[ UPDATE: Enzo, our Himalayan fur ball of a cat, made off with Lyndon Johnson. We think LBJ is under the sofa. ]
Before the indentured servants unscrew the reusable Christmas tree and place it in its box, the Stately Manor hopes you enjoyed a very merry Christmas.
Every family has its Christmas traditions. We are put in mind of Clark Griswold, trapped in the attic, watching silent Super 8 movies from his youth, while that soulful Ray Charles song plays in the background. Welcoming unexpected Cousin Eddy is the Blaska equivalent of the Passover Jews leaving the door ajar for the prophet Elijah.
Vicki and Roger are coming over tomorrow but it was just the three of us for Christmas Day.
Having heard that good little children leave Santa a treat, the young apprentice Squire asked his mother if we should put out milk and cookies to sustain him on his arduous journey. Mother replied that Santa preferred beer.
“What kind of beer did Santa drink?”
“Schlitz,” mother replied.
“The same kind that dad likes!” the boy marveled.
All these many years later, it is customary for the Lovely Lisa to serve salmon patties with peas & onions for Christmas Eve supper (it’s Polish) before she heads with son Max to Christ Presbyterian Church on the near East side.
Presents must wait until Christmas morning. The Squire received Ron Chernow’s bio of U.S. Grant, who crushed Bobby Lee as general and the KKK as president. The Old Guy also received two baseball caps: one with the Moto Guzzi logo from the Lovely Lisa and a “Make America Sane Again” cap from renegade brother Richard in San Francisco, who also donated some smoke-free Sonoma wines. Richard always calls on major holidays; this year he Skyped to insist that Governor Moonbeam is doing a wonderful job. We love you anyway.
In between bouts of Hallmark channel treacle, the Lovely Lisa decorated Stately Blaska Manor with her collection of Santas and an old-fashioned creche. Arriving like magi came many past U.S. Presidents to oversee the pile of presents.
One other tradition is altered; for years Brother Mike-boy and Peg invited us over to their manor in Grandma’s Woods for ham, scalloped potatoes, chocolate martinis, and politics. They’ve now moved to New York City to be with their daughter Amanda and family, so they invited us to dine out at Doolittle’s at East Towne with my nephew Jared and the lovely Shannon, where the conversation centered around Medicare and Tammy Baldwin.
Politics is the Blaska curse. Number One Son gifted The Old Guy with a book co-written by one Alec Baldwin called “You can’t spell America without ME.” Sorry, son, but this one is headed for a re-gifting for certain.
Santa left the Lovely Lisa a dazzling, iridescent red Harley Davidson cocktail jacket and, to Number One Son, a 13-inch Apple MacBook Air.
The Squire himself prepared the Christmas beast, a five-pound rib roast rubbed with a concoction of ground coffee, parsley flakes, some kind of commercial woodsmoke granules, various peppers, sea salt, and a bunch of who-knows-what-else. This was worked into a drizzle of agave syrup and then set on convection roast.
Can’t beat a packet of potato flakes for ease or taste, just add water. (But we substitute a like amount of half-and-half cream.) Beef gravy from a jar and Lisa’s green bean (canned, never frozen) and mushroom soup casserole, topped off with a can of onion rings. A 1950s church basement Midwest treat!
After two hours, Chef David placed the roast beast on the high rack, switched to broil, and jacked up the heat to an even 500 F. Smoke poured out of the range vent like a Vatican chimney. The powerful range hood sucked it out to the great outdoors. We Have a Roast. That gave the top of the meat a nice black char. Probably could have done with 10 minutes of this mistreatment instead of 15. The fire obliterated the agave rub but, not to worry, the German-Bohemian chef had slathered the concoction all over the loaf of meat so it could be tasted once on the table.
Despite reading the instructions, the sometimes cook had set the roasting temperature for the same temperature set for the meat probe, which was 150 degrees F for medium rare. (The Lovely tried to tell me.) Should have set the oven at 300, so a session on a frying pan took the red down to pink. Who knows, maybe improved the taste. The verdict was unanimous: Another win for the home team.
A reasonably priced champagne (brut) disappeared during the one-man cook-off; the Lovely Lisa sipped her Harvey’s Bristol Creme. For music, the Squire is drifting toward jazz; Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas is as light and refreshing as the champagne. Saw it when it first aired in 1965 (!), about 10 years after the Schlitz Christmas.
Number One Son broke out the board games, which we seem only to play this time of year (we got a closet full). He chose Tri-ominoes (essentially, triangular dominoes). Your Humble Bloggeur need not tell you who, once again this year, is undefeated and still champion. No, we’re not tired of winning, either.