Last year was the first Christmas Eve that my Wife could recall not eating tuna salad sandwiches for supper.
The tradition from her Mom's side of the family has always been to gather on the evening of the 24th and to feast on many items, the main course being tuna fish salad sandwiches made by my Wife's Grandmother.
The honor of making the chicken-of-the-sea salad had recently fallen to my F-i-L as the aging grande damme of the family starting showing a lack of interest in the chore. Ever the trooper and purveyor of long-held family tradition, my jack-of-all-trades F-i-L dove in with both hands washed and ready, and produced some first rate tuna salad -- rivaling even my Mom's recipe.
The reason why last year was the first Christmas Eve that my Wife could recall not eating tuna fish salad for supper was because it was the first Christmas Eve without her Grandmother, who we lost on Christmas Eve the previous year.
Faced with the dilemma of not wanting to carry on with the Christmas Eve tradition for fear of her Mother succumbing to the painful memory of losing her own Mother on Christmas Even just one year prior, my Wife went on the hunt for a new tradition to replace the once-treasured/now-freshly painful one of her past.
Discussions involved several family members. Do we incorporate some old with some new? Do we do an indirect nod to the past, while being careful not to be disrespectful to it? Do we do something entirely different this year, then carry on with the old tradition the following year?
My vote was to go 180 on the tradition so I stepped up and offered to channel my Hawaiian ohana and make a down home okazu meal.
Okazu...hmm. Kinda complicated, but for anyone who hasn't ever visited Hawaii and had an authentic meal with a typical family, okazu basically boils down to just dishes of food you eat with rice.
My menu for last year consisted of my Mom's Chinese Chicken Salad recipe, deep fried pork/bamboo/water chestnut won tons, deep fried kimchee and cream cheese won tons, Pei Wei's version of spiced chicken lettuce wraps, my own special combination of white and red miso soup, bowlfuls of edamame, and bamboo skewers of garlic/teriyaki marinaded and thinly sliced prime ribeye beef.
I worked my butt off.
The food seemed to be a hit.
Not a tear was shed, nor foul mood detected during the entire evening.
Earlier this month, when talk rolled around to how we were going to spend Christmas Eve this year, I just assumed that enough time had elapsed for us to go back to the traditional tuna-salad sandwich convention.
To which my Father-in-Law stated, "I'm kinda looking forward to that Chinese Chicken slaw and fried doodads that we had last year."
A new tradition is born, and I have some shopping to do.