Greeley's Rancho Arcana
Part 4 of 6
Pass the Turkey, Pass the Peas, Please
|Other people's Christmas dinner table|
There is one thing that doesn't change when it comes to Christmas, whether it's 1860, 1960, or 2060. We all know that there's nothing like having everyone under one roof for a formal family dinner. Especially Christmas dinner.
Everyone has one or two things about Christmas that commands most of their attention. For children, it's all about toys and Santa Claus. For grown-ups, the choices are a little broader: Some look forward to sitting on the couch and watching the game. Some look forward to resting far away from the noise, then popping up every now and then to join the party. Some like the shopping experience. A few like to decorate. Most everyone likes to eat.
|Our Christmas dinner table|
Usually, there's one--and only one, as there's seldom room for two--who loves doing the cooking for everyone. For these people, the sit-down dinner is the centerpiece of the holiday. These are often the same people who live for the opportunity to help plan other people's weddings. They are the true keepers of tradition.
For these people, the privilege of cooking for others is an expression of love, and they often rely on recipes, utensils, and table settings handed down from one generation to the next. Sometimes there are stories about a particular entree that one grandmother or another cooked every year.
This kind of dinner table is a special place. It's often the only one where those who long ago excused themselves still find opportunity to share their affections. The menu may change somewhat, and the faces, too, but the quality and care put into the food, settings, and service does not.
This kind of dinner table is also not unique to the Christmas holiday. Every culture has at least one day that centers around a feast, and in putting the feast together, honors in some small tangential way the memory of those who have gone before us.
That says something about us all that I find cheering and prescriptive, and it is something I try to keep in mind when I read the newspapers. It would probably be a fine thing if everyone, everywhere, had a sturdy dinner table, something to put on it, and people to invite over.
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Below are a few samples of our family's tried-and-true holiday recipes, developed over the years and served by some very interesting people. Enjoy.
Turkey Palmolive (Hole-In-One Turkey)
The finishing touches for this dish should be applied while guests are entertained in another room.
-- Prepare and cook one 20 lb turkey to an internal temperature of 180 degrees, approximately 6 hours.
-- Carefully remove turkey and pan from oven using thin and ineffective pot holders.
-- Lob turkey and pan onto tile counter next to sink full of soapy water.
-- Remove turkey from sink and return to oven for an additional 30 minutes.
Cranberry Relish Zapruder
Consider this elegant side dish if you want to make a good first impression on a potential son or daughter-in-law. Presentation is key.
1 can cranberry sauce
2 cans cranberry whole
8 oz plain yogurt
1 engineer, Phd.
Use one engineer, seasoned and lightly warmed, to perform the following tasks:
-- Mix canned cranberry sauce and yogurt in blender for 30 seconds or until lightly whipped.
-- Add one can whole cranberries to blender at once. Jam blender. Leave motor engaged.
-- Open the top, peer in, explain what's happening, and attempt to unjam blender with fork. Note! Do not attempt this maneuver yourself. Use only the services of a qualified engineer.
-- Scrape mixture from head and ceiling and try again, adding fewer whole cranberries at a time.
Barbara Ann Biscuits
This dish demonstrates that you use only the finest products for the holiday meal. Your guests will be impressed.
-- Obtain one package of Barbara Ann brown-n-serve biscuits.
-- Set entire package on lightly greased tray in oven for 10 minutes.
-- Remove package, peel off melted plastic wrapper, and return to oven for additional 10 minutes, or until the words "Barbara Ann" appear in high relief against brown biscuits.
Vegetarians may substitute Tater-Tots for Spam.
1 large block Velveeta
1 tin Spam
1 cup white vinegar
1 quart corn oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
White onion, large and sliced thick.
-- Pour white vinegar into water glass. Set aside.
-- Heat oil in pot. Scrape gelatin off Spam and dice into cubes.
-- Fry diced cubes of Spam until crunchy on outside and set aside on paper towels to drain.
-- Fry onion slices until limp. Set slices aside on paper towels to drain, then dice.
-- Pour off oil behind house, keeping about 3 tbl in crock.
-- Add block of Velveeta to pot and heat on low until melted. Add diced onion and a dash of vinegar from drinking glass.
-- Spear fried Spam and dip into Velveeta. Salt and pepper lightly.
-- Chew over sink. Expel.
-- Grab water glass and rinse mouth with white vinegar. Expel vigorously toward guests.
-- Toss Spam and pot out service porch door.
Variation for colder climes:
-- Heat oil in pot
-- Go watch game on TV.
-- When house fills with dense black smoke, oil is ready.
-- Put lid on flames. Toss pot outside in deep snow. Leave until spring.
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Below are two advertised dessert dishes from long ago:
7Up Date Nut Loaf
"You'll find that this one is simply delicious--and as simple as it is delicious..."
1 cup chopped dates
1 seven ounce bottle of 7up
1 teaspoon baking soda
-- Bring dates and 7Up to a boil. Add baking soda and set aside to cool.
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
-- Beat very well, pour into loaf pan (5x9x3).
-- Bake one hour in a 350 degree oven.
-- Remove from oven when done. Allow to cool and deliver to your constipated neighbors.
7Up Angel Food Cake
"Never before have you had a cake so light, so airy, so high, and with such a delightful flavor..."
Follow the directions on the package of angel food cake mix. Substitute room temperature 7up for water when moistening the egg whites.
Great for office holiday party guessing games.
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There's an old adage: A fine dinner leaves one remembering the company at the table, not the food.
True enough. There are some people, long gone now, whom I'd love to share these kinds of dishes with once again. I don't think I'd care too much if the turkey tasted a little funny.
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WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE YOUR DINNER STORY?
You probably have a special dish or two that appeared on the table once. If you're interested in sharing one of your special recipes with visitors to Greeley's Rancho Arcana, please email your submission with "holiday recipes" in the subject line. Please also add your name and where you're from (ex: "Janet from Reno"). Remember, you don't have to use your real name. You can follow the format above or just provide the recipe and add some background details, like who made it, or where they learned it, how it was received by guests, unusual methods of presentation, or anything else you think is interesting about the dish. We'll take the best submissions and present it to the world in an appropriate fashion. Be sure to review the email submission rules on the contact page.
To the top of the roof! To the top of the wall!
To the top of Part 5 of 6.
Do You Hear What I Hear? It's Andy Williams! Just in time for the holidays...