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I am not an elf. The title for this blog, though, is a quote from “Elf”, wherein Will Farrell as a human raised in Santa’s workshop comes to epitomize the spirit of Christmas. It’s very obvious, very quickly, that sugar must therefore be an important part of the holiday.

I do have a sweet tooth. It will get me in trouble. Every year around this time, I find myself having to sum up some extra determination not to eat all the tasty treats around me. Not to eat ALL those treats, mind you.

I’ve never been a big fan of candy canes or mint in general. That helps. This means that I also usually avoid peppermint bark, even though the mint is paired with tasty chocolate. I am a pretty big fan of milk chocolate, whether it’s covered in gold foil and called gelt or covered in other foil colors to look like Santa or a reindeer. Ever since I was a child, you could set me anywhere near those foil covered Christmas characters and I’d plow through them as if I were trying to role-play the part of Bumble the Abominable Snowman. The other chocolate that appears this time of year that doesn’t do much for me is that chocolate orange and other similar confections that you whack on a table and then unwrap to eat. They all taste like fruit. Which leads me to ask, why would you ruin chocolate by making it taste like something else?

Speaking of fruit, when I got a bit older, I discovered that many of my business associates were fond of the Harry & David Royal Riviera pears, both to give and to receive around this time of year. I remember when I first saw the pears and the catalogs. I flipped through the catalog and quickly found out how much these seasonal fruits cost and was astonished. My instinctive reaction was to boycott them since I could only imagine they would cost so much if they were picked from orchards fertilized with the blood of innocents. Possibly they were created in special molds from ground up diamonds and paté. Maybe ‘pear’ was a euphemism like ‘rocky mountain oysters’, and they were unicorn kidneys? That would explain why you never see unicorns around Christmas any more. A couple of years after my first exposure, one of my clients sent me a box of six as a holiday present and I dove in. After all, maybe eating ground up diamonds would make me unbreakable! But they really are pears. They’re, uh, nice. I don’t really understand. Maybe if they were covered in Magic Shell… Anyway, there’s no danger of cavities there for me.

On a related note to fruits, there’s that bizarre item: fruitcake. There’s a very good reason why that word has come to label crazy people. It seems insane to me that what appears to be a baker’s attempt to shove all his year-end supplies into a cake mold and then foist it off on naive customers could still be considered any sort of a treat. I think it should be a threat; just like waking up to find a horse’s head in the bed next to you should instill fear of the mafia, discovering a fruitcake in your mail should make you start running for the border. I think it means you’re so naughty that Santa’s really pissed off.

A different kind of winter cake that Whole Foods introduced to me is stollen from Germany. Stollen appears to be an almond-flavored two-pronged weapon. If the cyanide hidden inside doesn’t kill you, all the sugar in that marzipan can at least put you in a coma. Totally worth it. I understand that authentic German stollen isn’t that sweet, unlike the variety you can usually find here in the U.S.A. My conclusion, therefore, is that the exported type that we see is an attempt to get back at us for something. Maybe because we keep telling everyone that the Germans don’t have a sense of humor. Good one, guys.

Italians, on the other hand, are known for being very emotional and I think that comes across in the Milanese Panettone. It’s a fluffier bread that’s kinda like what would happen if sourdough bread got softer and sweeter instead of the opposite. Plus it may contain fruits and nuts and sometimes chocolate, depending on where you get it from. It’s a Christmas bread that says, I’m a bread and I’m proud of that, so eat me! Don’t mind if I do.

I also like gingerbread and related items like gingerbread cookies, gingerbread men, and gingerbread houses. The act of fee-fi-fo-fumming a little cottage scene is fun enough, but then I also like that zing of ginger. And I think that ginger is one of those quintessential winter spices. That could be traced back to a time when food in winter was strongly spiced so that you couldn’t tell how off it had gotten without preservatives. Mmm, masked staleness!

Can you tell that I also have a starch tooth? Is that a thing? I just made it up if it wasn’t a thing before. Carbs are great at winter because you can usually have them all warm and topped with Cool Whip. Oh, Cool Whip! It looks like a fluffy snowscape and makes desserts taste even better! And somehow, it contains zero grams of lactose per serving? It’s like a sweet white miracle of tastiness! Okay, it’s not really a Christmasy thing, but I do have it on most of the other Christmas treats.

I’ll wrap up this droolfest by letting you in on my secretest favoritest winter treat: hot peanut butter and chocolate! Don’t make that face. I’ve always loved peanut butter cups and other PB & chocolate treats. One winter as I was making some cocoa, I wondered what would happen if I put some peanut butter in my chocolate. You know, like that Reese’s commercial? At the time, I had one of those mainstream peanut butters — I think it was Peter Pan chunky. So after I put the Carnation instant cocoa into the mug, but before I poured on the hot water, I scooped a spoonful of Peter Pan and put that spoon into the mix to see what would happen. Hot water went in on top, stirring happened, a little blowing to cool it off, a tentative sip — bliss! Over the years, I’ve tried different cocoas and different peanut butters; some work better than others and I recommend experimenting on your own. It’s like drinking molten peanut butter cups of love. Mind you, I’ve tried melting a mug of Reese’s cups. I do not recommend that unless you enjoy burning the roof of your mouth while simultaneously developing instant cavities and somehow gaining five times the actual weight of the drink. It was like an unpleasant episode from a visit to Willy Wonka’s factory. By the way, you know what goes really well with a cup of Hot PB&C? That’s right, Cool Whip. Maybe I am an elf, after all.

Maybe not; I’m starting to get a headache. I’ll stop now by wishing you a Sweet Christmas and go exercise or something.

About Paul Roth

A vegetarian, agnostic, lindy-hopping, dog-loving tv-watcher who likes to read his own words.
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