Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Agony and the Ecstasy of the Christmas Meal!

 Christmas Day, so full of laughter, music, shared stories, gift giving and joy!  Besides spending the day with friends and family, what else makes this holiday so special….the food of course!  It seems that the food served on Christmas is more scrumptious and mouthwatering than any other day. The tastiest of tasty treats that were hidden away, come out of the ovens and refrigerators to be presented on this day.

Being someone who loves to cook, it is always a pleasure when another cook asks of what the Holiday meal will consist. As the big day grows closer, ideas pop into my head, and I quickly jot them down. Once I have a basic idea of how the table will be set (and yes, the linen and dishes that are used on this day are just as important as the meal that lays on them) and which direction I want my meal to go, I then call my sister-in-law to begin the finalizing of menus. My sister-in-law, Lisa, is an amazing cook. Through the last eighteen years, she and I have planned, prepared and served more meals together then the sky has stars. So even when we will not be sharing a meal, I still turn to her, as my menu collaborator.
First you must think of the day. My husband and I will be the first to rise. The others, being adults, will take their time getting out of bed and then amble their way to the kitchen and living room. A breakfast buffet will await them on the dining table and then into the living room to open gifts. So, as you can see, you need a breakfast that is yummy and filling, but it needs to shine just as much as the gifts.
After much deliberation back and forth and the chat with Lisa, I began the Christmas Breakfast list.
A batch of creamy homemade hot chocolate for warmth, while a punchbowl of chilled, cranberry and orange juices sparkle with a bit of champagne for cheeriness.
My husband makes the fluffiest eggs; he will be in charge of the scrambled eggs and cheese.
Buttered and broiled bagels will be served with cream cheese, capers, thinly sliced tomatoes, chopped red onion, Dutch smoked salmon (known as Lox to us) and a bit of black caviar for topping.
To bring a bit of Hanukkah into the picture, freshly made potato latkes served hot and crisp with a side of applesauce or sour cream, depending on which way your tastes may venture.
A crockpot of lobster meat warmed in salted butter and served in little porcelain ramekins for that special, festive touch.
The last item, which is a breakfast buffet must, is the French toast. This has been prepared the night before with eggs, heavy cream, maple syrup, and cinnamon, and then popped into the oven for 45 minutes before serving and filling the house with the most amazing aromas.
After the presents are opened, and all are settling in their chairs to digest and converse, I will put the gorgeous, koshered goose in the oven so that we may begin eating again in four hours. It seems that everyone I spoke to is either having a baked ham or rib roast, both wonderful choices, but this year, I wanted something different.
Once I have changed the table linens and reset the table for Christmas dinner we will begin our feast with ….
Deeply fried to a golden, brown, oysters that have been specially ordered for this special dinner.
A light but refreshing chopped salad with a sweet Vidalia onion dressing and a hint of dried cranberries and fontina cheese always gives a vibrant mix.
The proud goose, cooked with garlic and herb butter gently rubbed under his skin so that he is crispy on the outside but ever so tender on the inside. Sorry Paul, I made need to date this goose.
A simple stuffing and cranberry sauce will be placed tableside to compliment the bird.
My son’s favorite dish, which I stole the recipe from one of our favorite restaurants, which is potato gnocchi swimming in a mushroom, spinach Alfredo sauce. Yum!
The only thing missing is the vegetable, which after much thought and discussion with Lisa shall be peas sautéed in butter with olive oil and then seasoned to perfection.
To end the meal, I have chosen a pumpkin swirl cheesecake plus a brown butter, peach and blueberry tart and a large batch of hot, buttered rum!
Throughout the day, the Christmas cookies will available along with the Hershey kiss and mini nutter butter acorns, that truthfully are a pain in the neck to make, but I shall serve them to make my son completely happy.
So Eat Hearty, Laugh Often, and Enjoy!

p.s. I feel like Paula Dean with all the butter!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ahh Yes, Hand Gestures!

Have you ever noticed that during a conversation either you or the person speaking to you will manage to use their hands for descriptive use? Many people find that gesticulating with their hands helps to further their point.

It is true, that before humankind ever learned the art of vocalizing and we relied on our body language for communication. What is funny though is that even after billions and billions of years, we still find it necessary to enhance any language with movement.

 Many of these gestures reflect good intentions, for instance,
 the “OK” sign,  the thumb and forefinger hook together
 while keeping the hand straight  or crossed fingers, 
 which means “good luck.” Holding your thumb up  refers
 to “good job” or  agreement. A salute pays respect
 as does a handshake or even a wave.
In prayer, we hold our hands straight up, palms and fingers together, which when paired with a slight bow and the word “Namaste” is a
common greeting for the Hindus of South Asia.
Knocking on wood for those of us who are
superstitious is believed to keep evil tidings
away. The Vulcan salute, for all those
Star Trek fans, consists of holding the
hand straight up, palm facing out and creating a gap between the middle and ring finger while holding the thumb off to the side. This harder gesture means
“Go forth and  prosper."
We also have the signals that aren’t as well intentioned as those above. The loser sign which is formed by creating an “L” with the thumb and forefinger and holding it to your forehead. The finger gun, I bet you can figure this one out, tends to mean boredom. How about when you hold your hand straight up in front of you, palm facing out, and fingers straight? This hand signal usually means “Talk to the hand because the ears aren’t listening.”
Then of course, there is "The Finger," which is just holding the middle finger straight up at your intended subject and has not such a nice meaning. This symbol is most commonly used in the state of Massachusetts and known as “The Massachusetts Hello.”

Whatever the gesticulations may be keep an eye out for them during your everyday conversations. It is interesting to see how many people need to use their hands while communicating.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Fountainhead vs The Fountainhead

I am in the process of reading “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand (whom I love) and thought it would be nice if I watched the movie as well. Big mistake!
Ayn Rand’s book centers on, Harold Rourk, a man of strong character, who believes that one must live by his own artistic ideas and beliefs. In a world that change and modernization are always moving forward, he finds himself stuck amongst a civilization that believes architecture should continuously represent the past.
Shunned by all that see his designs as modernistic and appalling, Rourk chooses to forgo all traditions and pursue his dream alone and in obscurity. Harold Rourk’s beliefs represent the struggle between individualism and collectivism, making the story the embodiment of humankind.
I love this book and find it very tough to put down. The movie, although scripted by Ayn Rand, has much to be desired. Produced in 1949 and directed by the great King Vidor “The Fountainhead” stays true to the story. Thanks to Ms. Rand who insisted that the screenplay remain exactly as she wrote it. The problem with the movie is the acting. Gary Cooper, whom I have always admired as an actor, plays Howard Rourk quite decently but the fabulous Patricia Neal who plays Dominique Francon (Rourk’s one true love) is absolutely horrendous. Dominique is a vibrant, pillar of strength. Patricia Neal spends most of the movie looking terrified and beaten.

Very disappointing to watch. I believe that someone from one of those bored movie studios should consider remaking this movie and show it for what it should be, Great!