Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Jewish Christmas to Forget

I tried to make Christmas go away this holiday season. Since I’m mostly Jewish, Christmas doesn’t mean too much to me and my strategy for this season was to avoid it entirely. Most of my friends, and my girlfriend, were out of town, rendering the day nearly moot. Christ was reportedly born in the summer anyway, so December 25th seems like historical fiction. The only bright spot on a day reserved for excessive amounts of eggnog and piles of non-recyclable wrapping paper for me was the thought of a traditional Jewish Christmas dinner: Chinese take-out. I called my favorite Chinese restaurant around the corner from my house several times during the day only to get their answering machine. The other two most popular Asian restaurants in town, one serving Chinese food, the other Vietnamese, had lines of hungry Jews literally out the door. It was worth just seeing that many kindred children of Abraham enduring an hour plus wait to chow down on the holiday. I decided to Google map the closest Chinese take-out and found Jin Chan. It had gotten rave reviews by at least one internet pundit and I was running out of options. The chef who’d been cooking up masterful cuisine for more than 35 years was lauded on the site. When I entered the dingy fluorescently lit hole in the wall, a brusque young guy at the counter took my order. 5 minutes later a balding man, stooped over came out with my bag of food – perhaps he was the master chef. He looked like he could have been an elder assassin from a Tarantino flick. My Yuletide spirit was ebbing low that evening, and I opened my paper bag full of anticipation. The Kung Pao vegetables were overcooked. Pallid broccoli without its deep forest green patina; oversteamed peanuts; brown sauce that had the consistency of watered down soy sauce; bamboo shoots as tough as Saran wrap. I ate the food trying to project a kind of optimistic Jewish faith upon it. “It’s not so bad.” In fact, I called it mediocre in my mind. We are long suffering people. We are the people who’ve always been chased out of our ancestral dwellings on forced migrations – and worse. But in paradisiacal Boulder, we are entitled to great Chinese food on Christmas Day. I wasn’t. I redeemed the evening by watching The Town. In the Christmas zeitgeist I should have watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” or something with a morally redeeming theme. But I wasn’t looking for inspiration, only entertainment. I made the day pass. It’s only one day out of the year. Next Christmas I’m going to order my meal from my favorite Chinese restaurant the day before Christmas and reheat it the next day.