by Brian Clarey

Hellooo? Is this thing on? Not sure if anybody’s actually reading this as we head into the Christmas weekend, what with the shopping cooking, drinking and traveling going on. Me, I’m catching up on work before I split town for Christmas.

My Italian family no longer observes the Christmas Eve custom of eating seven fishes for Baby Jesus — a shame, because my grandmother’s shrimp marinara is perhaps my favorite dish ever — but on Christmas Day we still eat meatballs, lasagne, Italian sausage and a huge antipasto like we have been doing for generations. When I was a kid I thought everybody did this. I was a teenager before I learned that people actually eat turkey on Christmas — again! Like a month after Thanksgiving!

Here in the Triad, it’s obvious that much of the eating going on is happening in private homes and annual parties, evidenced by the dearth of food-related events going on this week.

Loaf Bakery has opened in downtown Greensboro. Christopher’s 1776 in downtown Winston-Salem has closed. And Total Wine & More and the Fresh Market will be holding wine tastings all weekend. That’s about it.

The biggest news, I suppose, is that foodie and blogger Melissa Sperka of Greensboro won the national Flour Power baking contest held by with a creation she dubbed “Caramel, Chocolate and Almond Gooey Butter Cake.”

The recipe, which is available at her Just a Pinch page, relies on two sticks of butter, four eggs, cream cheese, heavy cream and an entire can of dulce de leche, and it sounds incredible.

Sparka’s win earns her a trip to Nashville, a $1,000 shopping spree and tickets to the Grand Ole Opry. She will also prepare her cake in a TV kitchen in front of a live audience.

My Italians in New Jersey generally eat traditional cookies, homemade candy and torrone for dessert on Christmas Day. Perhaps this year I will introduce them to a little Southern sweetness.

Until I return, Merry Christmas everybody. Remember to wear loose-fitting pants.