Every winter holiday season, my family invites both sides of our extended family to our house for a day. Typically lasting a full 12 hours, the event is filled with chaos: younger cousins overturning furniture, aunts and uncles debating politics, the collective of family dogs cavorting and circulating among our feet, and most importantly, my grandfather and father, the maîtres d’ du jour, scolding anyone who dares to enter the kitchen. Albanian on my father’s side and Irish on my mother’s, our kitchen is filled with smells of either cow’s liver and kidney or cabbage and corned beef.
Last year, my family and I had finished eating our meals and moved on to dessert. Even for dessert, it wasn’t abnormal for my grandfather to present some surprise, exotic Western European dish like halva, a sort of compressed conglomerate of sugar, flour, water, and nuts. So when my aunt presented an apple pie with a glistening crust, I was relieved that I could enjoy a traditional American dessert with predictable palate-pleasing rewards. I preemptively commandeered nearly a quarter of that pie. After almost three hours of convivial catching-up, I was ready to satisfy my sugar tooth and take a nice long nap. I immediately dug in, chewing only enough to avoid choking.