Christmas Eve, 1999. Big is a shepherd. Middle is a sheep. Little is Baby Jesus. Have them all at church by five for costumes; be sure to feed Little first, so she doesn’t cry. Make sure all the company have correct directions for the church. Typical excitement and chaos filled our house, which was already full of guests, presents yet to be wrapped, blouses to be pressed, and so on. Days earlier I had made my list and checked it twice; still I fretted over Christmas Eve dinner. Mr. T&C and I were hosting seven that night—all from out of town, and frankly, all would be starving and expecting something sumptuous when we returned from church. At an early run-through of the nativity pageant, our Rector’s wife, told me, that, although not fancy, she had always thought shepherd’s pie was the perfect Christmas Eve supper—especially when one had young children. I had been thinking along the lines of roast or shrimp and grits or maybe even lasagna, and then it hit me. Shepherd’s pie. Of course. Make it ahead; set the oven on time-bake. Serve a simple salad and a nice red wine.
Dessert? Well, that’s obvious. Angel food cake. And fresh strawberries—notice I’m not italicizing the straw. I have some restraint. This menu has been our staple for Christmas Eve dinners ever since. A few weeks ago, I asked the children if they’d like to change it up a bit—we could grill some steaks, I suggested. No, no, no was their chorus.
Christmas Eve,2009. Little, Middle, and Big are each reading a portion of the Gospel of Luke in the five o’clock service. Little came to me about noon, asking if I was making shepherd’s pie. Fear not was all I could say.
And she didn’t.