Tamales are on my “worst” holiday food list.

Dec 13, 2020–What is your favorite worst holiday food? Food you are supposed to like because everyone else does, but you don’t, really.

Every holiday, we are coerced to eat and drink strangely colored concoctions (green beer?) and alien textured foodstuffs in the spirit of the season. For me, the anticipation is the same as if Jim Jones proposed a New Year’s toast.

My list gets pretty long:

Egg Nog

Let’s start with any kind of nog, egg or otherwise. It’s not just the slimy soured sensation of the clabbered slurry sliding down your throat, it’s the principle–I can’t eat something named after a Ferengi on Star Trek.

Tins of Cookies

When you get one of these, my advice is to throw out the cookies and use the tin to organize your loose screws and washers.


This blob of spackle is anything but divine. It might do a fine job as packing peanuts for those tins of cookies you are sending to marginal relatives, but don’t introduce them into your gastrointestinal tract.

Candy Canes

Pure, hardened sugar, twisted into colors, flavored artificially, and shaped into a hook. If these were truly worthy of inclusion on a food pyramid, we would be merrily munching on them in August. Even kids don’t like them. I’ve never seen anyone finish an entire stick, and I used to teach hyperactive students.

Cookies Shaped Like Other Things

Usually these are of the sugar or gingerbread variety. Are the crumbly, sweet, larded slabs supposed to taste better when shaped as trees, Santas, or stars? They don’t.

Cookies Covered in Stuff

Some well-meaning bakers try to overcome the Cookies Shaped Like Other Things resistance by slathering them in primary colors of pure sugar icing. Then sprinkling them with those decorative beads that look like–and are as hard as–BBs. When you crack that crown just know there is not a dentist in the zip code that will touch you on Christmas Eve.


I know I’m going to lose many of you on this one, but have you ever dissected a tamal? They are some kind of masticated mystery meat, mixed with spices and fat, wrapped in a larded dough, wrapped in a corn husk. That’s right… the inedible skin from a plant that grows in a field. Then they are steamed in a hot water bath until the mixture congeals into a yellow soggy log.

Taken alone it is daunting. But tamales are invariably served with rice and beans that are not only fried, but RE-fried. A traditional meal of this type in my experience includes nary a vegetable nor fruit, unless you count hot sauce. I guess one upside is that after eating tamales it takes you a day and a half to be hungry again. Or regular.


I haven’t mentioned this for two reasons: 1) It’s a cliché joke of the holidays, and 2) I kinda like fruitcake. It’s neither fruit nor cake, and a little goes a very long way. But it’s a rite of passage for the holidays. Eating fruitcake reassures you that the holidays are here, and you must do some things you don’t relish to make them worth celebrating.

Really, fruitcake symbolizes every holiday. They arrive with sweet anticipation, become a little syrupy and cloying, then finish with a bitter aftertaste.

Merry Christmas.