Sunday, December 13, 2015

My Back Pages

Well, greenhouse gasses have given this man a 70-degree birthday. I think I'm happy about that?

Nick was far from the only person talking about the weather today because, much as everyone is totally digging this sudden shorts and convertible weather, it is less than two weeks until Christmas and some people just can't reconcile flip flops and sleigh bells.

Of course, to former denizens of Bermuda and Mexico, December was never jacket weather. Poinsettias are warm weather plants, don't you know?

So the first order of the day is opening up all the windows, not that I had the heat on last night anyway. By the time I return sweaty and happy from my walk, the afternoon warmth is making my front rooms the most gorgeous place on earth.

There's a large blue mason jar of hydrangea blooms (hello, global warning) on the mantle in the living room. A pile of aprons, a sewing project, is just the right shade of blue to coordinate with colors of the chair they rest on, as sun streams through the open window and past the hot pink geranium blooming on the sill.

One thing's for sure and Truman Capote could attest to it if he were still alive: Despite the calendar saying December, it most certainly does not smell like fruitcake weather.

When a friend comes to collect me for the afternoon, I can't resist teasing him about his sub-arctic attire: shirt and sweater and heavy pants that look ridiculous next to my shorts and t-shirt. How is it possible a man constantly tethered to his device is completely unaware of the forecast (his excuse for wearing everything but a snowsuit), especially such an atypical one for December?

I Christmas shop, I wrap presents, I walk over to Saison for a stocking stuffer and wind up running into one of those inane food tours where people clump together taking pictures of shelves of beer, but the consolation prize is a short cocktail of bubbles and vermouth that lacks only a drunken cherry. It's worth noting that it also makes the afternoon sun a bit sparklier.

We are a mere ten days until the Winter Solstice when the days begin to get incrementally longer. This is a very big deal to me, a ray of hope during my least favorite season, yet when I mention this to someone, they express surprise. "Really? I didn't even realize when that happens." I marvel at this.

For the second time in recent days, another chef laments his insane December schedule which allows for a) no sleep and b) no life. At least the money's good, I like to say.

Arteries close in surrender to every bite of crostini dipped in foie gras spinach dip, a funky French twist on an American party classic. And 'tis the season for parties. A spotted quail's egg atop beef tartare qualifies my plate's presentation for cutest on the table, but I'd also have to say that the vibrant colors of my butternut squash and beet salad adorned with pea shoots make it the prettiest.

While I can relate verbatim entire passages of "White Christmas," "It's a Wonderful Life," "Holiday Inn" and "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," I am completely without knowledge of more obscure Christmas pieces such as Capote's short story and subsequent productions of "Holiday Memories" about his childhood celebrations in Alabama during the '30s, simpler times that involved handmade ornaments and gifts and making fruitcakes for the likes of FDR and Eleanor.

To me, such memories emanate from a galaxy far, far away, since at no time in my life span can I recall knowing of people who actually made fruitcakes, or, for that matter, cared to eat them. I did have a chef wanna-be friend in D.C. in the '80s who always made rumtopf and invited friends over to indulge in it at Christmastime. But fruitcakes? Never.

I remember as a child being thrilled with a gift of fudge - all for me - made by my aunt. These days, I make the fudge that my Mom gives to her sister, completing the circle. In college, I hand-painted little wooden ornaments, the better to craft "natural" decor for my tree, many of which which I still use. There was a time when I began Christmas shopping in September, not the middle of December, and definitely not wearing shorts or being offered a mimosa while doing it.

Ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.

Or perhaps that's just the way I'm remembering things. We live in the hope of becoming memories. Like Nick the birthday boy, I think I'm happy about that.

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