24 Dec 14
The food preparation’s begun. All is calm.
Shane’s favorite, rutabaga, or “rootamoose” as my mother-in-law used to called it, simmers in chicken broth and diced potatoes. The twice-baked mashed potatoes, dark skins greased butter shiny, wait on a cookie sheet for a preheated oven. Also oven ready, maple drizzled, butternut squash chunks, Craig’s requested favorite. Both are colorful and my favorite side dishes, as well.
Plastic bags filled with dried bread cubes will transform in the crockpot, the stuffing redolent with celery and onions, chicken broth and spices–poultry seasoning, sage, marjoram and thyme.
Generation-to-generation foods will grace the table: the Swedish Korv Doug now buys at Spaars in Buffalo since the homemade links once prepared by his dad passed when he did three years ago, plus Shane’s favorite sill, pickled herring. Both are a Vanstrom legacy, as is the rutabaga. My nod to my roots, a Sicilian cauliflower and black olive gratin will debut.
New recipes became our small family’s tradition eaten on Christmas dinnerware purchased when we moved to Niagara County thirty years ago. Every December first the dishes are resurrected from the back of the kitchen cabinets. This year, Craig is cooking part of the dinner, a brined roasted pheasant. He’d also asked if for the main entree could I make something in individual portions. Fresh Cornish hens with an accompaniment, a wild rice, walnut and broccoli salad, await tomorrow’s preparation.
A traditional backup turkey breast with gravy for step kids and grand-step children who are less food adventurous will also find its place on the overburdened table. Everyone goes home with leftovers.
An assortment of sweets, tiny gourmet desserts were bought from Wegman’s Grocery Store: silver dollar sized cheesecakes topped with blueberries or raspberries and white chocolate mousse fills shot-glass ramekins. No one has room for pies or cake.
Some may view my holiday meal as opulent, overdone, but it’s our last supper, the final Christmas as a self-contained family unit. We are crossing over. Succession looms on our horizon. Next year, my first born, Shane, will be a father. It’s bittersweet, reminiscent of his first bus ride to kindergarten. He never knew I followed him, watched from the parking lot as he went through the white double doors, his bright ginger hair reflecting the sun’s light.
The final laundry loads tumble in the washer and dryer. The wrapped gifts sprawl around and under two Christmas trees, one for the morning exchange with my boys and their girlfriends, the other for the afternoon blended family gathering. The cleared dishes will sit stacked and groaning on every kitchen surface and in the sink. Everyone has some place they need to reach by four o’clock.