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I *do,* I *do,* I *do* believe in Santa!

So we had a deliriously wonderful week in Manhattan, staying at our friends’ elegant Chelsea condo (which we had all to ourselves for all but one day), and when I got home I saw an Amazon box with my name on it.

By this time I had forgotten about SantaThing — the LibraryThing “Secret Santa” project. I had long ago purchased books for my SantaThingy, and since Sandy and I didn’t exchange gifts this year (what, New York City isn’t gift enough?) I had pushed the gifty side of Christmas far from my mind — except to sign myself up for an online class in food writing, to begin in mid-January. So I’d have something under the tree Christmas morning, I bought two of the four books on the reading list.

Any doubts I had about taking a class (“Oh so frivolous,” whispered the voices in my head) were pushed aside by the overwhelmingly wonderful food writing which I read in airports, taxis, subways, and stolen hours in the wee morning light and late every evening. I gobbled down Garlic and Sapphires, then lustily chomped my way through The Man Who Ate Everything. I already owned and was halfway through Best Food Writing 2006, which I had left at home, not suspecting that two days into our trip I would be in the Biography Bookstore, begging for more food writing (the post-holiday help were clueless, but I spied Comfort Me With Apples and demanded I be allowed to buy it).

Both Garlic and Sapphires and The Man Who Ate Everything are set in New York City, so my memory of this past week will always be of reading about great food and then (on a more modest scale, to be sure) consuming it. From the squid in hot pepper at the local Thai joint to crispy red snapper at a tony Vietnamese place to everything-bagels-mit-schmears at Murray’s to  quick bowls of pho we gobbled one famished afternoon near City Hall to the macaroni-and-cheese-with-truffles at La Vie, another local place in Chelsea, it was all deeply satisfying.

The class reading list had one more book: MFK Fisher, The Gastronomical Me. I didn’t buy it when I bought the other books, reasoning that with Amazon Prime I could order it anytime after I got home. I don’t know why I didn’t demand that the nice young men at the Biography Bookstore look up this title, but I didn’t.

You are thinking you know the end of this story: The Gastronomical Me is the book that was in that Amazon box.

But it wasn’t.

Instead, my SantaThing had sent me The Art of Eating — a compendium of five of Fisher’s works: Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf, An Alphabet for Gourmets, and yes, The Gastronomical Me. 

So I came home a little blue over the end of a wonderful trip to a magical city, and there waiting for me was this gift, this perfectly marvelous, amazingly spot-on, more-than-I-would-have-ever-thought-to-ask-for, yes-Virginia-there-is-a-Santa mind-boggling doorstop of a book that immediately lifted my spirits and gave me a path back to the joy I had experienced this week.  And if that’s not what Christmas is about, I don’t know what is.

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