24 December 2008

How a Grinch enjoys the holidays

Holiday happy hour kicks off in 15 minutes! (Of course, by the time this post is complete, I'll likely be somewhere between rounds 1 and 2.)

The insanity that is our American Christmas is over and now the holidays may begin. Mine officially kicked off last night when the first pumpkin pie slid into the oven.

"I hate Christmas!"

My kids will tell you that's been my mantra ever since Thanksgiving dinner was recycled for the final time. It's not Christmas per se that frustrates me as much as the shopping, the imperative to spend money we don't have on doodads we don't need, the traffic, the crap that fills up even my favorite stores this time of year. (Who needs a table sized book of cute puppies or the Seinfeld version of Trivial Pursuit and where do they hide this junk during the rest of the year?)

Jesus is the reason for the season? Yeah, right. Anyone been to the USofA recently? Have you seen any sign of the risen lord anywhere near the hurried and frustrated shoppers, grumpy overworked clerks, and speeding SUV's at the Bayshore Mall?

And it's the endless stream of piano recitals, basketball tourneys, ballet programs, school pageants, office parties, and volunteer board dinners all crammed into the last two weeks of the year. Can't we hold even one of these events in the doldrums of mid-February and allow just one night in December to breathe?

I hate the 6-week build-up to Christmas, the commercialization of Christmas, the greed and rush and selfishness of Christmas. I'm not a believer, so I don't find solace in the birth of a messiah.

This time of year, I find my peace and celebration in the kitchen, preparing a once a year weekend of feasting for the family and occasionally some others. I even enjoy the multiple trips to the Co-Op (for real food) and Safeway (for the not so real food I can't find in the local outlets). I don't even mind the mountains of dirty dishes my creations create.

The kitchen staff (me) clocked in yesterday afternoon and remains on duty throughout today and tomorrow. Short breaks are provided to reluctantly attend Christmas Eve mass and excitedly participate in the Christmas morning gift orgy. First out of the kitchen were the world's best cranberry sauce, 2 pumpkin pies and the cornbread required for the Christmas day stuffing. Today we focus on our not-so-traditional Christmas Eve Smorgasbord...the wife's Swedish heritage celebrated this year Mediterranean style with a little Pasta e Fagioli, fine cheeses and salame, and an experimental spinach and shallot polenta torte, all served alongside a 2006 Oswego Hills Marechal Foch from the Willamette Valley. We'll polish off the aforementioned pumpkin pies around the Christmas tree in our new Christmas pj's. Me and Mrs Claus will enjoy Irish coffees while we wrap the Christmas loot.

Following our traditional crack of dawn present-opening (kids never sleep in on Christmas Eve, do they?) we'll enjoy a simple French Toast breakfast, a rasher of bacon, and mimosas for those of us of sufficient age.

While the others try to break their newest electronic gadget or park themselves in front of season 4 of The Office, I'll don the chef's jacket and cap, and get back to work on the smoked Willie Bird, warmed and filled with a cornbread stuffing. Oregano potato cakes, rosemary yams, green beans with lemon and pine nuts, and green chile gravy will join the bird atop the good China. An '05 Stags Leap Cabernet is set to accompany the meal. When we're too stuffed to see straight, we'll pile on the double mocha pecan pie.

Today's a good day for a holiday. My girls are out of the house leaving me to my Frankensteinian machinations in the kitchen. Christmas tunes play in the background on the computer. The house smells of garlic and sage and kahlua and cranberries.

And my 15 minutes are over! Now where's that bottle opener?

Happy eats. Happy holidays. And we'll see y'all when the leftovers are finished.


Greg said...


Kym said...

I'm drooling. Mmmmm! I hope it went as cozy and delicious as you said it would be.

Jennifer Savage said...

Oh, yum. Won't you post at least one recipe now that you have us salivating?

Echoing Kym's wishes, too.

Bob Flame, Ranger said...

Jennifer...I love the cooking, but alas, I'm less than creative with it. Most of these are stolen right out of a small assortment of cookbooks and magazines. The cranberry sauce is about the only menu item that's morphed into something of my own over the years.

Indie said...

Your Christmas sounds a lot like ours, especially the Christmas Eve smorgasbord (Swedish heritage here as well). But I wonder if your homemade cranberry sauce can be as good as mine? Mine also has pears or apples and a bit of cinnamon.

Kato said...

I'm completely with you on the epidemic of spending and stress that has warped our Yuletime. It's wonderful to find others who give more than lip service to the real treasures of loved ones and special, seasonal food to share with them. But what's this? No roast beast?

Bob Flame, Ranger said...

Indie....the local cranberry sauce here brings in the orange zest (sometimes lemon too) and a dollop of cardamom...sweet and tart. And chunky! Not a fan of supersmooth cranberry sauce here.

Kato...as much as I'd love some good ol' fashioned roast beast, I live with a bunch of non-mammal eatin' females, so it's all about experimenting with new turkey recipes year to year. Brined, roasted, smoked...not to mention the recipe hunting which is half the fun.