THE FAMILY MEAL
December 12, 2019
We've had many memorable holiday meals over the years, but some
of the best came during the 10 year period when we hosted people from other
countries, some students, some older people. There were 70 of them from 14
I remember the year when we had a girl from Japan, a guy from Venezuela and a
guy from Zaire (now Congo) who were here for Christmas and I got the brilliant
idea that each of the foreigners should make something from his or her country
to contribute to the dinner.
Chieko, from Japan, decided she wanted to make tempura, which I love. I took her
to the store to buy ingredients and when we got home, she admitted she had never
cooked before and didn't have the slightest idea how to cook tempura. I ended up
making it and teaching her how to do it!
We had big crowds around our table in those years. We have a relatively small
house and our biggest year we had a sit-down dinner for 24 people, which
involved moving furniture out of the family room and borrowing chairs from the
local community center (conveniently, our kids worked there and would just pop
down and pick up whatever we needed and return when dinner was finished). The
tables, put end to end stretched from one end of the room to the other.
I don't remember how many foreigners we had with us that year. Vince, from
Malaysia, lived with us for 3 years while he finished high school and Marie,
from Mexico, was finishing up her senior year in high school. Marie's sister
Sandra was visiting for Christmas. It was the first time she had met any of us
and she spoke very limited English
It was the year Jeri was working for a theatrical supply place in San Francisco
and she bought her brother David a break-away bottle for Christmas.
Our kids, in those days, made movies of just about anything. Naturally with a
break-away bottle an intricate plot was quickly planned. It involved lots of
chase scenes and the kids spent most of the day filming the various scenes.
The final scene was to take place at the dinner table. The final chase scene
would be into the eating area, and climbing over the chairs, with David
threatening Paul. Walt was told he was to shout "Hey, you kids...cut it out,"
where upon David would pick up the break-away bottle, which looked like a bottle
of wine and which was sitting on the table and hit Paul over the head with it.
It went very well and everybody was kind of watching, while still eating, nobody
really very upset because this was so common in our house that they were used to
But when David grabbed the bottle and hit Paul, Sandra, who was NOT used to it
and who didn't speak enough English to know that it was all just an act, just
about had a heart attack. We had to calm her down while Marie explained what was
going on. When she finally realized what was going on she thought it was funny,
but for awhile there we scared the dickens out of her, and she especially
couldn't understand how all of us could be so calm in the face of all the
violence going on.
Vince is now an American citizen and a big mucky muck with his own company. He
has a big house here in Davis and a wonderful family, which includes a set of
twins, who are making names for themselves in the golf world.
Marie is married and she and her husband own a restaurant, Todo
un Poco, in nearby Elk Grove (great place, if you happen to be in the
area!). She has been Citizen of the Year in the town where they live and
her restaurant has been on "best of..." lists for the Sacramento area. She was
featured with a full page photo and 3 page article in the local business
magazine. She is now working to become a sommelier and is becoming a real
expert on wines.
Sandra has a son and works in the restaurant with Marie.
Fortunately she has recovered from the shock of seeing the Sykes family in a
little too much action!