Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve (Christmas Eve)

I am not having any angst; I have a head cold, which reduces my brain activity to a tape loop (am I hungry? am I thirsty? can I go back to sleep yet?). I was away from home from about noon on Christmas Eve until yesterday about 6 pm. It was good.

Christmas Eve, I needed to meet Sarah before I went down Boston-ward, as she had left her cell phone here. This was a very good thing, as it got me moving. I made a plum pudding, as I have every year since my father was diagnosed as celiac. I have made some weird ones, particularly the one with a base of grated carrot and potato. Actually, with enough bourbon, sugar, and butter you could probably use shredded newspaper. I have never had one of the ones you make a year in advance, but I usually try to have a bit longer lead time. I looked at the usual recipes and growled. The time I made a recipe that produced about ten pounds of pudding, haunting my fridge until March... No. And nothing with suet.

I realized it was not rocket science; it was indeed, very like a fruit cake, except it was to be steamed, not baked. I took a bowl that was roughly the size I thought the pudding ought to be (I think it was about two and a half quarts), and put raisins, figs (you HAVE to have figs, or the song won't come true), currants, a few dates, some dried apricots, and half a can of chunk pineapple (drained), enough to mostly fill the bowl. I poured bourbon over them, about half a cup, and a little water, and I microwaved it for five minutes to plump the fruit.

I took two cups of gluten free flour (I used 1/2 cornstarch, 3/8 tapioca flour, and 1/8 part fava bean flour), a half- t of salt, 2 t of baking powder, about 2/3 T cinnamon, some grated ginger until I ran out, 2 ground cloves... I had used up all the cardamom already and I forgot all about buying allspice) and ran it in the food processor with the steel blade, adding nearly 2 sticks of butter gradually.

Then I poured the fruit mixture into the dry ingredients, buttered the bowl I wanted to cook the pudding in (one of those medium blue Pyrex jobs), and stirred madly. The baking powder would begin to lose CO2 as soon as the liquid hit it, so the faster I could get it blended I hoped the lighter the result.

I poured it into the blue bowl, covered it with well-crimped tin foil, and set it on a dishtowel into a pressure cooker half-full of water. The dishtowel acted as a trivet, so the rolling bubbles wouldn't knock the bowl over and make noise. With the ends of the towel lapped over the tinfoil I had handles, so that I could gingerly pick the bowl out of the pressure cooker when it was done.

Brought it to a boil, put the lightest weight on the stem, and pressure-cooked it for 20 minutes. I would have preferred longer (30?) but I had to get to Concord to meet Sarah, who called and reminded me to bring her cell phone... And I washed the dishes and packed my bag for 5 days and put the presents in the car, and zoomed off for Concord, returning after a mile or so to pick the pudding up and put in the back of the car.

I reached Boston about four. Both my kids, my daughter's boyfriend, and my ex and I had Christmas Eve at my parents' (with my parents). I spent some time in the bedroom wrapping frantically. We met my son's OTHER girlfriend (he has one his own species, the estimable Kimberly), which I had thought was funny thing to call his iPhone, only apparently Kimberley thought it was his other girlfriend too. I knew it was a meaningful relationship and Lord, what a cute gadget.

My father makes a bean thing involving sausage (except for the vegetarian's portion) and gluten-free bread crumbs. It is delicious, and he has made it enough years now that the smell of cassoulet and salad dressing mean Christmas Eve to me. I ate too much and then we had Marron glacee puree in chocolate shells. I ate too much and then we opened some presents, because my father's father was a newspaperman who had to work on Christmas, and in his house people opened their gifts the night before so he could be with them.

My father had ordered an iPod Nano for my mother from my son, who is an Apple maniac and salesman. Sam had had it engraved for her (ask YOUR Apple retailer...) and the present I had for her was a little speaker from It is amazingly good for its size (a golf-ball). My mother's requested gift from her grandson was that he teach her how to use it. He was momentarily flustered to hear she had no music on her computer, but recovered from the shock quickly. It was fun watching them figure it all out. We were all pleased with our gifts, although Ellie decided that it would be the better part of valor not to put the Colosseufrom m that her boyfriend gave her together just yet. She did assemble a troop of Roman soldiers, who spent Christmas dinner attacking the roast beast.

Then Ellie and I went to her father's and my son went back to his and Kimberly's digs and my parents tried to get their apartment back together.

And my wishes for all of you to have a happy, interesting, secure, healthy, solvent,amusing New Year.

More tomorrow, when maybe I'll be able to breathe.

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