If there was any family in town that could challenge the Valkatokka family on their love and presentation of holiday food, it was the Moore family. And while the Moore family did not have an outlet like The Stable to showcase their holiday meal, their Christmas dinner had none the less become the stuff of legend in the town. Those who had been able to celebrate with the Moore family on occasion had regaled friends and family with tales of an immaculately dressed table, impeccable presentation of courses, and absolutely exquisite food.
It is important to note, that the Moore family dinner was one steeped in tradition. Each family member served a specific function in the preparation and presentation of the Christmas dinner and each person fulfilled that function spectacularly. It truly was a group effort and it showed each and every year. If you asked each family member the secret to their success, however, you would get five different answers.
In the opinion of father John Moore, the most important part of any holiday meal rested in the attention to the carving. To him, an otherwise excellently prepared meal could be ruined by an improper carving of the main course. He, of course, proudly displayed his three “Master Carver” awards from the Tinsletown County Fair in a prominent spot on the shelf in his den. His attention to detail in the carving had brought him rave notes from the judges and reflected that same spirit of precision he expected in his position as City Manager and in all aspects of his life.
To mother Marsha Moore, the secret of a truly special holiday meal lay in the traditions encapsulated in the meal. Each of Marsha’s recipes had been handed down from at least three generations on her side of the family. In her opinion, recipes could be slightly tweaked, but they were never to be altered. “Why break what’s working.” Marsha had mastered the family Christmas recipes very early on and looked forward every year to bringing them back out for the big family meal. To her, this was her greatest holiday contribution, and the compliments she received from family and friends alike would be a source of joy and satisfaction well into the new year.
Mindy Moore, the eldest of the three Moore children, believed that the secret to the success of any meal lay in the presentation of the table. A brilliant art student, Mindy had long been looking for ways to transform the ordinary meal into something truly spectacular and by the time she had entered high school, Marsha had turned over all table decoration to her. In a continuing attempt to present something fresh and new and to top the previous years exhibition, Mindy’s decorations have become more and more elaborate and avant garde.
Middle child Peter Moore judged a successful Christmas dinner by the amount of laughter at the table. A natural born jokester, Peter took the opportunity at every meal to perfect his standup routine. After all, he knew his family would be his harshest critics. Now in middle school, Peter had also branched out into practical jokes and physical humor, to mixed results. His sisters, most often the butt of his practical jokes, had most assuredly not appreciated this change in humor.
Finally, to the youngest, Jenny Moore, Christmas dinner was all about dessert. Seven years old, and ever the optimist, Jenny kept waiting for the day they would be able to have dessert first – “So they knew wouldn’t have to worry about saving room.” Jenny loved helping her mother bake the various cookies, pies, and cakes that would be served at Christmas dinner and looked forward to the day she could create her own desserts for the table.
Everyone knew their part in the Christmas dinner process and every year had been a success. Every year flowed like clockwork as Marsha would spend all of December 23 preparing the meal for the coming days and Mindy would begin creating the centerpiece for the table. Once all preparations had been made, Christmas Eve dinner every year would start promptly at 5:00 pm, with wassail for the adults, apple juice for the kids, and a sampling of hors d’oeuvres including mixed nuts, baked brie with toast, cranberry salsa, and sausage balls. A perfect time for conversation and claiming one’s seat for the coming meal. At 6:00 pm, the feast would begin, starting with a farm fresh salad course, followed by butternut squash soup. Once those dishes were cleared, the turkey and the accompanying sides of dressing, and roasted green beans. Once the turkey had been carved at the table and the blessing was said, this course was served family style with the meat and sides passed between the guests. When everyone had eaten to their fill, the plates were cleared, and the guests were freed to head back into the living room where the desserts would be spread out on the credenza, waiting to be chosen. Fruitcake and iced sugar cookies, chocolate and pecan pies, and fresh gingerbread were consistent staples. Every year was virtually the same, and every year was exceptional.
Which is what makes the horrible mess surrounding this year’s Moore family Christmas dinner even more surprising and unexplainable.