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I’m Hungry: Santa & Squash

For the past few weeks, my daughter has been asking me about the cold hard truth surrounding Santa Claus. I thought I had another year before I needed to explain the complexities of Santa Claus because up until now, she’s never questioned us about it.  I really believed my 11 -year old daughter, a self-professed believer, would have one more Christmas where that magic would remain in tact. And although this is a natural progression of growth and maturity, it still feels too soon somehow. Deep down, I know she’s ready for more grown up conversations. For discussions involving truths that can’t be measured quantitatively but that need to be expressed and felt and shared.

She yearns for these discussions.  She needs them.

It’s hard to believe that less than a year ago, she was writing letters to her beloved Saint Nick, making sure her penmanship was prominent and curly and dotted with hearts. She’d mail those heartfelt little notes and with them, the splendor and brilliance of the season was anchored into her soul.

I walked into her room the other night, hours after she had finally learned the truth, and watched her sleep.  I remembered the way her chubby baby fingers gripped the edge of her crib and the way she’d pull herself up and smile when I walked into the room. And it didn’t seem possible then. It didn’t seem remotely feasible that one day, she would be too grown up for any of it. All of this inner turmoil I’m feeling is about so much more than Santa Claus. It’s about the practice of placing your faith in things that aren’t always visible. In things we can’t always explain, or touch or even entirely understand. It’s that faith that binds our minds and hearts and allows us to trust with conviction and passion and absolute certainty. And it’s all part of a much bigger story. A story I always want her to believe in.


I read a beautiful excerpt by C.S. Lewis once. When he wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, his dedication to his Goddaughter Lucy Barfield brought tears to my eyes.

“Girls grow quicker than books. As a result, you are already too old for fairy tales…But someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” 

Even though the Santa Claus myth isn’t theoretically true, it offers a lot of merit with respect to the human spirit. The idea of giving without the prospect of reciprocation. The notion of receiving and accepting while still maintaining grace and humility. These rituals exert such wonderful life lessons that can be applied to our every day routines. In the way we communicate with our family and friends through meaningful conversations. In the way we become advocates for truth in the face of injustice and ambiguity and adversity. In the way we volunteer our time to a charity or organization we feel a strong connection to. Santa Claus enables these life lessons to flourish in our hearts every single day.

I’ll be there when she’s old enough to read fairytales again. When she’s ready to participate in upholding and making the fairy tale of Santa Claus special for her little brother and new baby cousins and maybe someday, for her very own children.


Butternut Squash Quinoa with bacon, sage and fresh Parmesan

1 butternut squash, cut in half, seeds removed and placed in a shallow roasting pan with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt. Bake for an hour at
350. Remove skin and chop into cubes.
3 shallots, minced
1 1/2 C quinoa
3 C vegetable broth plus 1/4 C more
6 slices of bacon
1/3 C fresh Parmesan
3 T chopped fresh sage
3 T butter
1/4 chopped walnuts, toasted

Cook bacon in frying pan and remove onto paper towel to drain. Saute dry quiona in the remaining bacon fat along with the shallots and butter. Stir for a few minutes until the quinoa begins to toast slightly. Add the broth, turn thd heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Set aside. Meanwhile, pulse the squash in a food processor and thin out with about 1/4 cup of broth. Fold into quinoa. Add bacon, sage, toasted walnuts and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper and top with additional cheese if you prefer.

Nicholetta Bokolas is the author of the food blog Pepper + Paint. She is a wife, mother and lover of all things fresh and local. She believes good food is meant to be shared and loves coming up with unique recipes that feed both the body and the soul. You can follow Pepper and Paint on facebook and twitter.

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