post The Last Word: Merry Christmas To You All!!

December 13th, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:11 pm

By WJ St.Germain
It’s that time of year again, Christmas! I love everything about Christmas; the decorations, the carols that celebrate the birth of Jesus and most of the preparation. But every silver lining has its cloud and so does Christmas. For those of you who’ve read my previous Christmas articles (available in the archives), you will know that my cloud is cooking. Actually, it’s not so much a cloud as a huge, overwhelming lava flow of endless ingredients I’m expected to know how to use. I swear my spice rack triples in size every December.

Does anyone out there have one of those perfect friends who is ultra organized and can do everything? I live in hope that I’m not the only one. I think the world of my friend but she drives me crazy. I will call her Victoria. Not because Victoria Cannon drives me crazy but because she is so perfect in all she does.
I recently bemoaned creating the dreaded festive dinner to Victoria saying, not for the first time, that I will never understand how the women in the Old West managed to turn out such wonderful meals. They didn’t even have electricity.
‘I know,’ she replied. ‘You’ve gotta wonder what the stuff tasted like without essentials like truffle oil and saffron. You can’t create a proper feast without them.’
‘Truffle oil and saffron are your idea of essentials?’
Only two of the most expensive ingredients in the world but then, she’s right into gourmet cooking.
‘I’ll be roughing it without them’ I said, as if I’d even know how to use them. ‘We’re going High Chaparral this year. The family thinks it’s a great idea.’
To my husband and sons, there’s nothing better than hurling a hunk of raw meat onto a fire so we have lots of barbeques. (What is it with men, fire and raw meat?) They would have fit right in on John’s ranch. It’s just as well they like the charred flavor because I tend to burn a lot of meals.
‘I’m happy to help you organize something,’ Victoria offered, ‘All my prep work is done. Seasonings for the meat are blended and stored until the day, jams and chutneys are bottled and the plum pudding was obviously made weeks ago.’
‘All that’s left is drizzling brandy onto it every week.’
Show off.
‘This weekend I start fermenting fruits for the fruit cake and the liquor that comes from the process makes a lovely liqueur. I must order some more cut glass bottles for it.’
‘You make your own liqueur?’
Show off just didn’t cover it.
She smiled that lovely, wide, ‘I can do anything because I’m the one who taught Martha Stewart (and Victoria Cannon) everything they know’ smile.
‘Everyone wants a bottle but of course, there isn’t enough to go around so I have to check my list to see whose turn it is.’
‘You keep lists?’
She looked surprised. ‘How else do I know whose turn it is to get what?’
‘Of course, you make your own chocolates,’ I said, with a sinking feeling.
She gave me a, ‘Doesn’t everyone?’ look.
I bet she even grows her own cocoa beans.
I knew I’d regret asking but couldn’t help myself.
‘So assuming you helped – and this is purely hypothetical, what do you suggest?’
I had to choose my words carefully because I have never quite recovered from the last time she offered to ‘help’ me by making about 48,564,578,134,926,845 sausage rolls. I was tricked into doing that when she played on my maternal instincts saying that homemade was better. Further, by buying in bulk, she got a great price for the ingredients. When I paid my half of the cost, I felt quite proud of myself doing things the old fashioned way though they did seem quite expensive. But that was before I realized how many I was doomed to make.
Besides, the woman promised it would be fun. We would have a good chat, catching up on each other’s news while ending up with a bountiful pile of sausage rolls that would provide meals for years to come. Okay, maybe not years but she did promise LOTS of meals.

An enormous red flag shot up when I arrived to find a baby’s bathtub on her kitchen table.
‘Where’s the baby?’ I asked.
‘No baby.  I saved that from when the kids were little because it’s easier to use one big basin to mix the meat in than half a dozen bowls.’
‘That’s just for the meat?’ I gasped.
She nodded as if it was common knowledge that everyone uses bathtubs as dishware.
‘Please tell me we don’t have to make the pastry too?’ I pleaded.
She pointed to a nearby table on which lay a smooth, cream colored cloth. ‘No, I’ve already done that to save time.’
A second look revealed that the table cloth was in fact, a huge sheet of pastry. Returning my attention to the bathtub, my jaw dropped when with a great heave, Victoria lifted a positively ancient meat grinder out of a metal box.  It may well have come from the Old West.
‘I’m afraid to ask what that’s for,’ I said.
When she took a hunk of pork from the fridge I nearly swooned. We cut it into chunks then mixed it with herbs (from her garden, of course) and everything was mixed in the tub.  I thought my arms would drop off.

