If the potential for boredom and awkward conversation make you dread the family togetherness that comes with the holidays, allow me to make a suggestion: Farkle.
Basically, Farkle is a game in which you roll six dice and gain points for 1s, 5s and various number combinations. The winner is the first to 10,000 or, in shortened versions, 5000. You can read rules and game variations at the Wikipedia entry. But the Wikipedia entry leaves out the most crucial element of the game: the loser penalty.
Whoever scores the fewest points must endure a predetermined penalty, which may range from mildly humiliating to absolutely revolting.
Perhaps because we always play the game before or after meals, my family tends to use food as a form of punishment. Last weekend at my mother's house, the penalty would be to drink a shot glass filled with whatever vile combination of ingredients the four non-losers chose. It was a 5000-point game, thus: Death Shot 5000.
I'll spare you the play-by-play. Let's just say that my 11-year-old daughter's conservative strategy did not pay off. Iris would be drinking a generous splash of brine from a jar of Mediterranean olives, a spoonful of mashed beets, a spoonful of horseradish to cut through the briny mash, and a dollop of cold pork gravy, courtesy of Iris' loving grandmother.
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I have never been prouder.
After she regained her composure, Iris said the olive juice was the strongest flavor. She didn't have much more to say about the mixture, except to call it "disgusting" and demand that she be allowed to chase it with an entire box of Junior Mints. She definitely would not recommend the mixture. To which I can only respond: Improve your Farkle game, kid. --Jesse Hughey