I made a Standing Rib Roast of Pork to celebrate Christmas this year. It’s a simple recipe guaranteed to make memories that last a lifetime.
No matter how many Chritmases I celebrate, for me Christmas still takes its cues from my 1970s childhood memories of the holiday. Eggnog from a carton is a good example. I can (and have) made delicious eggnog from scratch. But every year I buy a carton of the processed stuff anyway. I hate to admit it, but in some unknowable way I actually prefer the crap in the carton to the stuff Martha Stewart taught me to make.
When I was kid we opened the “family” presents under the tree on Christmas Eve and then woke up on Christmas morning to unwrapped gifts Santa left for us. I still believe that’s the best way. There are other memories that help define the season for me too: Charlie Brown, Mahalia Jackson, Christmas tree lots that spring up on the unlikeliest suburban street corners, the static cling in shiny silver icicles, and snowy roadtrips featuring a family of five crammed seatbelt-less into a Ford Pinto– barreling across five states, trying to stay ahead of an ever-threatening blizzard. The latter was a semi-regular drive that took us from Farmington Hills, MI to Tulsa, OK to visit our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Most of which still lived in Tulsa where my parents grew up.
Memories are funny things. We only lived in Michigan for five or six years before moving to Florida, so we certainly did not make that Christmas roadtrip more than two or three times. Yet somehow, from my Aunt’s Standing Rib Roast to children wearing sweaters, everything that defines Christmas for me seems to have happened during this particular Christmas ritual. Including the sight of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis set against a sodden gray sky. It’s hard for me to even think the word Missouri without hearing my mother say as we drive by that arch, “well, I guess we’re really doing it.”
She may have dreaded the trip (my mother dreaded a lot of things), but I also know the trip was important to her. We didn’t see our cousins much growing up. We moved six times in five states before I turned 16. So I imagine these roadtrips were the best way my parents knew to give my brother, sister and me some sort of family memories. I’m sure it was difficult, because in reality I spent just a handful of Christmases with my cousins in Oklahoma and no Christmases with my cousins in South Africa. Yet somehow, thanks to those wintertime cross-country treks I still associate Christmas with my cousins (who I still rarely see).
Which isn’t to say all my memories from childhood Christmases have stuck with me. Was that the year my aunt gave me a flashlight? Or did I get pajamas? Was it a standing rib roast of beef or pork? Could we have had ham? I don’t know, but I’m sure my cousins were there…
Standing Rib Roast
Well, this Christmas it’s pork. A pork standing rib roast. I’m sure I’ll squeeze in some eggnog from the carton, and of course Charlie Brown. Sadly there will be no roadtrip in the back of a Pinto. However, I am flying to South America, and I’ll keep my nose stuck to the window just in case we fly over St. Louis. I’d love to see that arch and hear my mother complain about the ruckus in the back seat. I guess some traditions change even as they stay with you. GREG