Every year that we were in town for Christmas and not at Auntie Ev and Uncle Ray’s in New Jersey, we went to Queenie and Ivan’s Christmas Eve Party. And an epic party it was. Adults wearing everything from tacky holiday sweaters to long dresses adorned with crystals talked and laughed; drank and ate. And drank. It was a loud party; it was a fabulous party; it was a delicious party. It was the kind of party where, even if you only saw these folks once a year at the party, you brought them a little Christmas treat. As little kids, we all played together almost every day anyway. At the Christmas party, we just played in nicer clothes. As we got older and went away to college, we kids would carve out a space in the downstairs rec room and pull up chairs. We’d catch up, first with sodas and then over beer and wine. The Christmas Eve Party was our touchstone.
Everyone brought food. All the women and some of the men had their specialties that had to make an appearance lest they not be invited back the next year. My mom made cheese olive puffs. Queenie made Nuts & Bolts–the real kind, back before crazy fake blends of crackers were sold as “Party Mix.” Ivan’s mom Ethel made vegetable sandwiches. Incidentally, I’m in charge of the vegetable sandwiches now since Ethel died this year. I will endeavor to do her proud. Queenie often made those fantastic little ham and cheese “biscuits,” the kind with the poppy seed and mustard spread.
And then there was red sauce. I don’t know if there was one specific person in charge of making it since it was a neighborhood recipe. I have no idea who first came up with this stuff, but if I did, I’d give them a big old kiss.