Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Looking Forward

Even though the turkey legs were a little overdone, as Boxing Day Disasters go 2013 wasn't that bad a year.

I hope it’s not tempting fate to say so but this year I am really looking forward to Christmas. There are several reasons for this happy state of affairs. The first is, that when we had our recent family celebration in Sligo, I had the opportunity to give Christmas gifts to family members who live in far-away places. No stressing about getting things into the post! Another reason is that we have decided not to do the Boxing Day dinner for it had become a serious source of seasonal stress and I had stopped enjoying it. Then, of course there is the fact that our responsibilities have diminished as there is no elderly, bed-ridden, Christmas-hating person and no carers coming in on top of us on our family day.

The following is a throwback post written nearly five years ago. It tells the tale of the worst Boxing Day dinner ever. I still get shivers when I think of it.

It has taken me a while to be able to share this story. I must warn you in advance that it is a very sad story and that you will probably cry. This is the story of Nelly's Boxing Day Dinner Disaster.

My day began at 6am Why so early? I wanted to get a handle on my day and a start made on my enormous 22 pound Black Norfolk Turkey, a gift from Clint.

By 10:30am the turkey was thoroughly cooked, in fact, it was a tad over-cooked. I was a little dismayed but Bert said, never to worry, sliced in gravy, nobody would notice a thing. Still, I was embarrassed to see it sitting there all black skin and singed legs so I got Bert to slice it up and I tucked it away out of sight.

All was under control – desserts ready, most vegetables prepped, a nice pork roast sizzling away in the slow cooker. I just had some stuffing to prepare. At 2pm the pork was succulent and only needed a quick blast in the oven to make the crackling. This was a method I was quite confident about as I'd cooked pork in the slow cooker at least a dozen times.

I put the oven on to high and left it for thirty minutes. To tell the truth, I got involved with other tasks. Suddenly I remembered I needed to put the pork in for a blast of heat so transferred it to a roasting tin. Over to the oven, door open....

Oh dear God! There were my turkey slices, burned, dried out, totally fucked. I was so distraught I dropped the pork whereupon it fell on the floor and disintegrated. See! I said you would cry. I certainly did.

What Happened Next?

I saw Bert coming across the yard carrying a bucket of logs. I ran to the door. I sobbed,

Bert! Come in! Something terrible has happened!

He took one look at my anguished face, dropped the logs and ran in. I believe he thought I had discovered his mother lying dead. Little did he know it was far worse than that.

Then What Happened?

I had hysterics.

Then What Happened?

I stopped crying and went to collect Hannah and her friends. On the way in I started howling again thinking of that noble turkey who had lived and died in vain. I gathered up my guests who. I believe, were rather apprehensive about their evening's entertainment.

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch

Zoe and family arrived and measures were discussed as to how dinner could be salvaged. With the help of my lovely guests, we saved the day. There was enough meat underneath the burned turkey and above the splattered pork to feed us all. Second helpings were in short supply but thankfully there were lots of desserts.

Last Year's Boxing Day Dinner

I seem to remember that there was also some sort of disaster at the 2010 Boxing Day dinner. I don't recall what it was about but it culminated in me running out and sobbing in the polytunnel and when I allowed myself to be persuaded back into the house the guests had eaten all the food. Ah well. I dare say it served me right for being such a hysterical bitch.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Monday Suppers

Zoe's last task of the year, pruning and tying in raspberries

Zoe and family have been growing vegetables here in Springhill for many years and
I’ve been cooking Monday supper for them all for most of those years. At first, it seemed like a lot of work, especially the part where I’d have to decide what to make. Then, earlier this year, I had a great idea. Instead of me choosing what to cook I’d ask everyone, in turn, to pick the menu starting with the youngest, Miss Evie and working up to myself, the most senior member of the family.

