If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Mis-Adventures in Feast Preparing

How is it that I got to be "The Grandmother" whose house everybody comes over the river and through the woods to see on the holiday?  Wasn't it just the day before yesterday I was the young girl flipping around and grumping because we had to get all our work done so we could go to MY grandmother's house over the river and through the woods.  Because I'm sure it was JUST yesterday that I was forcing my own children to get all their chores done so we could go to my mother's house over the river and through the woods.  How did this happen?  How come I didn't get that "grandmother" training where all the food comes out tasting like Martha or Ina prepared it and looking like Norman Rockwell painted it?  How on earth did those ancestors get everything prepared and done at the same time?  When did they sweep the dust bunnies up off the floor?  When did they swish the layer of dust off the furniture?  When did they scrub the toilets and wipe the water spots and toothpaste off the bathroom sinks?  How is it that they were still standing upright and smiling when we arrived and not bent over, aching, and frowning and cursing as they realized they hadn't prepared something?  Why didn't somebody give me THAT training?

Our children are coming to celebrate Christmas and exchange gifts and eat the feast I'm preparing tomorrow.  We're having two types of ham, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, corn, green beans, rolls, desserts and cranberry salad.  (Well, at least that is what I've got planned!  Right now we might just have hams, a loaf of sour dough bread from the grocery, and cranberry salad while we sit on the unswept floor and try not to disturb the protective layer of dust on the furniture.)

When the holidays roll around, some foods are just...expected.  Cranberries at Christmas and Thanksgiving are expected.  I'm glad because I like cranberries at any time of the year - and especially at these holiday feasts!  One of my favorite dishes from childhood is a congealed salad my mother made with cranberry sauce.  Here is my mis-adventure at trying to recapture that delicacy:

  • Gather your ingredients.
  • Mumble a few curses under your breath because nobody on earth will know or care except you and Toby because you are the only two around and Toby won't tell anybody.  The curses are mumbled when you realize that you accidentally picked up jellied cranberry sauce instead of whole cranberry sauce and because you got cherry gelatin instead of black cherry gelatin.  You are determined to make this work.  So, you don't go back to the store but just persevere!
  • Following the directions on the gelatin, boil two cups of water in a microwavable mixing bowl.
  • While this is zapping, open the crushed pineapple and whole cranberry sauce jellied sauce and mumble a few more curses.
  • Mix the pineapple and sauce together smushing the lumpy sauce against the side and bottom of a beautiful glass bowl to get rid of those lumps.

  • Carefully remove the boiling water from the microwave because if you slosh it and it spills on your toes, you will have to loudly mumble curse words and Toby will run over to make sure you are alright and look at you like you are crazy.
  • Mix the gelatin into the boiling water completely.
  • Sprinkle the chopped pecans atop the pineapple/lumpy cranberry sauce mix and mash your lips together because you keep thinking that it would be so much better with the whole cranberries in it.
  • Suddenly feel all warm and genius-like because you have a brilliant idea - dried cranberries!
  • Drop a handful, or two, or three...Oh, what the heck!  Drop a good four handfuls into the hot gelatin liquid and let them sit for a minute while you wipe up the splatters of stickiness that you caused.

  • Go ahead and wet a paper towel and wipe it up off the floor, too, because if you don't you will be cursing later at the sticky spot.  While you are wiping the counter and before you get to the floor you will notice that SOMEBODY has already spilled something else and there is a trail of drippiness going down the side of the cabinet and at the base there on the floor.  (Not you, of course.  SOMEBODY else did this because you would never leave a mess like that and forget about it till it dried and looked all yucky to be discovered later and cause somebody else to mumble curses!)  Then, get you another wad of paper towels and scrub the counter and the floor good.

  • Pour the liquid gelatin and softened, dried cranberries into the pineapple/sauce/pecan mixture and give it a good stir.
  • Get more paper towels and clean up the mess you made trying to pour, stir, and take a picture at the same time because you don't have that much coordination and Lord knows you don't want somebody else to come along and find the sticky mess YOU made!
  • Give the whole concoction a good stir and carefully shift the beautiful bowl and mixture over to the fridge so it can begin to 'set up' and get all jelly-like.
  • Leave it in the fridge for about an hour and give it another gentle stir to mix in the pecans that have all floated to the top.  Be careful not to trip over the dog when you get to this step or you might almost tip the entire concoction out onto the floor and mumble more curse words. 
  • Cover with that clear plastic wrap that gets all clingy to itself and you have to stretch and pull and tear the first piece and then mumble curse words as you wad it up and throw it away before you get a nice flat piece stretched across the top of the bowl and tear it off the roll. 
  • Smile to yourself and say, "Now!" to Toby because you feel a sense of accomplishment at having one dish ready for all the family.

*Note:  I stressed that you should put this in a pretty glass bowl.  That is something that my mother and grandmothers taught me in the training to be THE GRANDMOTHER.  Presentation is important.  You eat with your eyes before you do with your mouth.  A colorful food like this adds to the appearance of the table or buffet and everything looks and tastes better in a beautiful bowl!  No southern woman worth her salt would even consider not having something for the holidays served in a beautiful bowl!

*Another Note:  It is easy to forget this dish because it is one of the first you prepared and it gets pushed to the back of the fridge and everything else will be coming off the stove or out of the oven.  So, make yourself a note and post it somewhere that somebody in the family will see and remember to take it out of the fridge before you eat because it is a dish that you and THE GRANDFATHER would get absolutely sick of if you had to eat it - just the two of you.  Yes, this is the voice of experience speaking because I remember my mother and grandmother making just this mistake!  Let's hope I don't tomorrow!

I would advise you to prepare this dish near the beginning of your preparation stages so that you can feel that sense of accomplishment because there are loads of other dishes, lots of cleaning, and gifts to finish wrapping and beribboning and you will feel overwhelmed at all you have to do.  You are going to need that little triumph!  Trust me.  I know.  I am THE GRANDMOTHER now!

Happy Feast Preparation to all you other GRANDMOTHERS! 

(If you would like this recipe in a more concise form, you could just go HERE.)