Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Strange Tradition

There's one thing I've never adequately understood about Utah culture, and that is the tradition of giving goodie plates at Christmastime. Festive paper plates with a selection of holiday treats are carefully wrapped in plastic wrap, labeled with gift tags, and personally delivered to neighbors' doorsteps. Of course, the idea of exchanging gifts at Christmas is not a new one, and the notion that those gifts should be inexpensive edibles is not a stretch either. But the Utah tradition is to give a plate of goodies in a manner that makes absolutely no sense to me.

First, there seems to be no attempt made to match the plate to the family. People who know we have food allergies-- even people who know what those allergies are-- give us goodie plates full of things made with nuts, milk, and eggs. They apologize as they give them, but they still give them! I'm forgiving of that, since most people don't know how to cook for food allergies. But then there's the issue of quantity. Our family of six has received numerous goodie plates with enough treats to serve only four or five. Keep in mind that these plates are not indiscriminately distributed to neighbors; they are given to specific families that are known to the giver, labeled with the family's name. The people giving us goodie plates know there are six of us.

Second, the goodies are almost always perishable; none of them last more than a week. Yet Utahns give them anyway, knowing full well that so many of these goodie plates will be circulating around the neighborhood at the same time that no one could possibly eat that many goodies. One year (pre-food-allergies) we literally received so many goodie plates that we could only have eaten all the goodies on them if we ate goodies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They went bad on the plates and we had to throw them away.

Why do Utahns keep giving away all this perishable food in an indiscriminate matter? What does it signal?