Crown roast, cream puffs, and Christmas
I usually refer to myself as a functional disaster. I say this not to be hard on myself, but because its true – I have a good job, I take care of my friends, I make good on promises and obligations, I recycle. I also overcommit, don’t sleep, and routinely leave my mittens on the train. I had to plan Christmas dinner on a flight back from Milan while watching the Wizard of Oz in all its glorious MGM technicolor to drown out the screaming babies.
I never much cared for The Wizard of Oz, but I had already watched The Wolverine and The Lone Ranger, and couldn’t stomach another terrible action movie in the same 7 hour stretch. Dorothy is so not my flavor, even when I was a kid and everyone wanted to be Dorothy for Halloween. If I was in a magical world of munchkins I really wouldn’t be dying to get back to Kansas. I dig the shoes, but in truth I’m really more of a Tin Man.
He’s got moxie, after all. Due to an ill-fated love affair, the Tin Man chopped off all of his own limbs with a wickedly enchanted axe. Undeterred, he replaced each part with tin, which makes him tireless, without need for food or drink, but devoid of internal organs. Without a heart, he cannot love. Yet, for all his lack of aorta, the Tin Man is kind of the emotional hot mess of the team. I mean, he cries over accidentally crushing a bug.
Like the Tin Man, I don’t have a heart. Yeah, I have the necessary muscle tissue that contracts and expands – I’m not like Iron Man or made of pig valves – but I lack a metaphorical heart, the one that spurts butterflies and romance when punctured. I tire periodically, but I have an innate ability to run in 4-inch heels. I don’t need food and water; I can subsist on Twizzlers and coffee for days. I wanted to express the welling of emotion and appreciation for my family but didn’t have time to buy presents, so like the Tin Man, I had a good cry for no real reason and then decided to do my Christmas shopping at the butcher counter.
The good thing is, my family gets it. We’re not into verbally expressing squishy, sentimental I love yous. Not out loud, anyway. The feeling is there though, baked in a pie, like so many proverbial blackbirds. “Hi, are you hungry? Did you eat?” greets you at the door, promptly followed by an outpouring of pot roast, hand-kneaded bread, and an oh-how-convenient-i-just-happened-to-have-a-sponge-cake-and-fresh-berries-here. We argue about the price of lettuce. For my birthday, I ask for butter. Every important conversation happens at the dinner table, though as a stranger in my family, you might need subtitles. We are generations of cooks, bad and good, and this act of giving, of breaking bread, of making the consumable something beautiful, is in itself a language of love.(Fortunately, we are also a family of fast metabolisms).
I rattle and clank; words are awkward and often poor. My jaw gets rusty and I say nothing. But I’ve learned to apologize with a bowl of soup, Say thank you with chocolate salted caramel cupcakes, tell someone I love you with a booze-filled pie. A dinner menu can spell out whole paragraphs of I need you/I care about you/I want to know you better/I’ve missed you/someone please open the bottle of scotch. I make an incredibly seductive Thanksgiving turkey. Incredibly. Seductive. Turkey.
This food is not for survival, but for living. It is for every value I can’t place, every word I can’t say. It makes it possible to go through life tireless and clever, rattling and clanking, polished to a shine. It is a heart of my own making, sawdust filled, but tender.
So even though I didn’t buy presents this year, I obsessed over the December Martha Stewart Living and greeted my family Christmas eve with a crown roast of pork dressed in kumquats and sage, chestnut rye stuffing, kale salad with roasted winter vegetables, and – a trifle of cream puffs, ricotta, and, of course, booze (I didn’t have anisette so I used rum).
As a New Year’s resolution, I’ll try to use my words more, and actually post my new recipes of boozy baked goods and other delicious things I’m stress-feeding people with. In the mean time, Martha’s recipes were good enough to say I love you, thanks for making the trip, I’m happy to see you, and Merry Christmas.
Recipes if you need to copy/paste the link