has begun to start the process of developing some type of allergy to shellfish. My father, being the retired owner of a fish market down on South Street Seaport in New York---he wouldn’t have Christmas any other way. Fish was it. That was the permanent menu from now on. We don’t know any other way.

The first sister to develop a shellfish allergy had the worst reaction of all. She literally blew up like a tick and her throat closed up. She had to be sent to the emergency room. Now, because of my father’s demands, she brings a backpack full of Benedryl for the occasion. Then, another sister of mine started to get an all over body rash from eating lobster. She insists it’s not the shellfish and keeps on eating as she turns a bright shade of red- much like a lobster. Then I have another sister who is in the clear----she can eat any fish, shell or no shell. Me? I used to eat shellfish, however, I’m limited to only clams and mussels. If I eat shrimp or lobster, I develop these huge blood blisters inside my mouth. Nobody believed me, especially my mother.

“Ohhhh it’s all in your head!” she said, as she kept piling my plate with more shrimp.
“Ma! I can hardly even talk because they’re so many of them!”
“You’ve been eating this all your life Debbie! You’re not allergic to shellfish.”
she insisted.

Then, without hesitation, in front of my family, I opened my mouth and showed them what was brewing. One of my sisters looked and then almost vomited and passed out from the sight. She couldn’t believe what was happening. Mom feared the look on my father’s face, as this meant that Christmas Eve might include a turkey or roasted duck of some sort from now on. How can their daughters be breaking the Italian tradition? The whole ‘it’s all in your head’ bit was a ploy to keep the feast of 7 fishes going.

Madelene, my partner, had an experience of her own. While sitting on the couch trying to dissect her huge monstrosity of a lobster, my sister Cathy looks up at her and says, “You do know that’s a huge sea roach, right?” Madelene looked at her—gazed at her in shock, then slowly, placed her overflowing plate of…sea roach onto my mother's gigantic coffee table. Even though Madelene’s not allergic to any shellfish, she no longer touches it.

So now, 4 people are pegged with being allergic to shellfish. This of course, being 4 out of 6 in my family—not including their boyfriends or husbands. My parents, being adamant about serving shellfish every year still goes on, because there are other people besides our family that attend our dysfunctional function. Cathy, my sister started bringing pans of penne ala vodka thank God. The appetizers beforehand usually include an antipasto, some pigs in a blanket for the kids (and me), as well as tons of chips and cheeses. We fill up on that junk and guzzle plenty of martinis. God bless my friend Tamar, who celebrates Hanukah and brings over the gefilte fish! That stuff I can eat! She prepares it so nicely and I end up eating everything that she brings. I just might convert to Judaism. (That reminds me Tamar, are you coming this year?)
The picture from left to right: Madelene, Tamar and my mother.

And yet, there’s another problem I have always witnessed when I was still living at home upstairs from my parents’ house: the timing and preparation of their Christmas festivities. Now not for nothing, but if you’re going cook dinner for a bunch of Italian vultures, I understand if you need to cook the bulk of it a day before. My parents? They start cooking----well, I think today is the day they started! Nobody in my family believed me when I said I smelled shrimp being boiled, lobster being thrown into the pot and clams being baked at 2am----4 days before Christmas Eve!

“Oh you’re crazy Deb!” my sisters will say. Crazy? I live here! Are you kidding? I’m witnessing this with my very own nose, eyes and ears and for the love of God, no one believes me! So, with amusement, I sit on the couch and watch my sisters consume some of the fermented goodies going down their intestinal tracks, expecting a call a day later saying, “I don’t know why I’m so sick!" But, I’m a good sister, because I make sure that the martinis are strong enough to handle any bacteria that they gorged themselves with.

I hope you and your family enjoy this Christmas holiday. As we say, it’s not the present giving, the food or the spirits---it’s the celebration of Jesus, even if most of us are spending it in the ER.

Merry Christmas!

38 comments:

Matt-Man said...

Funny story. Merry Christmas to you and to all of your Vodka and Benadryl swilling family. Cheers Deb!!

~Deb said...

The vodka is like an antibacterial protection against the food that's being served! Merry Christmas Matt-Man!!!

Queen of Everything said...

This IS exactly why they put the nog in egg nog. mmmmm, gotta love the nog. It makes family gatherings bearable.

~Deb said...

Amen to that! :)

Deb said...

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and all things good in 2008.

We'll be doing the Italian fish Christmas Eve too - but not seven. Maybe three.

~Deb said...

Three? You're lucky! Merry Christmas Dr. Deb!!!

Grant said...

If the blood blisters were in your mouth, your mother was right - it is inside your head. One of you should take a hit for the team. Surely if the xmas meal kills somebody, that will grab your parents attention and get them to serve something less harmful.

And what is it with shellfish? The Jews must be right, which means you will be going straight to hell for all your Jesus worship. Shrimp is the only food that makes me sick. Sure, I have to eat it for every meal for several days straight, but the last time I did it left me slightly nauseous. Ha ha - I rule. In your face, fish wuss!

Uhm, I meant Merry Christmas. In Satan's name. >:)

titration said...

I like this post. Good story telling. Merry Christmas!

~Deb said...

See Grant? Eating shellfish was made an abomination to God for a reason! Now I believe it! ;)

Titration: Merry Christmas to you too!

ann said...

stick to the gefilte fish boobela

hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones Deb

lotsa luv ann xxxxxx

D.B. Echo said...

Mmmmm, lobster. I so want lobster right now.

