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MARTHA SEZ: Eat as much gold as you like

December 10, 2015
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

Right now in my mind's eye I see a cartoon I want to draw.

A woman is smiling proudly to herself as she stares at a little Christmas tree ornament that dangles from a string she is holding in her hand. Her cat watches the ornament too, probably considering making a lunge for it. Woman and cat are surrounded by a bewildering conglomeration of paper and cloth scraps, beads, sequins, yarn, pots of glue, glue guns, twine, crafting books, thread, ribbon, paint, coffee cups and empty snack bags. Leaning at a precarious angle against the wall is a Christmas tree, not yet in a stand. I would start working on the cartoon right now if I could just find my pen and ink in all of this clutter.

My friend Annie tells me that she used to start weeks, even months, in advance, making baked goods and then freezing them to give as gifts or to serve family, guests and carolers during the holidays. She made Scottish shortbread, molasses gingerbread men, bourbon balls, cheese straws, coconut macaroons, cinnamon stars, pinwheel icebox cookies, meringue kisses, cookies decorated with colored icing and silver dragees, jelly tots and snickerdoodles.

Annie prepared and served five different kinds of hors d'oeuvres, including meatballs, clams casino, cheese puff canapes and ham biscuits. A favorite with her children was what they called "little hot dogs," tiny pigs in blankets made with Vienna sausages, the ones that come in a can. All of this was in addition to the big Christmas dinner she cooked every year for about 20 people.

About dragees: There was a scare a few years back that people might be poisoned by dragees, since silver is toxic, and, surprisingly enough, they really are made with silver, along with gelatin, sugar and cornstarch. I read recently that a fatal dose of silver for an average human is one ounce. You would have to eat an awful lot of dragees in order to ingest an ounce of silver. I'm thinking that swallowing a sterling silver earring, the way a baby might do, would be OK, since an earring is probably indigestible. It would just go right on through. Gold, on the other hand, is not toxic; go ahead and eat as much gold as you like.

When my daughter Molly was 4, she had a little friend named Ian. One day his mother brought him over while Molly and I were making Christmas cookies. Probably Ian's mother didn't know we were baking cookies that day or she would never have let him come, since she strictly forbade Ian to eat any sugar.

At one point I looked up from the dough I was rolling out and asked, "Where's Ian?" Molly, absorbed in cutting out angels and Santas, didn't know.

We finally found him in the master bedroom, where he was furtively pouring a whole jar of silver dragees into his mouth at one time. Let this be a lesson to parents of young children: This is how addicts are made. As for dragee toxicity, Ian was pretty shrimpy, even for a 4-year-old, yet so far as I know he suffered no ill effects.

My friend Biff, on the other hand, broke a molar on a silver dragee while eating a bag of cookies I made him for Christmas one year. You never can tell what's going to get you.

After her husband died, Annie moved from the big house where they raised their family into a small apartment, and she drastically cut down on her Christmas menu. Cooking, baking and entertaining on her previous scale required plenty of space, not to mention energy. Her four children, all of whom are now grown, still beg her to "make the little hot dogs," she says.

Now, if Annie was at one end of a holiday activity graph, someone like Biff would be at the other extreme. Biff does nothing in preparation for the holiday season except turn off the car radio when the DJ starts playing Christmas music. There are one or two songs he likes, but that's it. "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," and something by Dwight Yoakam, "Santa Can't Stay."

Other than that, Biff does zip until Christmas Eve, when he goes out with his friends in the evening and then hits the mall to buy presents. That's Biff for you.

We all celebrate, or refrain from celebrating, in our own ways. It's a free country.

Have a good week.



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