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ANDREA SEABROOK, host: Commentator Firoozeh Dumas has her own story about food and the holidays. Here's her tale.

Ms. FIROOZEH DUMAS (Author, "Funny in Farsi" and "Laughing Without an Accent"): I'm eight years old. It's the week before Christmas. I'm watching the Sonny and Cher Christmas special with my parents. There's no smell of nutmeg wafting through this house and no gifts anywhere. Such is the life of a secular Muslim immigrant in this land where Santa Claus visits a lot of people, but not us.

(Soundbite of song "The First Noel")

Ms. DUMAS: Fast forward 17 years. I'm married to my French Catholic husband, I have a stocking hanging on the mantle with my name on it, Firoozeh, F-I-R-O-O-Z-E-H. It had to be specially ordered. That first Christmas together was magical.

The next year, Francois decided it was time to include my parents. I want them to experience a French Christmas meal, he said. For the next three weeks, all our conversations centered around the menu. Would your parents like carpaccio? No. Would they try quail eggs? No. Bone marrow on toast? Dad yes, Mom definitely no.

My parents arrived on Dec. 25th in jovial moods. This would be their first real Christmas meal, and they came laden with gifts. Open them now, my parents insisted. Once we opened all the gifts, my mother announced, one more for Francois! Francois, I make you carrot jam with pistachio. I know you like!

She sprinted into the living room and came back with my father's carry-on bag. You put it in my bag, my father asked. As my mother opened my father's favorite bag, a look of horror came upon her face. The jam had spilled. My father leapt to his feet. Everything was covered with sticky, orange goo interspersed with slivers of pistachio.

Why did you have to put the stupid jam in my bag, he yelled at my mom. It was for Francois, my mother said, invoking the name of her new son-in-law as some sort of human shield. Maybe he can eat my bag, my father suggested.

For the first course, Francois had cured salmon. My mother picked at her gravlax and asked me in Persian what else there was. Een khameh, it's raw, she said. It's salmon, said Francois, guessing from my mother's scrunched-up face that there was a problem. It's good, my mother said to him. I explained to her in Persian that a scrunched-up face means the same thing in French and English as it does in Persian.

(Soundbite of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy")

Why didn't you tape the lid on the jam jar, my father asked reaching for the bread. I did, my mother said. I didn't see any tape my father said. What kind of tape did you use? Please stop, Baba, I told my father. I just want to know what kind of tape she used, he said. The next course, quail stuffed with foie gras and served in a porcini mushroom sauce, evoked oohs and aahs from everyone. What is in this, my mother asked. After Francois explained what foie gras was, my parents didn't touch it.

Can I talk to you for a moment? We went upstairs. Why won't your parents eat anything, he asked. They love you, but this is a new adventure for them. Did I mention that they love you?

Ms. DUMAS: Back downstairs, my husband, Francois, went in the kitchen to make coffee. Firoozeh, he yelled. I ran into the kitchen. Look, he said, pointing to the Yule log which he had spent the entire previous day preparing. Marzipan mushrooms, chocolate holly leaves - it looked OK to me. Look inside.

That's when I noticed the mocha butter cream filling in the Yule log was missing two inches on each end. Your parents ate this while we were upstairs, probably with their fingers he said. Francois cut off both ends of the Yule log and tossed them in the trash.

The Yule stump was the one part of the meal that my parents ate with gusto. The inside is the best, they told Francois. As we cleared the plates, my parents thanked Francois profusely. Francois, thank you so very much. The best Christmas ever, very best, my mother gushed.

The Frenchman and I cleaned the kitchen while my parents sat on the sofa, admiring the Duraflame. Francois took down the Armagnac from the cabinet. As he poured the drinks into tiny glasses, I heard for the first time the Sinatra record that had been playing in the background the entire evening.

(Soundbite of song "Let it Snow")

Mr. FRANK SINATRA: (Singing) Let it snow, let it snow.

Ms. DUMAS: And then I heard my father's voice, Nouzijon(ph), why couldn't you have just put the jam in your bag?

(Soundbite of song "Let it Snow")

Mr. SINATRA: (Singing) The weather outside is frightful, But that fire is delightful. Since we've no place to go, Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

SEABROOK: Firoozeh Dumas wrote the books "Laughing Without an Accent" and "Funny in Farsi."

(Soundbite of song "Let it Snow")

Mr. SINATRA: (Singing) Lots of corn for popping. The lights are way down low, So let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

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