Posted by: njbrown | December 14, 2009

Christmas menu thoughts

December 14, 2009

I’m at my annual place of wondering where the time could have gone, and feeling a bit panicky that Christmas is little more than a week away.  Fortunately, having grown children who tell me what they would like and how to order it on the Internet, shopping isn’t really a problem.  For other family and friends, we’ve transitioned to charitable gifts – primarily to Mennonite Central Committee.  (When we moved to this house almost four years ago, we had to clean out a basement of about 1,500 square feet that was crammed to the rafters with things that in previous years we thought we couldn’t live without.  It put acquiring things into perspective.)

The house is now almost fully decorated, since I’m scaling back this year.  The Teddy bear collection – most dressed in Christmas Victorian costumes – is out.  One of my biggest luxuries is a set of Spode Christmas tree dinnerware that I accumulated a number of years ago.  George puts it on the top of the plate pile about the first of December, and often we are still using Christmas china into February, but in February you need all the cheer you can get.

My first real, traditional Christmas was in 1954 when our family had been transferred from Hawaii where we’d lived for two years to Washington, D. C.  We lived just outside the District in Bethesda, and while I don’t remember it snowing that first Christmas, it was distinctly colder than Hawaii, or Seattle and Long Beach where we’d lived before.  That year in my 6th grade class, I saw an Advent calendar for the first time, and I was charmed by the tiny windows and doors that opened each day to reveal even tinier pictures of activities in the buildings in the village.  I think our teacher – Mr. Frisbee, I think his name was – had us make paper snowflakes and he hung then from the ceiling of the room.  It was really magical.

Because my father was a Navy chaplain, church was the central part of Christmas, and I always loved the traditional midnight service.  Coming out carrying candles into the dark, crisp night was absolutely the best time of the year.  In our home, money wasn’t abundant, so we had a limited number of Christmas gifts, but that first year in Washington, I remember getting a pair of pigskin gloves, and a “sheath dress.”  I felt very grown-up and sophisticated.  My sister and I always wondered why my parents didn’t give each other gifts, but over time we came to realize it was because all the money was spent on us.  My mother always said it gave her far greater pleasure to give to her children than to get things herself.

Now that the pot luck is over (although our home church group is having a pot luck next week), I’m working on the Christmas menu.  On the Food Network, they are showing many alternatives to turkey, and since our son and daughter no longer eat turkey, going to Plan B seems sensible – a little “out there,” but sensible.  I think we’ll have salmon, and a lady at Saturday’s pot luck said she always has salmon, and recommended serving it with basil pesto.  I have found a recipe for stove-top stuffing that I can use to fill Portobello mushrooms, and that will replace meat for my daughter.  I always do scalloped corn, and my family would revolt if they didn’t have wild rice – again, probably with dried cranberries and orange zest.  I’ll ask my daughter if she would like salad of some kind.  Dessert will be Julia’s Bûche (without ground almonds), and vegan chocolate mousse for my daughter.  Since the entire oven won’t be taken up with turkey, it gives me more flexibility, if I decide to add to the menu.

We have only the smallest amount of snow on the ground, but hopefully we will have a white Christmas.  I really do love this time of year!



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