Perhaps. I frankly don’t recall. It could have simply been someone’s way of avoiding another turkey dinner. All I can say with reliable conviction is that somewhere along the way we started making egg rolls. Christopher, Merryl and me. Homemade ones. On Christmas Eve. Before or between the church services, chopping, stir-frying, spooning and enveloping, and ultimately frying.
It is, I’ll grant you, a rather odd tradition -- labor-intensive, smelly, often smokey should the oil get too hot or the rolls be neglected too long in the fryer due to familial distraction. Always with beef, variously augmented with shrimp or, more often, chicken. When Lori joined our little culinary merriment, fried rice joined in as a welcomed accompaniment -- why hadn't we thought of that before? -- along with better sauces and condiments, plus an extra pair of capable hands. In the ensuing years we have become quite the efficient assembly line.
And did I mention that they are good? Sitting down to enjoy the fruits of our labor even trumps gathering around the tree for the great unwrapping as first priority.
And so it was that last night the oil was once again heated, the wrappers were once again filled through the ministrations of multiple hands, rolled, sealed and submerged in a frenzy of bubbles. And eventually a grateful, hungry family sat down to enjoy them. It is, I suppose, one part project, one part taste, and one part appetite that makes it all worthwhile.
But it’s the anticipation born from years of repetition, the laughter over messes made, the practiced procedures, the hours shared and the stories exchanged on this precious night that make it magic.
And, of course, the fact that it is us -- this hybridized Diebel family -- all these years later, doing it all.
It’s hard to imagine a more blessed way to spend Christmas Eve.