said the Grill-Meister as he fired up the outdoor burner to cook bacon in 5° weather.
It was also snowing.
We don’t cook bacon inside because our tiny cabin will retain the smell for days. That marvelous aroma that warms your cockles when it’s freshly cooked and ready to eat becomes your worst enemy later, don’t you think? The Grill-Meister was definitely “taking one for the team” when he fried up the bacon on the snowy porch.
Simple food tastes really great in the mountains: scrambled eggs with peppers and sausage, bacon and drop biscuits were a New Year’s breakfast fit for royalty.
On a recent trip business trip to Europe, I was startled awake by the alarm song on my iPad. It was Love Shack by the B-52s – a personal favorite – but not a great way to wake up when you are feeling like a 55-gallon drum full of jet-lagged sludge. Ay-eee!!!
Must. Pick. Different. Song.
Must. Ease. Into. Wakedness.
So the next night, I remembered to choose a new wake-up tune right as I went to bed. Being lazy – or still jet-lagged – I quickly started scrolling through the default sort of songs by title. I don’t have that much music on my iPad (unlike the 6K+ songs on my computer’s iTunes). I’m not even really sure how the music got onto my iPad, actually. I was in a hurry to pick a song and go to sleep, but none of the first few I scrolled past in the A’s were appropriate for a gentle, jet-lag respectful wakeup.
Africa by Toto? Nope. Too 80s. Might be tempted to make my hair big.
Ain’t Anyone Here for Love (from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) by Marilyn Monroe and Rosalyn Russell? Wrong subject matter, although I did consider it briefly, because that scene is set in Paris, and Paris is where I was.
Akobi: First Born S(u)n by Somi? Lovely, but no. I’d be tempted to stay in my hotel room and listen to the album.
All of Me by Tchavolo Schmitt (“gypsy jazz guitarist)? Nope, too upbeat, although Tchavolo is Parisian…I was really tempted but it could be as jarring as Love Shack if I was mid-dream.
All by Myself by Eric Carmen? Too depressing; my limbs would feel numb and I’d never be able to climb out of the jet lag pit.
Ally Ally Oxen Free by The Kingston Trio? Yes, that’s it! I hadn’t heard that song for quite a while, since my days by the water, growing up at my parents’ house, but I knew it would have just the right tone and tempo to get me out of bed, happy to face the day.
I got more than I bargained for.
Ally Ally Oxen Free was a perfect wake-up song. The sound of it made me happy. It made me thoughtful. It made me get out of bed and walk across the room to replay it and listen again. It woke me up every morning after that on an 11-day, 3-country trip, and stayed in my head for days. I had either forgotten or was too young or distracted to remember that it was a (peaceful) protest song.
It is incredibly timely. Incredibly.
Ally Ally Oxen Free (McKuen / Yates)
Time to let the rain fall without the help of man Time to let the trees grow tall, now, if they only can Time to let our children, live in a land that’s free Ally, ally, ally, ally, oxen free (Ally, ally, ally, ally, oxen free)
Time to blow the smoke away, look at the sky again Time to let our friends know we’d like to begin again Time to send a message across the land and sea Ally, ally, ally, ally, oxen free (Ally, ally, ally, ally, oxen free)
Strong and weak, mild and meek, no more hide and seek
Time to see the fairness of a children’s game Time for men to stop and learn to do the same Time to make our minds up if the world at last will be Ally, ally, ally, ally, oxen free (Ally, ally, ally, ally, oxen free)
This is not a political blog, but one has only to breathe the air in an any major city, read the reports about plastic particles in the ocean to, or look at the violence and anger in every day’s news reports from every country to know that something needs to change. A lot of things.
Sounds good to me, but also a little worrisome: are we behind the 8-ball at Glover Gardens because our pomegranate tree didn’t produce any edible fruit this year??? It was a sorry excuse for a fruit-bearing tree. Maybe next year…
Back to the topic at hand…I’ve always been interested in other folks’ New Year’s food traditions, and grew up with some pretty strong ones. There was a firm protocol in our family: blacked-eyed peas on New Year’s Day were a must for good luck. I have to confess: I don’t really like them and have sometimes just tossed a few into my mouth like aspirin and washed them down with champagne. (I’m not sorry!!!) This may sound ridiculous, but I’ll have a vague, uneasy feeling that things won’t go well throughout the year if I skip the black-eyeds on New Year’s. It’s a thing. In fact, my Dad used to call me every New Year’s to ask if I’d had mine… I miss that.
If you read the article above from Food52, you’ll note that I’m not the only one who’s superstitious about luck and New Year’s culinary choices; almost all of the traditional foods from around the world are associated with good fortune.
Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s is very southern (my Dad was from Sweetwater, TX, so we came by it naturally), and an accompaniment is often cornbread. Now cornbread, I can handle, especially if it’s Mary’s Magical Mexican Cornbread, which I “borrowed” from a friend and posted here last year. So yummy! And in addition to being a traditional “good luck” food, its meaty center makes it a great main dish for a hearty New Year’s brunch (whether or not you have a ‘morning after’ thing going on). Check out the recipe here if you’re looking for an easy winner for New Year’s Day. (And thanks again, Mary!)
Happy New Year! What are your culinary traditions for ringing out the old year and ringing in the new?
Glover Gardens Christmas festivities over the holidays have kept my blogging time to less than zero. That’s fine with me because we had a great time with friends and family, and I didn’t want to spend a moment of it on the computer. Maybe next year I’ll be more organized and set up a bunch of posts ahead of time…maybe. For 2018, this one post is a great big a roundup of our holiday week.
