It all started with a roast. A beef ribeye roast. The roast was marbled with bones and the scuffle it started stuck in my teeth for days.
On Christmas Eve, my husband Adrian and I met all of our family at my twin sister Jackie's house in Palm Springs for dinner. It was amazingly conflict free. No one fought. There was no yelling. A Mantz Christmas first.
My sister Jackie and her husband Joe barbequed carne asade and chicken. There was homemade enchiladas, my mom's famous Mexican rice and my sister-in-law Sally brought tamales from El Monte. Adrian's mom Orieta brought a huge apple pie from Costco. We feasted and played the white elephant game.
We drove home late and arrived at my mother-in-law's house in Hesperia right before midnight. On Christmas morning, I made breakfast after finding a gas station that carried pancake batter. Later, Sally and I went on a five mile walk. When we returned, I saw that Jackie and Joe had arrived.
As I was in the bedroom changing out of my sweats, Adrian (who was sick as a dog in bed) said, "There is some mix up about dinner. Jackie and Joe brought carne asade meat. Tell them I'm sick and am not cooking."
"Mexican again?" I said with a snort. "I want roast. Your mom was supposed to make roast. She's been saying all week that she was cooking it." My mother-in-law's rosemary roast was legendary and I wanted it for Christmas.
Adrian rolled his eyes and turned his head back on the pillow. "I don't care what we eat. I'm going to sleep," he said in a nasal tinged voice. "Don't make drama," he added with a quick and knowing stare.
When I marched into the kitchen, Orieta was at the sink.
"Are you making the roast?" I asked her in my nice voice.
Orieta looked at me with a frown. "Jackie and Joe brought meat. There's too much food. We can't waste the meat," she mandated in her strong Argentine accent.
"We had Mexican food last night," I pointed out in a pleading, less nice voice. Orieta shook her head in her stubborn not going to change my mind way and said, "I make fajitas."
Sally walked up behind me and whispered in my ear, "Don't argue. Let's go the the store."
We snuck outside and got into Sally's Hummer, I searched my IPhone for an open store. "Vons in Victorville is open until seven," I said with a fist pump in the air. "I will get a roast," Sally said with a smile. "Orieta will be pissed though. "
"It will be worth the money just to see her face," I said and we both giggled like little kids.
Von's was packed full of people. "I wonder if everyone's mother-in-law is refusing to cook a roast," I thought to myself with a shake of my head.
Sally and I split up. I picked up ingredients for country breakfast for the next morning and we met at the check-out line an hour later.
Sally's basket was full to the brim. "I am making a roast with all the fixings and homemade macaroni and cheese," she said with a smile and a toss of her hair.
"Yummy. Orieta is gonna freak out," I said giving her a high five.
Background time. Orieta is a great cook. Her meals are the stuff legends are made of. Like most good cooks, she is territorial about her kitchen and her status as head cook. Raymond's mom Marie from "Everybody Loves Raymond" kind of territorial. This is not an exaggeration. You can be her sous chef, but that's it. What Sally and I were attempting was mutiny.
When we arrived back at the house, Orieta was seasoning the meat and my mom, her sous chef, was chopping vegetables. Orieta looked at us and said, "What's in the bags?"
Not trusting myself, I ran into the bedroom. "Sally got a roast," I whispered laughing in Adrian's ear. "What are you two doing?" Adrian said sitting up with an annoyed look on his face. "I told you, no drama."
"We want roast," I said as I skipped out of the room. A pillow hit the door just as I closed it.
Orieta was looking through the bags muttering to herself and as I started to put stuff away she said, "You two cook. I do nothing," and slammed down her hand and walked away.
Sally and I started our dinner prep while Orieta glared at us from her leopard print chair in the living room. Gabe (my brother-in-law and Sally's domestic partner) made the fajitas.
Two hours later, the table was loaded with food. Fajitas, tortillas, beans, rice, homemade macaroni and cheese and a beautiful roast.
Orieta and Gabe refused to try the macaroni and cheese. Gabe made a face. "It looks gross."
"Fucking mama's boy," I thought to myself.
"Italians don't eat pasta with white sauce," Orieta said with a shake of her head.
"Your roast is so tender," Jackie said with a sigh of pleasure.
"It's just OK," Gabe said looking at his mom. Orieta nodded.
They didn't know who they were messing with. I was the queen of family drama and it was payback time.
"Sally, your macaroni and cheese is awesome," I said with a big smile. "Looks like you are taking over as the cook in the family."
Oreita and Gabe both looked at me as if I had committed the ultimate act of treason. "My mom is the best cook," Gabe said in a loud voice.
After dinner, things were tense, but isn't that what Christmas is all about?
Family drama with a nice chunk of roast on the side.