Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Poem Saga on the Subject of the Winter of 2005 Carries On

December 28, 2005
Much of the Christmas vacation was taken up with cooking

First there was the Sunday-before-Christmas dinner at Bill’s mom’s house in Raleigh
Though I personally did not actually participate in any cooking per se for that meal
I sorted and polished silver
counted and washed crystal
pulled out plates and set the table
and dug out trivets to rest all manner of casserole dishes upon
Also located gravy boats
Bill helped with the cooking
working on the non-oyster stuffing and the non-giblet gravy
He said it was the first year his mom has really trusted him to cook
Perhaps in another thirty-three years I will be allowed to touch the food as well
Though I loved being in charge of the utensils and cutlery really
I like to dig though other people’s cabinets and handle other people’s old things
The patinaed old silver and the dusty old glasses that wash up to a sparkle

Then upon our return from North Carolina we started on our own preparations
A scant two days before Christmas we went to Whole Foods
man I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite to equal it
It was in fact so insane there that it was almost kind of fun to just stand back and watch the chaos
the crowds four deep at the meat counter
the shoulder to shoulder row of people standing in front of the produce cooler
seeming to grab anything they could reach more or less at random
the deserted granola bar aisle where you can stop to check your list and kiss
the even more deserted express lane

We spent the whole day Saturday at mama’s house doing all the prep cooking
Brought all the spices and groceries and supplies in big brown paper bags
And inevitably forgot a few things
Bill had to both roll out and cut out
the rolls with a tall skinny water glass
We prepared cornbread stuffing with chestnuts
(which look like horrid brains when they come out of the can)
raisins, apples, celery, and a hell of a lot of other stuff
and the sweet potato casserole
(chopped up and roasted with whole shallots and pimento
I may never puree sweet potatoes again)
made Bill’s grandmother’s famous Frigidaire Rolls
crazy intense involving rising yeast dough
a pinched shape
and "half an egg"
and considered vastly intimidating by the whole Payne/Nooe clan
but they came out cute and sweet and lovely
even if Bill does say they could have been “lighter” and "less “chewy”
and the pie dough
and Padma Govindarajan's cranberry chutney
We also made a pan of Yummy not to eat but to take up to the aunts that afternoon

The whole time we were in the east bay
the little nine pound organic turnkey
was back home in our fridge
brining in our biggest stock pot into which it just barely fit
Which was entirely gross actually
as when it was done brining the water was all pink and bloody and disgusting
Truly vile
But the turkey came out awesome
we also followed another piece of Cook’s Illustrated advise
and let it air dry uncovered overnight in the fridge for crispy skin
This also worked out well
I can only imagine that had we flipped it over in the middle of cooking as requested
it would have sprouted angel wings and flown right up to heaven there and then
to go hang out with the little baby jesus
it would have been so perfect
But we were not up for the hassle of trying to flip over
an ungainly slippery hot big piece of meat with our potholders
We draw the line somewhere

So on Sunday morning we got up
had our little Christmas morning with presents and stockings and date nut bread
and then immediately launched back into the cooking
Bill made the pies
(cherry with a lattice and chocolate chess)
and I made the mashed potatoes and the salad
set the table with all the fun new china and glasses and whatnot
And then it was just a question of getting everything in and out of the oven
turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls
all at the right times

Then everyone showed up
with wine and mama’s amazing creamy brussels sprouts with caramelized onions
and all was right with the world

Then everyone left
and we were exhausted
and collapsed onto the bed making groaning noises
and vowing that my mother can do Christmas next year
But we were probably lying

image source is here

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