Don’t you ever ask them why
if they told you, you would cry
so just look at them and sigh—
and know they love you.
-“Teach Your Children”, Crosby, Nash and Young
On Christmas Eve night, when I was a kid, my parents and I would pile into my dad’s old Dodge Charger. We’d bring a tin full of shortbread and date bars—and one other quite special Christmas confection—and we’d drive around town, munching away, oohing and aahing at Christmas lights.
We always drove to the east part of town. Bigger houses there than in our neighborhood. Bigger lawns and more decorations. They were pretty impressive, some of those homes. Yards all lit up like the Enchanted Forest in Goldsmith’s Department store each year.
But the house I liked best had the simplest display. It was on Galloway Drive, a sprawling, one story Japanese-style house, and all it had was one red light and one green light. That was it. No Santa, no reindeer. No manger scene. Red on the left, green on the right. One of each. Every year.
Of all the houses, that was my favorite, though I’ve often wondered—since obviously, they could afford so much more—why they chose such a simple display. Were they cheap? Were they lazy? I never learned why. But I think, perhaps, I have figured it out.
I came of age in the Age of Aquarius, when smoking was still good for you and cough syrup had codeine. When they put belladonna in children’s cold medicine, and speed came disguised as “diet pills”.
Age of Aquarius, my behind. Age of Indulgence, more like. The Zeitgeist smacked of a wanton negligence. Or a negligent wantonness—it’s hard to be sure. But between the whiskey-soaked fruitcake my grandmother made and the fumes I inhaled from Super Elastic Bubble Plastic, it's a wonder I turned out as well as I did.
That’s not even counting the angel food goodies. They're a holiday tradition in my family. Sound so innocent, don't they? But these little morsels do pack a wallop.
Take an angel food cake. Buy one or bake one, cut it in chunks. Take two sticks of butter. Melt them down. Crunch up some graham crackers, crack some pecans. Add a box and a half of powdered sugar.
And one cup of sherry.
You heard me. One cup of sherry. A whole friggin’ cup, and it’s heated but it’s not really cooked, so all that alcohol’s still intact.
Should angel food goodies really be given to children? Probably not. But then again, the original Mattel’s Creepy Crawlers was probably a bad idea, too.
Should we have been driving, eating angel food goodies? Let’s just say that had we been stopped, my dad, at least, would surely have spent Christmas Eve in the pokey.
But the Age of Aquarius was, after all, defined by indulgence. Negligence. Bad judgment, too, of which these sherry-soaked treats are emblematic. Angel food goodies, they’re delicious and mood-altering, what more could you ask—and perhaps they explain the sparse decorations on Galloway Drive.
Little eggnog, a few angel food goodies, and I’d settle for one red and one green light, too.
Angel Food Goodies
1 angel food cake
1 cup (two sticks) of butter, melted
A box and a half of powdered sugar
(or approx. 5 1/4 cups)
1 package of graham crackers, crushed
(there’s generally 4 to a box)
1 cup of chopped pecans
1 cup of sherry
Cut the angel food cake into bite-size pieces.
In a small flat bowl, combine the chopped pecans and crushed graham crackers.
Melt the butter over medium heat.
Add the sherry; stir, add the powdered sugar and stir until the powdered sugar is dissolved.
Take each piece of the cut angel food cake and dip in the butter/powdered sugar/sherry mixture.
Roll each piece in the graham cracker crumb/pecan mixture to cover.
Don’t just look at them and sigh; dig in. Refrigerate, if there’s any left.
Don’t eat angel food goodies and drive; your children love you.
Don’t ask them why.