All I can say is there was nothing remotely fun about that day where, I am sure, Dr Who fiddled with his time machine and made every minute last an hour. That tub was like something from an Enid Blyton story. No matter how much meat you removed from it, more formed in its place. As for meals for years, my half-locust family had the batch finished in two meals. It was then I knew what it must’ve been like to provide food for the bunkhouse boys on a daily basis.

‘What about a vegetarian entrée?’ asked Victoria, dragging me back to reality.
I shook my head. ‘I live with a bunch of Fred Flintstones.’
‘Okay then, how about wood fungus and pigeon under a cloud of asparagus froth? That would be lovely.’
‘What on earth is asparagus froth?’ (I’m picturing a rabid stalk of asparagus running through a field, foaming  at the … where would asparagus foam, I wonder?)
She found a picture on her iphone and showed me. It looked like green cobwebs.
‘So what about wood fungus? Is that like a mushroom?’

My eyes glazed over at the details. I started picturing the Cannon household. Can you imagine telling anyone there, even Victoria, that they were going to serve froth and fungus?

‘Fungus?’ says Buck, ‘I ain’t eatin’ no mold or no clouds.’
Victoria shudders most delicately. ‘It doesn’t sound very appealing, does it John?’
‘No,’ says John. ‘Don’t imagine you’d get much meat from a pigeon either.’
‘I reckon you’d need some of old Doc’s remedies for the gut ache it’d give you,’ says Buck. ‘We’d all be cuttin’ hair off from behind our right ears over it.’
‘Cutting hair?’ asks Victoria.
‘Don’t you know that old remedy?’ said Buck. ‘You sure lived a sheltered life. Why, everyone knows the best cure for cramps and upset stomachs is to cut some hair off your head from behind the right hear. Course it’s gotta be done at night else the moonlight can’t soak into the fresh cut hair.’
‘Then what?’
‘You toss the hair over your right shoulder.’
‘What if you get a stomach ache during the day?’ asked John.
‘You gotta wait for the moon, big brother.’
John shakes his head. ‘No, I think I’ll just avoid eating the stuff. Give me a steak anytime.’
‘So vegetarian is out?’ asks Victoria.
‘Vegetarian!’ gasps Buck, ‘Cows was made to be ‘et.’

‘Okay,’ says my ever patient friend, ‘What about ham, lamb, seafood or goose? Oh! The meat market’s got some crocodile in but it’s expensive.’
Seafood is a popular Aussie Christmas meal but I tend to overcook it (like everything else). I’m not big on ham and lamb, I have no idea where one buys a goose and crocodile didn’t seem very festive.
‘Well have a think and if you come up empty, we can look through my cookbooks.’
‘Thanks,’ I said, knowing I had no intention of looking through her cookbooks.
She’s got enough to fill the Library of Congress. I once spent hours trying to help her find a recipe for porcini encrusted balls of something, which I’m sure would have impressed Buck. They didn’t sound very appealing and when we found them about 293 books later, looked even less so.

Realizing it would be unwise to include Victoria in my Christmas dinner preparations, I decided to call it a day and went home feeling deflated about my Cannon feast.
Thankfully my family understands me. I arrived to find my husband had bought us a turkey.  And, knowing how much I wanted the ranch styled meal, my son bought a spit. Better still, it’s got an electric motor so all we have to do is skewer the bird (I confess that looks a bit challenging) then switch on the motor and away we go. There appears to be nothing I can get wrong, proving yet again that Christmas really is a time for miracles.

Did You Know?
Before roasting fowl (either by spit, oven or barbeque), put the bird in the sink and slowly pour a kettle of boiled water over it. The skin will seize up and this will help to make it crispier while it cooks.  I’ll leave you to figure out how to actually cook it.

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