The holiday season is a time for tradition. My family is a strong proponent this ritualistic celebration, but has a unique take on the meaning of Christmas. Year after year, the Mintz’s – a ragtag crew of Jews, Episcopalians, and Agnostics – gather in Woodside, California for some unconventional yuletide festivities. To us Mintz’s, tradition is prime. But because of our diverse backgrounds and our varying beliefs, hobbies, and practices, Christmas traditions are less theological and more ontological…to put it nicely.
We focus on family values…like the annual pre-Christmas Eve dinner tequila shots! This tradition had its genesis back in the day when I cringed at the smell of liquor. Lucky for everyone else, I was old enough to drive and young enough to reject the “Eucamintz.” Those days are long gone now, but thankfully, my family also holds strong respect for lineage too. My younger cousin, the next of kin, now holds the position I did, and chauffeurs us safely to Christmas Eve dinner. Soon, he’ll relinquish his DDdom and enjoy the agave root’s sweet nectar, passing the duty down to his younger brother.
Like many families, mine enjoys spending quality time with one another on Christmas Day. Usually, this bonding takes place at one of Palo Alto’s many movie theatres, where we enjoy the latest equine-inspired motion picture. You’d be surprised; there are a lot of horse movies that come out during the holidays. Grandpa Arthur is, perhaps more than anything else, a cowboy. He’s had horses wherever he’s lived and used to be, simply put, a horse cop. Mess with Grandpa Arthur, and he’ll be sure to flash his shiny “Mounted Patrol Ranger” badge.
When the relatives congregate in Woodside though, we all somehow adopt this same inept (and instantaneous) appreciation for horses…which promptly ceases to exist upon our departure. All of a sudden, we are all overcome with an unparalleled desire to ride bareback into the sunset, chaps blowing in the wind. Hence, Christmas Day is spent with a tear-jerking flick about a brave stallion and his equestrian life-partner. Past examples include Seabiscut, Hidalgo, and most recently, War Horse. Year after year, I look into the vulnerable eyes of my otherwise ruthless family. As they wipe away their tears of passionate empathy, I use my popcorn-butter-soaked napkin to do the same. As we discuss our overpowering infatuation with the equine species, the family anxiously anticipates their arrival home in order to spend a quality 10 minutes with the horses.
Prayer is a vital element of the Christmas dinner, not unlike the other celebrating families around the world. We assemble at the beautifully set dining room table (arranged by yours truly) and hold hands in prayer. My aunt, a Rabbi of many years, stands and offers a blessing for our Christmas dinner. We light the menorah, cheers to Jesus, and promptly gorge ourselves on a scrumptious feast.
Conversations bustle at the Christmas table, many of which center around veganism, marijuana legalization, abortion, and other topics that would be considered controversial to most. To my family, nothing is unexpected.
At some point during dinner, my Monkle calls to wish us a Merry Christmakah. “Monkle” is the endearing term I’ve dubbed my uncle, a Buddhist monk who lives on a monetary in Northern California. As the phone is passed down, we enjoy our Last Supper together for some time.
At the point when we’ve stuffed ourselves into a vegetative state and Monkle Cunda has spoken with everyone, we clear the table and make a feeble attempt at a family portrait. Family portraits usually are traditional for celebratory gatherings, and usually are only a small part of the jamboree. With the Mintz’s, it’s never that easy. It takes all of 30 minutes to gather every brother, sister, mother, father, grandma, grandpa, uncle, aunt, cousin, twin, daughter, son, dog, cat, and fish in front of the faux Christmas tree. During this time, a number of photos are taken, each of which excludes at least one person and involves several closed eyes and spontaneous funny faces. It’s a Christmas miracle when a photo is finally taken that requires only minimal Photoshop enhancements.
My family is hardly traditional, but we do value tradition. Over the top to say the least, these examples only scrape the surface of what the annual Mintzmas entails.
This year, I decided to raid the Woodside pantry and create a new tradition that matched the extravagance that the Mintz’s so gracefully embrace. I figured we could all do with a little decadence to get our heart rates going…you know…to make things interesting. Truffles seemed to fit naturally into our developing tradition and mine were gobbled down without hesitation.
Warning: this is an extremely rich desert only fit for chocolate loving sweetooths who enjoy luxury at its finest. Each tiny morsel is chock full of dense, creamy flavor that is unbearably delicious. Serve these truffles to liven up your company or to feed the monster that is their insanity. It’s hilarious. Do it.
· ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
· 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate baking bars
· 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
· Unsweetened cocoa
Begin by breaking the chocolate into quarter inch pieces. Slice the butter thinly.
In a small pot, bring the whipping cream to a simmer. While it’s on the stove, place 1 inch of water in a small frying pan and put it on a burner. Once the cream is simmering, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter and chocolate. Then place the pot in the pan and set the heat to low. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix the ingredients together until they are entirely incorporated and has a smooth, thick texture.
Pour the mixture into a shallow dish.
Cover, and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours, or until the chocolate becomes firm. Pour about 1/3 cup of cocoa powder into a small ramekin. Use your thumb or a spoon to create an indent in the center.
Using a melon baller or a teaspoon, scoop one-inch balls out of the dish.
Ideally, the bottoms of the truffles should be flat. If your truffle mixture isn’t completely firm, use your fingers to shape the balls. Drop each truffle into the cocoa indent in the ramekin, top down. Pick up the ramekin and swish it around in a quick clockwise movement so that the entire face of the candy is covered.
Do this again and again until all the truffles are cocoa dusted.
Refrigerate until they have hardened or serve immediately for a softer texture. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Enjoy, and Happy New Year!