Our Christmas tradition for over 30 years has been turkey and dressing and family with a reading of the Advent passages. Our celebration used to have more family over, but we are a smaller crowd, now. Only my wife’s mother was to join us. Even with a smaller turkey and less stuffing, the house was festively decorated, fitting for a quiet distinctly Christmas day.
Up early together to stuff the turkey, my wife heated some water, melted the butter, and folded in just a half bag of Pepperidge Farm Onion and Sage cornbread dressing as I chopped scallions, onions, celery, and parsley to complement the stuffing. From a small turkey, giblets were diced and placed in a pot with water to simmer with bay leaves, oregano, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper. The aromatic herbs forecast a fragrant broth which, when blended with a flour and oil roux, makes the most wonderful gravy. After stuffing the turkey, we placed it in the oven and my wife set the leftover stuffing aside.
She planned to go for a quiet morning coffee and pastry with her 90 year old mother. “Gamma,” to our Down’s syndrome son, would take her usual mid-morning nap. My wife, too, would have a restful morning, luxuriating a bit in that lovely assisted living facility efficiency, leaving the rest of the cooking to others. “Gamma,” spreading Christmas joy in her uniquely New York Italian way, and my wife would join the Christmas table in a few hours.
While I cleaned the kitchen, my college-age daughter was working on the yams with a top secret idea. No way was I to learn what she was up to until the creation was finished. The dishwasher was filled with prep dishes and my son’s early cereal remnants. The drips had all been cleaned up and the herbs were back in their places. The onion skins with celery and scallion trimmings were ground down the garbage disposal. The larger prep pans were washed and put away. Even with the exhaust fan running, the simmering giblets were broadcasting aromas and whetting appetites.“What should I do with the left over dressing?” Discarding it down the disposal was unthinkable. Too little to bake, it could not be saved, and it wouldn’t go into our traditional turkey soup. “What should I do with it?” The residual onions sat in another dish, but they could be added to the turkey soup, later. Same with the celery and scallions. “But what about that dressing?”
A rumbling midriff whimpered, “I’m hungry, HUNGRY!” My mind drifted the potato pancakes I had made for the office staff a few days before: shredded potatoes, eggs, a bit of flour, onion, and for holiday color, finely sliced green and red peppers, and shredded carrots. The pancakes had been dressed with a mix of two parts apple sauce and one part cranberry sauce. Fondly remembering that time with my staff, my hunger grew. “What should I have for breakfast?”… “An omelet!” …“A Pepperidge Farm Onion and Sage dressing omelet,” I told my daughter. Her eyebrows curled upwards wrinkling her forehead and her lips formed a wryly quizzical way, but her focus remained on her yams-inspiration. Into a skillet with melted butter, less than a cup of residual dressing with celery, onions, scallions, and parsley blended with two eggs, and a dash of salt and pepper. After browning the first side with medium heat, lowered heat for the second side promised a well cooked center.
“Almost like bread pudding custard,” I thought as I set a fork and a glass of orange juice with a coaster on the decorated table in front of a bay of windows. It was covered with a lovely flowered Christmas cloth, under laid with a medium green skirt. A thick red candle adorned the center along with a tiny manger scene, my wife’s lovely blend of holiday colors.
Christmas morning was a Florida-style overcast winter day, drizzly and cool, evidence of a cold front ushering in a relatively bright morning. From light intermittent rain all night, the pool enclosure was shedding rivulets of water, making the lanai look like a tropical garden with potted palms, philodendrons, and schefflera, even a few orchids, and geraniums with blooms. Beyond the lanai, the golf course looked like an endless manicured lawn. Distant scrub oak and pine trees mixed with a few scraggly palms bordered the ill defined, low lying skyline above which well lighted clouds were still dripping with moisture. Ligustrum trees, a large gardenia bush, two bottle brush trees, and a bare crepe myrtle filled the foreground. A bird bath full of rain water silently invited feathered friends of all sorts. “A lovely place on a quiet Christmas day,” I mused.
Musical bubbling from the coffee maker turned my attention back prompting a check of the slowly curing omelet, not yet brown on the second side. The giblets were checked, their low boil spreading aroma images of fragrant gravy, a wonderful blend of oregano and garlic. “Freshly sautéed mushrooms will complement the gravy perfectly,” I thought, remembering the recipe of butter, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in which to sauté them. I could almost taste them. The cooktop spoon rest needed washing. Done. Stains dried on a cooktop burner were vanquished with Softscrub. A repetitive tone signaled that the oven had just reached cooking temperature, turkey baking suitably underway. My daughter finished a special topping for the yams, crumbled brown sugar on top of yam juices blended with pumpkin style spices. The creation was in a Corning Ware dish, ready to be baked in the second oven, later. “So, that was her secret!” I noted while bringing a small plate to the cooktop.
I dished out the fully cooked omelet just as my wife appeared at the kitchen door, finally reaching the source of the Christmas fragrances. Her warm colorful sweater and purse said that she was about to leave. “Just a little bite before you go, honey?” I cut a fork full and fed it to her. “Oh, that’s sooooo gooood! What is it?” “Another?” “Yes, …..mmmmm, thank you, Honey.” Touching my shoulder gently, she kissed me and with that, she was off to her mother’s place, promising to be back in time. My daughter came in with her Yorkie, Kuuipo. “A bite for you.” “Ok, but I’m not so hungry…hmmmmm, good. I knew it would be.” I peaked past the kitchen desk into my son’s bedroom. He had gone back to sleep and seemed quietly comfortable.
Christmas music gently filled the room and the Christmas tree with its lights and gifts sparkled in the morning light, engendering a quiet joy, presaging “Gamma’s” arrival for the extra chair around the table. As I sat overlooking the pool, the golf course, and gray winter skies, cool air convecting down the tall windows, the aroma of a cup of freshly brewed decaf turned my head back to a small glass of orange juice and the fragrant celery-onion-sage-stuffing omelet in front of me. Leftovers.