There was food! The Girl Who is Always Hungry (our daughter-in-law, married to The Best Eater) brought us 5.5 lbs. of homemade cookies. Can you believe it? That’s her below snapping pics of the bounty she provided.
The cookie-making and decorating effort took The Girl Who is Always Hungry a whole weekend in mid-December and the resulting sweet treasures made many folks happy. Here’s a quick video she took during the process that shows the extent of her holiday baking adventures.
There was cooking at Glover Gardens, too, although not much of it was photographed. A huge victory for me was finally getting precise on the family dressing recipe that evolved over years and years (and I do mean years and years) in my family. Folks, it is HARD to precisely document a three-generation family recipe! There’s a back story, but it will have to wait until the 2019 holiday season when I post the recipe. I’m eternally grateful to my Sister-in-Love for helping me out with the recipe documentation, tasting and amount-deciding. That’s her below tearing up the stale bread for the dressing.
Our first big night together for the 2018 Christmas Extravaganza included a baked potato bar with all the regular toppings plus The Grill-Meister’s smoked chicken and pulled pork made by the Musical Millennial in a crock pot. There aren’t any pictures except for the deboning of the smoked chicken. It’s a messy job!
We had multiple multi-generational events, including an Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest. While the contestants ranged from 19 to early 70s, the panel of judges included two in their late 80s. Oh, what fun it was.
The Grill-Meister brought home the first-place Ugly Christmas Sweater prize! I promise, the judging was impartial, no votes were not counted, and I wasn’t on the election committee! That’s The Grill-Meister below on the right posing in his award-winning Christmas tree sweater/costume with the 2nd place winner, His Grinchiness.
The winners posed for photos with their adoring spouses.
Millennials had loads of fun taking pics.
All in all, an Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest is a beautiful thing. And fun!!!
Traditional Christmas Eve happenings were a plethora of appetizers and our big stocking reveal, hosted by the Grill-Meister’s parents, transplants from Washington State who now live just 3 minutes away. Mom-in-law is actually from Germany, which influences their Christmas Eve menu. There is always a variety of imported meats and cheeses and potato salad, which I learned was a German / Eastern European thing.
Christmas Day brought a gaggle of gifts, more cooking and more eating.
Food-wise, here was a very safely-done, very successfully-done deep-fried turkey. The method is great, the turkey was moist, and next year’s holiday posts will tell you EXACTLY how The Grill-Meister and The Best Eater did it.
There was also the ubiquitous green bean casserole, made by my niece. I’m a self-admitted food snob and won’t make something from the back of a can, although not so much of a snob that I didn’t eat any! She did a great job; I actually liked it. The green bean-to-goo ratio was higher than the standard recipe calls for, and it made a difference.
There was a lot more food that we didn’t photograph, but my niece got a great shot of her meal. And yes, if you’re wondering, I served Christmas dinner on paper plates – and I’m not sorry! They were festive red and large, and looked great alongside my grandmother’s silver cutlery. The peppermint stick place cards were made by my Aunt-Mom and me just a day after she got out of the hospital after abdominal surgery. She’s a quick healer and a whiz with a glue gun.
All through the week, at these events and others, the biggest gift was love, so much love; many, many special moments and connections between two or more of us…some shared and some private, some in remembrance of those whose stockings will never hang over the mantel again, some in joyful gratitude that we have each other right now.
Wishing you all the continued happiness of the season as we march toward the new year, the Gang from Glover Gardens.
Road trip time! Halfway between Glover Gardens and Little House in the Rockies lies the west Texas town of Amarillo. I’ve never done much there but sleep during our overnight stops, but its holiday vibe charmed me from my hotel window on Thursday night, and again in a different way on Friday morning. It was haiku-worthy.
at night all sparkly Amarillo by morning was muted by snow
London’s Hyde Park has multiple personalities, and that’s a good thing.
During the holidays, there’s the excited frenzy of families enjoying Winter Wonderland. It is all that if you’re into that kind of thing – and lots of folks are, let me tell you. Hordes. Masses. Gleeful sticky-faced children clamoring for that next ride on the Ferris wheel or another hot chocolate, serious shoppers searching for treasures at the Christmas Market, ice skaters at every skill level gliding around and around the rink. It’s an experience.
But Hyde Park is a big, big place. If neon, joyful shrieks of small children and hot dog vendors aren’t your thing, you can ease on over to the other side of the Serpentine and take a quiet walk along its banks.
That’s what I did.
That’s what the waterfowl did, too.
There were others, but only a few.
It was lovely.
Those Brits are smart, with their multiple-personality parks. There’s something for everyone, even the birds.
This photo I took in London last week reminds me of the lyrics of Silver Bells. I could feel the Christmas classic’s rhythm in the busy sidewalks, hustle and bustle, and general air of festivity and expectation as folks hurried on their way in the December dusk of this great city.
Silver Bells, by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
Silver bells, silver bells It’s Christmas time in the city Ring-a-ling, (ring-a-ling) hear them ring (ting-a-ling) Soon it will be Christmas day
City sidewalks, busy sidewalks Dressed in holiday style In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas Children laughing, people passing Meeting smile after smile And on every street corner you hear
Silver bells, (silver bells) silver bells (silver bells) It’s Christmas time in the city Ring-a-ling, (ring-a-ling) Hear them ring, (hear them ring) Soon it will be Christmas day
Strings of street lights, even stoplights Blinkin’ bright red and green As the shoppers rush home with their treasures Hear the snow crunch, see the kids bunch This is Santa’s big day And above all this bustle you hear
And in memory of my Dad, who would probably be listening to this right now while drinking his coffee and reading the paper if he were still with us, here’s the iconic recording of that ubiquitous holiday song by Bing Crosby. Perhaps Dad and Bing are harmonizing on it in heaven.