Stomach (Queen of the Holidays)

When I was a boy, I was a voracious eater. My parents would suggest, not altogether facetiously, that I had a tapeworm. I ate voluminous amounts and gained nary a pound. My dad took to calling me “stomach,” which my siblings were more than happy to assimilate into their own vocabulary. Suffice to say, I could put it away without any need for pretense. My gastronomical feats quickly became legendary.

Each Saturday morning, my Dad would do the culinary honors, whipping up stack upon stack of pancakes, which I would consume with my customary dispatch. At dinner, I would inhale copious quantities of whatever fare my Mom would set at table. My mother, ever the resourceful cook, would set out volumes of meat, vegetables and potatoes and I, in turn, would dispense of them with habitual ease.

My Mom, being the eldest of her siblings, became a sort of Queen of the Holidays, providing a locus for the rest of her siblings and their collective broods, imparting succor and a place to replenish it each holiday season. Aunts, uncles and associated offspring would arrive each Thanksgiving and Christmas to get the lay of the land, as it were. On Thanksgiving in particular, they would steal into the dining room where I would be hard at my second or third full course.

My mother was a wonder at these meals cooking up a massive turkey with all the fixings. She would set out fruits and nuts as hors d’oeuvres with an abundance of stuffed and powdered-sugar coated dates along with various other stuffed vegetables for nibbling before dinner. I of course cast a wary eye at most of these as I could hardly wait for the main event to commence. For me, these preliminaries were all for show and had little to do with the conspicuous consumption nearly at hand.

The cousins would pull in sometime after most of my family had retired to the TV room to do a little navel gazing albeit with the belts loosened a tad the better to appreciate the view down under. This is a time-honored ritual of the large family meal and most can indentify with it if they are honest with themselves. Anyway, each group of squirming kids would appear and peek into the dining room with the question of the hour on their lips, “Is he still eating?”

They would advance cautiously with the query, “How many courses, Steve?” “This is my second,” I would offer, “Probably go for thirds; and then there’s dessert.” “Dessert too,” they would gasp in wonder. There was always a carnival sideshow atmosphere at the Hewitt abode. My Mom would emerge and clear out the wide-eyed children with an admonishing, “Come on, now. Let the boy eat!”

Things got worse at Christmastime, for any toys intended for personal gratification would have to provide their stimulus early and often before the marauding hordes arrived. The relatives would troop through running roughshod over all toys and games invariably breaking or losing some integral part of some long-awaited treasure. Such was the accursed life of the eldest sibling (and family) at holidays.

My siblings and I grew accustomed to this annual bedlam and even drew some solace from the incessant caterwauling of the assembled relations. For, in the end, we knew each separate family unit would gather their forces and retreat into the chilly evening air their breath exhaled in near frozen clouds, leaving us to contemplate yet another season of chaos and disarray bound each to the other as collective progeny of the Queen of the Holidays.

© Stephen Alexander

Stomach (Queen of the Holidays)

stephen hewitt

Lanexa, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

A look at my boyhood feats of gastronomy

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