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Anticipation, and cooking. December 24, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, pets, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Christmas Eve, which always seems so far away and rushing towards us simultaneously, is finally here. The stockings have been hung by the chimney with care, and the entire fireplace is so elaborately decorated that poor Santa would break his neck if he tried to step out of the chimney.

The nearby tree is ablaze with lights and ornaments from three centuries, from heavy mercury-glass 19th-century German kugels to beaded Christmas trees made at summer camp by the beloved children of dear friends. Every one carries delightful memories. Because we like to layer the ornaments from the trunk to the branch tips, we feel that we could look at the tree for hours and never take it all in.

We have given or mailed all our carefully-selected presents. So every glittery package and bow spilling out around the tree and surrounding the fireplace is now for one of us (or our pets). The sight of so much bounty is enough to awaken the anticipation of the child in all of us. (Our black German shepherd, Shiloh, immediately recognized her present, a new soft Frisbee-style disc. But for once she demonstrated restraint and didn’t go after it. Maybe she was as overwhelmed by all the packages as the rest of us.)

Now all is quiet (except for carols playing in the background) and all is bright (thanks to the Christmas-tree lights). The intoxicating fragrance of frankincense fills the air. There’s really nothing left to do but anticipate a viewing of one of many versions of “A Christmas Carol”… and cook.

Cook! Oh, yum, the joys of Christmas cooking. I’ve already made my Ultimate Cranberry Sauce and two pans of my Amazing Cranberry Dressing (you can find the recipes by searching our search bar at upper right; they’re both so easy and delicious). I have Belgian endive, dried cranberries, pecans, feta, and blue cheese on hand to make Stuffed Endive Boats as an appetizer; it’s our favorite, delicious but not too filling, an important consideration. But what else will I make for Christmas Day?

Well, in our case, there are some givens, the we-always-make-these traditions that must be upheld at all costs. I’ll make a corn pudding, green beans, mashed potatoes (OFB always insists on these), roasted mushrooms and sweet potato slices (seasoned with olive oil, Trocamare, lemon pepper, and Italian herbs—dried oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, and rosemary—yum!!!), and a big, rich, crunchy salad to go with the dressing and cranberry sauce. But what else?

Well, I’m definitely going to bake bread today—lots of bread. An orange-cinnamon loaf for our holiday breakfasts. Whole wheat-sour cream rolls for Christmas dinner. A bran-rich loaf just because it’s good for us and the recipe looked promising. And maybe some oatmeal-buttermilk loaves to give our neighbors as Christmas gifts.

Then there’s the question of dessert. I could make my Mama’s famous Chocolate Yummy-Rummies, incredibly rich chocolate-rum mousselike concoctions topped with pecans and whipped cream. Or our friend Ben’s Simms Family Eggnog, a decadent, bourbon-rich dream of a dessert that’s so thick you have to eat it with a spoon.

Then again, I could make a simple fruit crisp or baked apples and save the richer fare for later in the holiday season, when we’re not confronting a major feast and a rich dessert. Or, hmmm, it looks like some of those packages under the tree contain homemade Christmas cookies, so maybe I’ll put out plates with cheese, dried fruit, and cookies for dessert, with glasses of our favorite Sandeman’s Tawny Port.

But it’s Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. What to make for tonight that will be delicious but won’t spoil our anticipation for tomorrow? Well, something rich but simple. Creamy pasta (shells in a sauce of sour cream, butter, Trocomare or salt and lemon pepper, with the sauce cooked to the point where it coats the shells thickly and there’s none left over), broccoli, curried carrots, and salad.

We have dear friends of German descent whose major feast is tonight, Christmas Eve, where they serve rouladen (an elaborate roast beef dish) and all the traditional German trimmings. But for us, Christmas Eve is the time to rest from the rush of getting everything done and the celebration of Christmas Day. It’s a lovely, low-key day. We let the anticipation of the season continue to build, but for now, we keep it at arm’s length. It will be here in all its glory soon enough.

What are your Christmas Eve traditions?

           ‘Til next time,




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