Thursday, December 21, 2017

Cooking for Christmas

Something about the holidays makes me want to cook. I realize that the days are gone when I’d prepare hors d’oevres for sixty at a Christmas party or dinner for sixteen or so on Christmas day. In some ways I’m grateful—I watched Jordan stress today about getting everything done and realized that I have most of my Christmas things done, without stress and at a leisurely pace. But in other ways I miss the supercharge of energy, the excitement that comes with the stress of being busy.

My girls, daughters and daughters-in-law, have taken over the cooking, except that I have to clean out the turkey because they’re a bit squeamish. But they have their own ways. One makes a green bean casserole that’s great—but it’s not the way I always did it. Jordan makes mashed potatoes—and resisted my suggestion or a new way to do them. The daughters-in-law like that canned cranberry relish (yuck! Gelatinous!) and no one would eat my raw relish. My sister-in-law has a brother-in-law (how’s that for complicated?) who loves the relish, and I’m sorry our families have grown too large to celebrate together. I will miss the turkey leftovers, though we may have some.

And my annual Tree Trimming party—I had lots of appetizers I made every year. A caviar/cream cheese spread, a cheeseball (Lisa will bring that, thank goodness), sometimes a chicken liver pate that some loved, and others hated. A curry/cream cheese spread that was a recent addition but so delicious. I think of those dishes with longing.

Tonight, I entertained for happy hour. Sue, who calls herself my Canadian daughter because her parents live so far away and she needs a local mother, brought her mother and father who are here from Ottawa—and of course her life partner, Teddy, whom I adore. I had fun preparing what I thought was a feast—imitation escargot (Crescent rolls, made into a jelly roll around anchovy butter—Sue loves anchovies), a tuna spread that Sue’s mother loved and I did too—it was an experiment and a good one. Salami, a hunk of good blue cheese, and a hunk of feta (it’s not easy to find solid pieces of those cheese—most grocery stores have only the crumbled, but Central Market rarely disappoints—they even pointed me to a blue that is akin to Maytag, my favorite which is off the market).

The feta was an experiment—I read a recipe for topping it with honey, made spreadable with just a bit of boiling water, and doing a quick broil, then serving it warm. My toaster oven has no broil setting, so I tried toasting, with foil to prevent it burning or leaking from the bottom. When I took it out, I dripped the cheese/honey liquid all over my clean pants—oh, well. But I was so nervous about overcooking, that I didn’t cook long enough. It was to be served warm, but no one ate it. Sue took it home, so I’ll have to get a report from her. I also meant to put out a tiny container of honey with the blue, but had neither the right dish nor spoon. I’ll do that another time. But a drop of honey on blue cheese is exquisite.

At any rate, putting all those things together and choosing how to display them was fun for me. Like a mini-tree trimming party. We had a jolly time, with Christian keeping everyone in laughter with tales of the night he asked Jordan to marry him and the night the cat died—the latter shouldn’t have been funny but in his telling it was. And his telling reminded me again of the many happy and funny and crazy times my kids and I have shared. As I said to Christian, it should have been a warning when he asked me for my daughter’s hand. I said sure, I thought he was the right guy—if he’d take me to buy a new washing machine. Serendipity, the machine we bought that day after lunch, fourteen years ago, just died. The marriage, however, seems set on survival.

Hope your holiday is as jolly and filled with good food. East dessert first, abandon the diet, and enjoy! I love that say, “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.”

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