We Poles also do a meatless Christmas Vigil, though I only heard of the "Seven Fishes" last night from a friend. As he went down the list - shrimp, clams, mussels, lobster, calamari (that's SQUID, baby!) - I kept shouting, "That's not fish! NONE of those are fish!"

Our tradition usually involves cod or haddock (being eaten into extinction, thank you very much), pierogies, and a few other meatless dishes. We used to have a fish soup made with herring and potatoes, but haven't had that in years.

Don't you Paisans do cheese ravioli and other stuff like that? Maybe you can convince your dad that cheese is a type of fish!

~Deb said...

Hi Ann! I definitely am sticking to the kosher side of life! It's just better! :) Thanks for stopping by!

D.B.: Calamari isn't even "shellfish"---I think that's why you seem confused that it's not "fish" per se. The seven fishes consist of shellfish usually. I'm not sure why calamari is included in it- but it's the only one I really enjoy. And I totally agree with you---I want raviolis for Christmas! Can you have a talk with my dad?

Nancy said...

Ha! I love learning about your family. They are *almost* as quirky as mine!

Merry Christmas! I hope you have a wonderful time.

Jay Cam said...

well you have to admit that "sea roach" does sound more exotic and tasty than "lobster"!
: )

Miranda said...

OMG I'd die, not cuz Im allergic, but I cant hate sea food.....ewww.

Hope you and yours have a very merry Christmas and a great new year.

Jeff B said...

Ah yes, nothing says Christmas like a stomach pump at the ER.

Hope you come out alive this year.

Pittchick said...

I like your Christmas story. I went to a 7 fish feast once and I hated it! Actually salmon is the only fish i eat. Families are so funny. I'm glad I'll just be spending the holidays with my hubby, though.

Chrissie said...

Deb~
Isn't it great being Italian? This year its my turn for Christmas Eve...I made reservations!!!

Queenie said...

Merry Christmas Debs, I'm so pleased your not "shellfish" about your mother not believing you about the blood blisters (shellfish, get it). Wishing you a happy and healthy New year also.X

Joel said...

Merry Christmas to you(from across the seas!)

:)

Chelle B. said...

You poor thing! I had a friend find out they were allergic after eating oysters all night and then passing out behind the wheel on the way home. Not good...

Call me deranged but you really should have had one of them snap a picture so we could see what was brewing inside your allergic mouth haha...that would have made this post all the more edgy and personal!

;)

Chelle B.

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Debs
here's wishing you and your close ones much merry making and all the best for the festive season

QUASAR9 said...

love the cookies in the pic

QUASAR9 said...

love the cookies in the pic

Caroline said...

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. Thanks for all you write; you inspire so many of us out here.

DaBich said...

Deb, I think Quasar loves your cookies! lol

martinis for everyone!

Merry Christmas, Deb! Hugz!

Enemy of the Republic said...

Well, when you get right down to it, it's only one day.

Merry Christmas, friend!

Ricardo said...

Well I can tell you the feast of 7 fishes is not kosher LOL! Not only that is sounds VERY hazardous to the health of most of your family. WOW what a spectacle this must be. I want to see more pictures of this. It's like your home has been transformed into a Red Lobster restaurant.

Have a great Christmas.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Dysfunctional? You think that’s dysfunctional, let me tell you…

Sorry, Deb. My Jewish grandmother momentarily took control of the keyboard.

I believe that an important part of all family holiday gatherings is the traditions that have developed. However, those traditions aren’t sacred and should transform into new traditions when necessary.

Having said that, may you have an enjoyable and allergy free Christmas!

Taylor said...

Dear Deb!
I have had trouble finding your blog.
I don't know if you remember me, my names Taylor. Had many interesting convos with you and Dani from Generation Xpose.
Remember me?

Well, just thought I'd say hi and happy holidays!

Hope things are well, hope to hear from ya.

E-mail me if ya like :
emo_edges@yahoo.com
:]

kathi said...

Every year I cook a big holiday meal of the turkey and stuffing, mashed and sweet potatoes, all the holdiay dishes. Last week the boys told me they don't like turkey. I suggested ham (ewwwww, but I'd cook *though not touch or eat* it for them) and they asked when I've ever seen them eat ham. Okay...so what do they want. Charlie want's chinese, Casey wants mexican and we all want the traditional sides. So, mine will be interesting as well. Hopefully, however, no one will end up sick. I could still use you around making those strong drinks for me...you know...just in case. :)

Merry Christmas my sweet friend. Love you so much. God bless you richly.

Leah said...

Sounds like a perfect sitcom holiday. I love it.
Merry Christmas!

Ms. Scorpia said...

Oh wow, what a funny story. I hope they didn't end up like Will Smith on Hitch! Anyway, great post and Have a Merry Christmas my friend!

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Merry Christmas, Deb!

May peace and plenty be the first to lift the latch on your door, and happiness be guided to your home by the candle of Christmas. (A Celtic Blessing)

(Remember: at midnight Christmas Eve all animals can speak—or so Alex the cat told me at midnight tonight).

DirkStar said...

Oh my, sounds like good times...

Merry Christmas good soul.

TK Kerouac said...

Merry Christmas Deb!

May peace and plenty be the first to lift the latch on your door, and happiness be guided to your home by the candle of Christmas. (A Celtic Blessing)

Art said...

An allergy to shellfish sounds like hell to me but I know it is a real concern for millions...

But I hope that you are having a delightful Christmas... and watch out for those lobsters;)

Casdok said...

A very good sister!!