Why are menus so difficult? When I was freezing cold sitting under an arctic weight comforter many years ago with a coat and gloves in my small bedroom, separate thermostat up to 55 degrees for my presence (the others were at 45) I spread out cookbooks and melded tastes and textures and flavors for the perfect meal.
For a couple of years I was a professional “orphan” at Christmas. I was always the 7th to their six, even third to their two. For the past 13 years Thanksgiving is always at my husband’s grandmother’s, whom we both call Nanny. It is a feast of epic proportions and one to be very thankful for one’s participation.
We’ve been by ourselves on Christmas, sometimes being in a new town but we’re back. I love to welcome those with no parents, family halfway around the world, newcomers to town. In no way are they “orphans” but I do love to cook dinner for a few brave souls, usually neighbors, and try to make a menu for them.
These days one must ask allergies and dislikes and one dinner was kicked out immediately. As I age and get more experienced with menus and cooking I must also gauge cooking space in the oven and on the stove.
For those of you who’ve read me for a few years you may remember the capon debacle. Whole Foods, while I love it, will not carry capon. My mother used to make it for every special occasion except Thanksgiving and Christmas and with four kids and a husband, it was pretty much a monthly occasion and her butcher was easily prepared for it.
A few weeks ago I interviewed the head of http://www.roastgoose.com, Jim Schiltz, head of Shiltz Farms. They took on Wapsie Farms’ capon business. Jim, I have to tell you that I will do a goose in the future but right now we’re moving across country in a month and there is much to do and it does not include studying cooking or carving a goose or innovating many leftovers.
I will order a large capon for dinner for six. Make mashed potatoes and probably roasted carrots, steamed green beans. Appetizer undecided. Dessert would have to be cold and kept outside, covered because of no frig space or oven space to make a pie. Or I could make mincemeat tarts in advance. Capon would be stuffed under the skin with butter, s&p and herbs. Stuffed with sausage & apples and toasted wheat bread.
It’s a good feeling so far. I’m now sitting at the computer in 68 degrees next to several cold floor-to-ceiling windows (less than 1/2 degree per year). It reminds me of the old days. For three years we placed all our stuff in storage except for a couple dozen tech books for my husband’s work. I did without cookbooks. If there was anything new I needed ideas for, I looked it up online.
Now my cookbooks are back (at least for now) and to think of something, like Julia Child’s Uncle Hans’ City Scrapple and knowing just where to look it up is a comfort to me. There will never be a total replacement for books, at least while I’m on this earth.
Happy menu planning! My mother went through turkey for years before doing the traditional English feast of prime rib, Yorkshire pudding et al. To each his/her own. Enjoy the holidays. Cheers! Dee