Best wishes to all today as I drop my cynicism for a nanosecond. Xmas arrived on a predictably bleak and depressing Toronto day with unbroken cloud cover and piles of dirty snow all over the place. I awoke…muttered at my folks and proceeded to down several cups of coffee and brave the lovely outdoors to have a few drags – all in order to get myself into a civilized state. After this ritual I was able to wish a Merry Xmas to anyone within earshot. My cell, at this point, had scads of text messages from well-meaning folks who seem unaware of the great quicksand field that is mobile roaming. It must be the exuberance of the season that people would assume I would be awake at 8am to get their expressions of holiday cheer. By this time it was around 11am Toronto time the phone and Skype calls started and i got to chat with Peter Police and Omar..which was fine despite my aversion to telephones…both calls were under 3 minutes. Then it dawned on me that I had been elected to do dinner and I had food to deal with so downstairs to the kitchen I went.
Somewhere along my trip to the kitchen I learnt that my brother was sleeping in the basement and that all was not well in married town…a cook cannot be daunted by such distractions. I proceeded to appraise the Australian lamb leg, the ham and other items with a gimlet eye. Given that it would most likely be only 4 of us eating and Mum is basically a vegetarian the quantity of flesh seemed a bit excessive but I formulated my plan of action and moved to the next step. This would normally be assembling the ingredients but it turned out my next step was realizing that my cooking gene does not come from my mother. There was a paucity of what i consider basics and enough counter space to possibly fold a small napkin on but little else. My quick assessment of the fridge and the pantry revealed: no garlic, no rosemary, no balsamic, no cream, no onions, no shallots, no chives, no balsamic, no cilantro..well..you get the picture. So, like an actor who has had his script blown away when someone opened the stage door…I improvised. I had left a few strange things behind from my last visit so the lamb leg was eventually scored and rubbed with olive oil, pickled sushi ginger, mint leaves and dijon. Don’t knock it…it worked quite well thank you. The ham got a bath in dark soy, diet coke and sugar. Mum volunteered that the neighbour had left two organic acorn squash with her when she went on vacation so those were split, seeded, brushed with olive oil and placed in the oven to caramelize. There wasn’t a fresh vegetable in the house and with Mum consoling me by telling me that frozen veg has the same nutritional value or better than fresh I was only able to gently mutter “but the texture sucks”. I settled on her frozen cauliflower figuring if I under cooked it slightly and bathed it in a cheese sauce it might be passable. There was a brief moment when I asked for a cheese grater and one could not be located that Mum fled upstairs in tears..but I was able to deal with that by pointing out that with our family… a missing cheese grater was the least of our worries. Thank god I didn’t ask her for a nutmeg grater! The potatoes available were small Yukon Gold so mashing was out of the question…so I boiled the suckers…then split them, tossed them in olive oil, sprinkled some ( shudder) dried parsley on them tossed them in the oven to brown. The caramelized squash was mashed with butter. All in all not my best work but given the resources it came out rather well.
Vic eventually emerged looking forlorn made a few cell calls and sat around until he announced that the kids were being readied and would be here by 6pm. This quite naturally caused a general panic since Quinlan at least can be a handful and my nerves and kids are not good flatmates. So as he drove off to collect his progeny the remaining three of us quickly chowed down aware that eating with two kids running around made a family dinner impossible. It was a good plan because he eventually returned with the kids and the rest is a blur to me. I had an instant headache and consumed a goodly portion of wine and cigarettes on the porch just to stay sane. There was wrapping paper everywhere, lots of demanding and a general lack of the peace and quiet that fuels my life. By the end of it Mum, Karl and I barely escaped with our lives and higher brain functions intact.
What was good about today? A few things that I am grateful for.
I heard from people I truly care about.
Bruce called this evening from Yarmouth fresh from his trip to St. Martin.
I heard Mum on the phone to about 5 people saying my iPhoto hardcover book was the best present she ever got.
One shop was open on Bloor Street today and I got Diet Coke.
I spoke to the office and it was like ET calling home because I got Giselle.
I lived to tell about it.
There was no plethora of gifts today as Mum is too busy dealing with Karl ‘s health problems and Victor’s ongoing drama and Karl is basically blind and cannot move around very well since his toe amputation…that was fine with me…I am really not into gifts at this stage of my life.
A few random thoughts now. Thank goodness for Skype. I miss my alternative family of Alvin, Binky, Peter, Naz, Peter Police and Robin a lot. I am really glad I don’t have to deal with Toronto winters. Who knew that Omar would develop a fondness for D&G underwear? I am now on facebook.com but is it just me or is seeing that my new gal pal Astrid has been “Super poking” sound just a little bit off colour? It is probably just me.
Merry Xmas to all and to all a good night.