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The Night Before Plate

Comments from the Kitchen Office

There is a special plate in our house.

It is only used one night a year, but it is instantly recognized. Year after year, as we’d pull boxes down from the attic and sort through their contents, the kids would cry out, “The Santa plate!” when it appeared.

There was a definite ritual to using the Santa Plate. First, it would be carefully washed to remove any storage debris. It would wait on the counter patiently until the children just couldn’t stand being up any longer – they knew, as do all good children, that the quicker they went to bed, the quicker Santa would arrive.

As they wound down their day, thoughts would turn to the selection of cookies stored in the freezer, the refrigerator, and the various cookie jars. Wheels turned along with visions of sugarplums in their head as they debated the merits of Chewy Noels, Mint Bars, Gingerbread, Decorated Sugar Cookies, or good old Chocolate Chip Cookies. In the end, every year was the same: give Santa his choice and put out one of each.

Then came the writing of the letter to Santa. The oldest child wrote the letter for years, until her younger brother decided he could take charge. But they always agreed on the content. It was short and sweet, and usually went something like:

Dear Santa, We have been very good this year (really). We hope you enjoy these cookies. Travel safely!

The best of the best cookies were then chosen – what food stylists call “the hero.” Each hero was carefully placed on the Santa Plate, with a Christmas napkin tucked to the side and a nice glass of cold skim milk at the top. (After all, if Santa is going to eat all those cookies in one night, he’d better save some calories somewhere!).

The children would check their stockings, making sure they were still empty and awaiting the wonders of the morning, then check the Santa Plate once more to make sure no one had snitched a bite. Only then would they march off to bed, secure in the knowledge that their house was prepared for the important visitor.

And in the morning, only a few crumbs remained on the plate, the milk glass was empty, the stockings were full, and a scribbled note on the bottom of the letter said, “Merry Christmas! Love, Santa.”

It’s a tradition carried on in households around the world in one way or another. So, as we go off to celebrate the season with our respective families, let me just say,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all . . . a great plate.