Thursday, December 18, 2014

GLOW



Roasted Butternut Squash.   This was all the way back at Thanksgiving, but it was just beautiful, scattered with toasted pecans and dried cranberries, and just the tiniest snowing of sea salt.

I love the way the light divides and casts such a glow---we need all the glow we can get, and sharing it around is fun, too.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

CARO'S PLUM PUDDING



Caro has long wanted to make a Plum Pudding, for not one of us has ever even tasted the old-fashioned treat.   We SAW an enormous one once, piped in on the shoulders of four hearty minstrels dressed in satins and lace, at the Madrigal Feast at the University years ago.

It came in on a great sedan-chair to much pompous circumstance, flaming into the darkened room with the gravity and hauteur of a royal personage, and making its fragrant way up to the table where sat King and Queen and courtiers.    That thing would have filled a bushel basket, and must have been doused in a gallon of spirits, for the flame lasted for the entire slow, elaborate progress of piper, heralds, attendants, and four stalwart carriers keeping it level and proud for the entire length of the banquet hall.

We were all primed for a taste of such a beautiful, historical dessert, but then the waitstaff set down a pretty platter with one of those rolled Yule-Log cakes---like foot-long Little Debbie Swiss rolls---before us and handed a sharp knife to one lady at each table.   I was the one chosen for ours, and I assumed it was like the honor of being asked to “be Mother” and Pour Out, so I cut and served to all our ten-at-table.   It was chocolate, with whipped-cream swirls inside, and not at all what we were expecting.



The Buttered Basin (I've ALWAYS wanted to call one that)


So now we have one---with chopped dates and prunes and sultanas and currants, and just for the elegance and custom of the thing, a few of the long-hoarded candied figs sent by our dear Ben and Lil last year, from their own fig trees.  Tawny Port and sherry and eggs and crumbs, along with the crumbly rich sweetness of Demarara sugar and spices I cannot remember went in as well. 




Terrible picture---in all that stirring and leaning over the batter with the camera, I must have inhaled too many Port and Sherry fumes.


And I think Caro enjoyed ordering a pound of suet from the butcher---Mrs. Beeton would have been proud.  We took turns stirring, per the custom---Sweetpea was not present, so I took a small turn with one of her tiny doll-tea spoons, just for luck.   The batter went into a well-buttered specially-ordered-from-away Pudding Basin, was covered in a neatly-creased chapeau of parchment paper, tied with red-and-green kitchen twine, the shining cap clamped on, and it was steamed for six hours.   Just knowing it was bubbling away in there, on that cold afternoon in November, lent a luster of anticipation to the still-in-Fall-colours house, and tipped the holiday spirit into Christmas mode.





It sits in a cool place upstairs, awaiting a further two hours in the simmery bath on Christmas Eve, when it will be unmolded onto a platter, garnished with holly and ivy, baptised with more port, and ceremoniously lit and sung to.   A little boat of crème Anglaise, for the import of the thing, and I’ll bet that neither chiding nor tradition will keep Chris from running wild around the table with the Redi Whip can.    




Perhaps in addition to a place set for the Christmas Angel, there’ll be one for Little Jack Horner this year, as well.


Monday, December 15, 2014

CHRISTMAS TEA 2014



A simply lovely evening, from the gathering upstairs in Caro’s sitting room, with the tree and evergreens and poinsettias and candle-light, on down to dinner, with the table set by Sweetpea, with her beloved red chargers (I swear, that child appropriated those things and enjoys them as much as toys.   They are pressed into service as table-settings, trays for lego-and-cootie-feet refreshments, a shield-maiden’s breastpate, an umbrella, and even Frisbees on occasion.  The tale of their use as targets for the Marshmallow guns is for another time).

I just washed them up and let her have at it---note the customary Christmas finger-puppets, brought out for every Christmas Eve gathering which involves children, but we ladies had a fun time letting them converse and interact, ourselves.   See the everyday, mis-matched silverware, the tiny plastic spoon laced through the cup-handles, the FROZEN sleigh full of kisses, and a kiss in every teacup?  

And when she and Ganner returned from their movie, they joined us for some dinner around the table. We’d already had the cheese course, but they caught up.   The ladies complimented her table setting, and she was properly modest---a little blush, a demure bowing of her head over the bright smile.   “Thank you.  It was my honor,” she said.   I thought her Mama and I were going to have to flee for Kleenex.


We had a lovely repahhhst, with Chris' glorious pink ham, Caro’s dates-in-bacon and colourful platter of rollups---both jalapeno and seafood, and a beautiful plate of cucumber cups with smoked salmon, sour cream and dill. She composed a lovely cheese plate, with her homemade cranberry compote, fig jam, walnuts and toasted pecans.

I did the dips---plain old everyday Ranch, and store-bought hummus, as well as the hot artichoke dip, Paminna Cheese, Chicken Salad, the Deviled Eggs, crudite platter, and the tri-colour Christmas-Tree ravioli in a pesto vinaigrette with pickled mushrooms, roasted peppers, and roasted garlic.   The baby Yukons in a cloak of sour-cream and butter were a nice warm homey dish amongst all the party dishes.

And Caro worked for DAYS on the boxes and bags and platters of Christmas Sweets for sharing out---of those, moire non. 

Dates wrapped in Bacon



Sunday, December 14, 2014

TWINKLES AND TRUFFLES



Busy getting ready for our tea party at five---the scent of toasting pecans from upstairs and the prospect of six ladies coming in laughing from the cold, all bright sweaters and holly pins on coats.   It’s our annual Christmas Tea Party, with dear close friends, and I wish you could sit at this happy table.

All things bright and sweet to you all,

Rachel and Caro

Thursday, December 11, 2014

ELLA MAE AND HER DAD-DEE






We had the privilege to see and hear Elvis sing this song in one of his last performances.  It was close to the finale, and the energy and emotions in that huge auditorium were simply electric.  We’d stood in the sweat and the tears and whatever else was in that mystical atmosphere which drew you in and made you part of that great aura which surrounded such a presence.   We sang our hearts out, building up to the finish, when Elvis landed on one knee with his hand outstretched to an enormous spotlighted flag unscrolling on one wall.   What a Moment, and what a Memory, to be a part of such a bit of music history.

And he would have just LOVED little Ella Mae.

Sometimes something so sweet and so dear will come along and just capture your heart.  She’s charming and precious; her daddy rocks a dorky hat.  He adores and is adored by his sweet baby girl---what’s not to like?.

 I’ve enjoyed watching this many times, and though she must be a young lady of more-than-three by now, I still want to believe she must be out there somewhere, riding around, singing along with Ebbis and her Dad-DEE. 

  A Christmas Present from me to you.