Lynn and I received a gift box yesterday, a gift box consisting of several smaller gift boxes all tied up in a festive ribbon. It was from Straw and Timber Craftsmen, Dusty’s company — I was going to say “that built our house,” but since it’s a never-ending process I might need to say “is still building our house.” We weren’t expecting this at all, so it was a nice surprise, but can I confess to a wee bit of disappointment?
Buying gifts for almost anyone can be a risky prospect. I just watched an episode of Corner Gas this morning where one of the characters was insulted beyond belief that her husband got her a “day at the spa” for an anniversary gift. When he tried again and got her a bathroom scale, she found that very thoughtful, because he cared about her health. Of course, this was all done for laughs, but things are only funny when you can find a grain of truth in them.
Recently Bob’s niece gave Lynn and I what looks to be an expensive bottle of wine, which was very nice of her, and unnecessary. Here’s the problem: we don’t drink alcohol. There are no religious or addiction issues; I just have never cared for the taste of alcohol, and while Lynn used to drink some and there have been two Angry Orchard hard ciders in our refrigerator since Thanksgiving, she never seems to get around to imbibing.
Alcohol generally seems like a safe gift to give people you don’t know very well, and we can either pass this along to someone else, or save it for the many guests we seem to be hosting since we got a new house, so it won’t go to waste and will be appreciated somewhere along the line. But it won’t be put to personal use, as was intended.
Which may happen to Dusty’s gift as well. It came from Harry and David, so you had to assume pears would show up in one of the boxes. Which they did, six of them, probably six more than we are likely to eat, in the bottom box.
The top box contained an airplane-serving of mixed nuts, and those I will eat. All the boxes in between, the candy confections, the caramel corn and something that looks to be cherry cordials, all seem to come with chocolate, so those are all up to Lynn.
Once upon a time I ate as much chocolate as any of you, perhaps more. In fact, when one of my newspaper co-workers didn’t eat chocolate, it was astonishingly easy to forget this and whoever went on a doughnut run would come back with a chocolate-laden box, and nothing Leah could eat. It was unfathomable: how could you not eat chocolate?
And then it happened to me. I can’t give you any explanation other than– and this tends to horrify women — it just quit tasting good. I was in the middle of eating my way around a Nestle Crunch bar (I don’t know if they still do, but they used to stamp “Nestle” on the bar, and I would eat around the “tl,” saving that for last), when I, for the first time ever, stopped chewing and wrapped the rest back up in its foil. I assumed I would come back to it and then never did. The saddest day in this process (because it was a process, not instant) was when I realized a box of Girl Scout Tag-alongs, the peanut butter cookies covered in chocolate, had been sitting in my freezer for a full year, unwanted.
But how was Dusty to know that? And Lynn will take care of the chocolate, so it’s not a wasted gift.
Here, though, is my real regret: there are no petits fours in any of the boxes.
This is a food I have coveted since I was a young kid, and it’s a food I have never — ever — tried. Nor even seen up close in person. To me, they have always been a little square of loveliness on a catalogue page.
Every year in my childhood when the catalogues — Hickory Farms, I’m assuming, but who knows for sure — started arriving to mark the advent of the holiday season, I would turn all the pages, blowing right past the cheese logs to linger longingly on the pictures of the exquisite petits fours. I would show them to my mom, and she would ignore me, assuring me they would arrive stale and I wouldn’t like them.
I don’t know if anything ever got ordered from those catalogues. Cheese logs showed up with depressing regularity, but they may have been brought in by friends, or perhaps purchased locally. But no petits fours ever found their way into our house.
To this day I’m not much of a catalogue orderer, although I am, very reluctantly, having to order things on-line now and then. (More correctly: Having Kara or Lynn order it for me.) So it shouldn’t surprise us that I never made any attempt to acquire any petits fours for myself once I achieved financial autonomy.
And they aren’t a food I give any consideration to, outside of the holiday season when they start cropping up in catalogues. Then I want some. How could I not? They are, hands down, the most festive-looking food in the entire catalogue.
I mentioned this to Lynn early in our relationship, and she assured me I wouldn’t like them. She said she could make some, but it sounded like they would be a lot of trouble she wasn’t interested in going to for something she was sure I wouldn’t like.
And I would press the issue, but this is like rafting: Lynn has never gone, although she thinks she wants to, but even back when I had a raft I wouldn’t take her. She will get way too cold in the Gunnison River. Maybe on a really hot August day, but by then there is usually not much water in the river, and she will wonder what all the fuss is about.
At some level, she must believe me, because while she periodically mentions trying a commercial raft trip, she hasn’t. (Don’t suggest a wet suit; I am assuring every last one of you, she will get too cold no matter what she’s wearing, unless maybe it’s a deep-sea diving outfit with gloves and bulky shoes.)
Likewise, at some level I must believe Lynn that I won’t like petits fours, because I have never made an effort to acquire any. But this does not stop me from looking longingly at them every time I open an e-mail at work from Swiss Colony, Maple Ridge Farms, Midnite Snax, Hickory Farms, Harry and David . . .
(And yes, I realize many petits fours consist of chocolate, but there’s a whole trove that don’t.)
Yesterday, in a box from Harry and David, there was a chance. Perhaps petits fours, possibly a little box of say four of them, lurked among the brightly-colored boxes.
Alas, ’twas not to be. Instead it was a thoughtful, unexpected tower of boxes filled with things I won’t eat. Is the word “ingrate” creeping to the forefront? (In a different episode, Corner Gas once made note of the fact that ingrates are ungrateful, but you don’t have ingrateful ungrates.)
Ingrate or no, the sad fact is that I was hoping for petits fours and I got pears. My Christmas hopes shall remain dashed for yet another year. Another petit fourless year. Petit. Sounds almost like pity, no? Or is that just petty?