Typical menu choices would be,

1. Evie – Hot Dogs, Steamed Chocolate Pudding with Chocolate Sauce and Popping Candy Ice Cream.
2. Martha – Pizza, Cake with Icing and Sprinkles
3. Zoe – Lasagne, Fruit Crumble
4. Dave – Lamb Tagine, Lemon Meringue Pie
5. Bert - Mince and Onions, Mashed Potato, Apple Tart
6. Me - Cottage Pie, Trifle

And then it would be Evie again who would choose Hot Dogs, Steamed Chocolate Pudding with Chocolate Sauce and Popping Candy Ice Cream. Her menu choice has never varied since we began taking turns. Martha always has pizza but sometimes varies her dessert. Zoe will choose something that she knows I find easy to make and Dave won’t. I’ve tried a few new dishes thanks to Dave and I’m glad of it.

Yesterday was the final Monday supper of the season as they won’t be gardening again until February. We had Pollo Verde, which was Dave’s choice, and Apple Crumble. I made a salad of lettuce, apples, flaked almonds and tomatoes and dressed it with a mustard and honey dressing. In keeping with the plan to use up ancient foodstuffs the honey (our own) had fermented but that only added to the piquancy of the dressing.

Bert said it was the best Monday supper ever. My portion was moderate and delicious and, at one point, sitting there with the family, I experienced such a rare and delightful feeling of utter contentment. All felt right with my world. Roll on February!

Martha watering strawberries back in 2012.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Two Joeys And A Dog Eating Nuts

Over the past few days I've been sorting out a few boxes of mementos, bits and pieces belonging to my mother, Pearlie and myself. That drawing was among Matty's keepsakes. It is, of course, the view from her kitchen window and features her beloved birds feeding on the bird table. There appears to be a squirrel there too. The artist, Matty's granddaughter, was very skilled at drawing birds as they are very recognisably a robin and a blue tit. Her squirrel might have needed a bit of extra work as, at first glance, I thought it might be a small dog. But enough of my carping criticism - the picture is charming and Matty must have thought so too, to have kept it for at least a dozen years.

The postcard from Dingle was given to Matty by Katy so must be more than 20 years old. I wonder how many of those shop fronts are still the same. The last time I visited, nearly five years ago, An Cafe Liteartha was still going strong.

And this from among Pearlie's memorabilia - a Christmas card given to Bertie by his friend Thomas. Mid-sixties I'd say. Every home had a budgie back then and I believe every budgie was called Joey. Ours certainly was. According to Matty I thought anything with feathers (and feathers) was named Joey. Which explains the title.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Mouldy Old Drizabone

Many, many years ago Bert bought a Drizabone coat. They were all the rage for a while and I thought he'd look lovely in it. But, as it turned out, he rarely wore it and it hung around for a while and then it disappeared. I thought perhaps someone had spotted it lying about and nicked it.

Then I forgot about it until The Wee turned up wearing a snazzy Barbour gilet that he'd picked up for next to nothing in Bushmills. He said the wax he'd bought to condition it cost three times as much as the garment! I mentioned the Drizabone that had disappeared off the face of the earth and suggested that it had been stolen. For some reason I never, ever forget about stolen items even if the theft occurred 40 years ago.

There was the cheap camera that was nicked from my house in Ballee, the one that contained undeveloped photographs of my little ones and some gorgeous poppies. I yearn for those unseen pictures to this day. I still miss Bert's leather bush hat, a present from South Africa (the Wee again) for he looked so cool in it and there is never an Autumn passes that I don't resent the theft of three well-grown Stag's Horn Sumach from the poly tunnel.

But, back to the Drizabone.

Bert said,

That coat is still here. I found it scrunched up in the big shed. It's a bit mouldy but still dry inside.

I got him to fetch it in from whatever hole it had been lying in for a decade or more and sure enough it was covered in mould yet dry enough inside. I'm going to see if it can be returned to its former glory. Watch this space!

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Private Secret Sitting Room

When we first renovated this house this room, the front room that looks out to the garden was the last area to be completed. It was maybe a year before the wooden floor was laid, the fireplace finished and the furniture installed. My dream was to have a wall of bookshelves and eventually Bert got this sorted and voilà I had my bookshelves stacked with books and cherished objects.

