The only time I ever wished that I was either 1. addicted to cigarettes or 2. an insulin-dependent diabetic, was when I had to sit through The Nutcracker. Anything for an excuse to plie´ my way to the exit. I settled for fantasizing about having an embolism. How Tchaikovsy ever managed to write an entire ballet centering around a creepy, novelty kitchen item, I will never know (and why my softcore operetta in six acts, “The Corkscrew,” was met with such tepid reviews, also remains shrouded in mystery). Though I will concede that I am intrigued by the idea of a “land of sweets.”
God help the parents who spend each December sitting through their fortieth round of dancing toys. My own forced march with the Cracker occurred at the hands of some ballet-crazy friends, before I had children. My husband and I spent the evening taking turns nodding off, wishing we were at home watching The Princess Bride. Since procreating, I have made other people (my husband, or other, better mothers) take my daughters to it.
Last Sunday at church I spotted a gaggle of bedraggled girls sporting indelible eyeliner, despite their ages. I assumed they were not hung over, but had performed in The Nutcracker the night before. I told them how excited I was for them, but I was excited for myself, that I didn’t have to watch. My girls aren’t in ballet because I gently explained to them that we have a rare but serious congenital ankle weakness, which makes dancing dangerous. They cried a little, but they’ll be okay.
I am not a complete Grinch, though I identify powerfully with his character (a way to keep Christmas from coming…but how? ). I love some Christmas songs: Oh Holy Night, How Great Our Joy and Hark the Herald Angels Sing, all haunt me with their beauty. I find these words: “Born to raise each child of earth, born to give them second birth,” gorgeous and moving. And if I should ever fail to be stirred to my soul by the Hallelujah Chorus, just hand me an Americano in a to-go cup and shove me out on an ice floe. Adios. I attend holiday concert, after recital, after winter festival, but I just have to draw the line at seven hours of ballet. When my husband and I married we agreed: no ballet, no opera (also no affairs, but we figured we could hash the details out on that later).
Now is when I tell you it’s not just that annoying show that makes me Grinchy this time of year, but the avarice, the aspirituality, the Mattel company and their Heroin High Dolls (or Monster Zombettes? I am not sure what they are, but they make me sad) that dampens my Yule spirits. Yes, all of that. But if I write too much about that, I will be as tiresome as soldiers in tights. I won’t go down that road. Rather, I will rise, (like each child of earth in that lovely, lovely song!) from my holiday gloom and tell you this with conviction: make cocktail nuts, and I don’t need to tell you to buy them pre-cracked. They are scrumptious, and make excellent gifts. I like to snack on them while I watch my husband light the menorah where it’s nestled among our holiday clutter, creating a gentle, steady warmth in a grim, toy-crazed world. “Careful,” I say, “Don’t singe the manger hay.”
Sweet and Spicy Rosemary Hazelnuts for your HanukKristmas
This recipe is from The Farm Café in Portland, Oregon, where I first tasted these delightful snacks.
Canola, grapeseed, avocado or sunflower oil
4 cups hazelnuts
3/4 cup packed Brown sugar
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1/3 cup chopped, packed rosemary
5 dashes of hot pepper sauce.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 13x9x2 inch baking pan and large rimmed baking sheet generously with oil. Mix nuts, brown sugar, rosemary, salt and hot pepper sauce in large bowl to blend. Transfer to baking pan. Bake until sugar melts and coats nuts, stirring every 5 minutes, about 20 minutes total. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cool completely. Break nuts apart and store in airtight container at room temperature. These can be made five days ahead. If you use frozen nuts, let them come to room temperature first, to prevent clumpy coating.
P.S. I attended a solstice party at my friend Colleen’s cozy home. This is usually an all ages rager, but the Seahawks game siphoned off 80% of the expected guests. This was the most peaceful, intimate soiree; I didn’t even have to hide in the basement! But if you have had to do that recently, then this is for you.