Christmas Salad and a shooting star

I was ten years old when I started to question whether Santa Claus was real. I remember the sick feeling I had in my stomach, as I struggled to make sense of the whispers that I was hearing at school.

As a child, I was very private about my family life. The person I presented to the world had little in common with my parent’s daughter. It was painfully clear to me that my love for Christmas was better kept in my heart than shared in the schoolyard!

By the time school finished for the holidays, I had been convinced. I decided not to share my loss with Mom and Dad. I could not bring myself to let them know that ‘the jig was up’! I went about my days fulfilling all of the Christmas tasks that Mom set out for me – helping with the decorating, baking and gift wrapping.

It felt very empty.

One of our family’s traditions was to spend Christmas eve delivering gifts to my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We did not spend a great deal of time with our extended family so it was an evening that I looked forward to all year-long. Not to mention, that it also kept me from busting with excitement while I waited for Christmas morning! I loved being in the company of my family, seeing their homes decorated for the season, exchanging gifts – sharing time together… As we left each home, someone would say, ‘I hope Santa finds you!’

I watched as my brother Paul grinned with excitement. He believed…

My heart was aching.

That year, Christmas eve was one of those perfect winter nights – the air was still, the snow was crisp and the sky was filled with a kazillion stars. As we were walking back to our car, my mom suddenly screamed. I had been looking up at the stars so I thought she had fallen. She grabbed Dad’s arm and pointed at the sky. It’s really important to understand that my mom is not a story-teller. She has never told a fib in her life!

‘George look – he’s right there. We have to get home quick!’

There was a huge cluster of stars directly above of heads. I looked up and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the flash… brilliant, fleeting but I saw it.

As we made our way home, I could feel my heart filling with absolute certainty that Santa Claus was real. Since that night, my faith has never wavered.

Thank you Mom.

Ralph and I had friends in for dinner last night. This is the third time that I have served this salad in the last two weeks – time to share!

Christmas Salad

serves 4

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced as thinly as possible

2 navel oranges, zested and sectioned, removing membrane [save all juice]

1/2 lb asparagus, blanched, sliced in thirds and chilled

1/4 red onion, sliced very thin

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon orange syrup [ you can substitute sugar]

In a small bowl, whisk together white wine vinegar, mustard, salt and syrup or sugar.

Slowly whisk in the olive oil.

Toss fennel, asparagus, red onion and orange sections with saved juice.

Pour vinaigrette over vegetables and toss well.

Plate salad and garnish with orange zest tossed with a little chopped fennel fronds.

Thanks for reading.