I had hardly a year to enjoy the room when Pearlie moved in. It was the obvious place for her - spacious, ground floor, an open fire. I moved everything of mine out - except the books, where would I even put those books.

Pearlie had the room for over six years and when she died it took the best part of another year before I could bring myself to take it back. Then Banjo Man decorated it to a very high standard and I gathered up some more furniture and hung my best pictures and unpacked the cherished objects, installed my PC and I had a den again, a den I called my private, secret sitting room. Entrance was by invitation only.

That was the way of it for a year or more - then Hannah came home. By then the private, secret sitting room had turned into a bit of a dumping ground, stuff was gathering up and I was using it as office and storage space, nothing else.

Then it occurred to us all that Hannah, used to a roomy flat, was stuck in two rooms upstairs. So I cleared the room, made it more homely, bought some softer lighting, started making fires and invited the family in. My private, secret sitting room is no more. And even as I am writing this Hannah and her friend are making music, enjoying silly shows in front of a cosy, open fire. Private, secret rooms are so very overrated. This room has come back to life again. And about time.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Not Dead Yet

Rusty and Lily. Not on the menu...yet

Tonight’s menu featured Pea and Ham Soup made from a recipe of my own devising, using split green peas of a similar age to Miss Martha. The sell by date on the packet was December 2011. The ham is that same parcel rescued from the freezer where it had been languishing since Christmas 2015. I also made a carrot cake with some middle-aged carrots that have been hanging around since Saturday last. A week is a very long time for a shop bought carrot and there probably wasn’t a vitamin left but sure the eggs were freshly laid. Which will make up for it. Thanks hens.

It is good that we have embarked upon the eating of ancient foodstuffs as our continuing existence will give hope to you all when, in the coming apocalypse, we will all be far too poor and hungry to throw out perfectly edible food.

Take it from me, times are going to get tough. I don’t think I’ll ever get the pension I so looked forward to at eighteen when I would soothe myself to sleep thinking ‘only forty-two years to go’. And when the ravening hordes come storming up the road intending to stamp through our herb garden, steal our hens and barbecue Rusty and Lily then - our young friends, Bilrus, Dave, Ben, Peter and Locky will fire on them from the tree house with home-made bows and arrows. Dave will be the Chief Archer. If the ravening hordes get really cheeky we may have to get the heavy artillery out. I hope warning shots over their heads will be enough to deter the mob.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Eating the Old

Bert whistles as he fries

Obviously I did not expire from eating historic lentils and sultanas. I even went back to the mulligatawny soup this lunchtime and it was even yummier than before. But - there was this defrosted package I wasn't too sure about. It was a meat thing, I thought it might be turkey, one of Clint's birds hatched and cooked in 2015 and hauled from the freezer near the tail end of 2016. But as any housewife knows flesh frozen for a year loses its looks and it turned out to be ham. I was dubious but Bert was gung-ho - let's eat this.

I wasn't keen but I was prepared to let him have a go as long as he operated to my strict instructions.

Chop an onion. 

He chopped it.

Now three garlic cloves.

He prepared them.

I knew I couldn't trust him to dice a carrot so I did that myself.

No Bert! Don't put the oil and onion in together! The oil needs to be heated first.

Cube the ham.

He cubed it.

Bert makes a cake

Oil and carrot were softened, garlic added, then a bit of green pepper, a nub of chilli, some leftover spice mix found on the window sill, kidney beans and a can of pulped tomatoes.

I'll make a cook of you yet Bert.

I'm a brilliant cook. Better than you!

Ha! Who thinks so? No one!


Because you never cook.

Well if I did I'd be far better than you!

I let him prepare the rice while I went to pick up Hannah.                                                      

How do I cook it?

Bert makes an apple tart. 

You're a brilliant cook. You should know.

Well I don't. Tell me!

I told him and it turned out fine. And so was the ham and bean stew. But I really should label the stuff I put in the freezer.

He's not actually cooking here. He's spinning honey from the frames but as he's in the kitchen making a mess, a very big mess, I thought I'd include it.