A Christmas Story
Revisiting a classic and creating our own cocktails
Did you know that the classic Christmas movie, A Christmas Story is based on a series of autobiographical short stories by Jean Shepherd? First published in 1966, the collection In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash has never been out of print. I originally discovered it while wandering through my local library, 20 or so years ago. It’s a hilarious collection of short stories, covering more than just Christmas, and I highly recommend you read it. For today though, I read the 2003 edition of A Christmas Story, which includes the five short stories on which Shepherd based the screenplay.
by Jean Shepherd
Published 1966, 2003
If you’re not familiar with the book or the movie, it is a look at a traditional Indiana family in the 1930s. The specter of the Great Depression hangs just faintly over the stories. Jean Shepherd had a gift for description. Here is his memory of braving the bitter cold Indiana winter with other children while walking to school:
Scattered out over the icy waste around us could be seen other tiny befurred jots of wind-driven humanity. All painfully toiling toward the Warren G. Harding School, miles away over the tundra, waddling under the weight of frost-covered clothing like tiny frozen bowling balls with feet. An occasional piteous whimper would be heard faintly, but lost instantly in the sigh of the eternal wind.
The stories are told from Shepherd's perspective as the eldest son, both as an adult and at the ages 7 or 8. Shepherd uses creative wraparounds for his memories. For instance, in what is my favorite story, he is in a modern art museum in his 20s and comes upon Pop Art that calls to mind The Leg Lamp.
The story is “My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award That Heralded the Birth of Pop Art.” If you haven’t watched or read it, the father finally wins a prize in a newspaper contest, and receives the lamp pictured above. His wife hates it, but he sticks it in the window to display it for the entire neighborhood. The passive-aggressive war they wage over the lamp is hilarious, and then one day she “accidentally” breaks it.
The Old Man leaped up from the floor, his towel gone, in stark nakedness. He bellowed: “YOU ALWAYS WERE JEALOUS OF THAT LAMP!” “Jealous? Of a plastic leg?” Her scorn ripped out like a hot knife slicing through soft oleomargarine.
The description of the father’s attempt to fix the lamp is comedic.
To this day I can still see my father, wearing a straw hat, swearing under his breath, walking around a shattered plastic lady’s leg, a Freudian image to make Edward Albee’s best efforts pale into insignificance.
I could go on and on about the funny anecdotes in the book. Whether you pick up the original short story collection or the Christmas Story version, you will have a huge smile on your face this holiday. I’ll leave you with one more quote I find particularly fitting for this newsletter:
Out of the kitchen came my mother, flushed and sparkly-eyed, bearing two wineglasses filled with the special Walgreen drugstore vintage that my Old Man especially favored. Christmas had officially begun. As they sipped their wine we plunged into the cornucopia, quivering with desire and the ecstasy of unbridled avarice.
For this Christmas edition, I opted not for wine, but for cocktails. And I invented them!
First, we have my custom created drink I’ve named The Reindeer Paw, which is chocolate and mint. Instructions follow the video. And remember, while I may love cocktails, I am an amateur bartender.
There are a lot of cocktail-creating videos in this week’s post. Videos and the associated content are available for paid subscribers.
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