December 19, 2005
I had my annual Thanksmas party last night, and the -- oh, should I explain that?
Back when I was at university (UC Santa Cruz), I didn't always have enough money to go home for the holidays; so I decided I should have a party and invite my friends. The problem was that everyone I knew went home for Thanksgiving, and then they went home for Christmas, too. So I decided to invent a holiday right in the middle... and what else could I call it but Thanksmas?
I'm a fairly good cook, and back in those days I couldn't get enough of roast turkey... so I would always bake a turkey with both rice and cornbread stuffing, gravy (duh), my candied sweet potatoes, and whatever other truck and goodies I felt like preparing. I kept up the Thanksmas holiday until it became a habit, and then habit became tradition. Now, I don't know how my friends would get through a single year of their drab, wretched lives if they didn't have the ab Hugh Thanksmas party to look forward to.
I did make one change: as my finances improved from the school days, I got more and more exotic in my choice of feast to prepare. I decided I would always try to cook some unusual food that I'd never cooked before, just to see how well I could wing it before an audience of gastrophiles. I've made Chinese roast duck, bouillabaisse, and last year we had wild boar with venison sausage and ground buffalo appetizer.
This year, I decided on a change of pace, from American frontier to the Spain of Cervantes, Rodrigo, and Segovia: I prepared paella -- a Spanish oleo of chicken, ham, and various shellfish (squid, clams, mussels, shrimp, and a couple of live Maine lobsters I threw in), cooked with basmati rice and lots and lots of fresh saffron (I always keep saffron threads on hand for such occasions).
My lovely wife Sachi -- who is also a first-rate cook -- prepared five "tapas" dishes... basically, Spanish pub food, the stuff they serve you if you order drinks in Spain: a little meat-pie doohicky (my favorite, sort of like Spanish kreplach), a veggie pie, a fascinating spicy eggplant dish (that I couldn't eat; I'm sometimes sensitive to eggplant), potatoes in a saffron-tomato sauce, and spicy pork skewers that must have come into Spanish cuisine from Moorish kebabs during the period where much of Spain was considered "al Andaluz").
Speaking of drinks, I made a wicked sangria, starting with a Reàl Sangria imported from Espania [I think that translates to royal blood-wine, but my knowledge of Spanish is limited to whatever bits they used on the TV show Zorro], some Three Palms rum (my favorite -- I could just drink it straight from the bottle, if Sachi would let me), Dekuyper apple schnapps (the best), the juice of two oranges, some key-lime juice, black grapes, blackberries, and Granny Smith apple slices. For dessert, I served a reasonably good Madeira (Spanish version of Portuguese port, which is what I normally drink) and some Amontillado sherry imported from (where else?) Spain.
I invited a couple of very long-time friends of ours, Lee and Dianne (I've known them for about twenty-seven years), plus also a much more recent pair of friends: Patterico and his lovely wife, Patterica.
Usually, my Thanksmas parties end up in deep philosophical and political discussions that rage for hours... shockingly enough, especially considering the company, I don't think we hardly discussed politics at all. Mostly we seemed to talk music, especially opera: the Pattericos had just come from watching Tosca at the Music Center here in Los Angeles, and that happens to be Sachi's favorite opera. Lee is also a fan of opera -- which left myself and Dianne as the only two Philistines who had never watched one of those opera thingies all the way through (assuming you don't count Gilbert & Sullivan). For a description of the performance itself, you couldn't do better than Patterico's review. Even I followed it!
The music I selected was a collection of flamenco guitar, a couple of different CDs of Rodrigo and other Spanish classical composers, the Christmas collection Angels by Benise (a modern Spanish guitar band), and one of Sachi's favorites, the Gipsyland album Arte. Complimented the meal perfectly.
The conversation is usually driven by my friend and sometime collaborator on fiction, Brad Linaweaver; alas for us, Brad just inherited a ton of money, and he's off in Florida tending whatever tasks go along with being a multimillionaire. Presumably he'll be available for next year's Thanksmas... but it was likely his absence (and the presence of the Pats) that steered the conversation in a more musical direction.
It was a wonderful evening, and I think my paella came out very good... the only person who didn't seem to want to eat any was Patterica, and I think she might have been just a little squirmish: the recipe I was more or less following insisted the shrimps should be cooked with head, tail, and shell intact, to keep them juicy. And I must admit, they were quite succulent indeed; I may cook them that way from now on. But I think the ladylike Mrs. P. might have been a little offput: I think she wasn't used to looking at her plate of food and seeing it look back at her!
(Besides, the shrimp got us into a discussion of some Japanese dishes that rather resemble Klingon food.)
But she wreaked havoc on the tapas appetizers that Sachi had prepared, and Patterico cleaned their joint plate, so I hope they both were prandially satisfied.
Someday, I hope to visit Spain; and when I do, I guarantee we'll hit two or three of those "Paella On the Beach" places, where the guy with the six-foot diameter frying pan cooks paella for forty or fifty people right on the Mediterranean shore. (When we travel, we tend to think far more of exotic cuisines than museums, statues, ruins, or scenic vistas; when we were in Scotland a few years ago, we stopped in the first place we found that sold haggis, each ate an order... and liked it so much, we had a second order apiece. Sachi swears she heard one of the serving wenches whispering to the other about those "crazy Americans" who wanted a second helping of sheep intestines. But it was great!)
I can't imagine living in a world without wonderful meat in it. Maybe next year, I'll roast some zebra, or an armadillo, or turducken (if I can find a butcher who can bone and butterfly a turkey, a duck, and a chicken). And please remind me never to join PETA.
Well, it's a quarter to three (there's no one in the place 'cept you and me); Sachi is sacked out on the couch, having sampled just a little too much Amontillado; and the dragonfly candle is guttering. It's time to wake Sachi up to tell her it's time to go to sleep, blow out the candle, and light this candle before I write any more. Buonas noches, all.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 19, 2005, at the time of 2:48 AM
TrackBack URL for this hissing: http://biglizards.net/mt3.36/earendiltrack.cgi/333
The following hissed in response by: RBMN
You just have to join the right PETA:
The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist
A very happy Thanksmas, a very merry Christmas, and Many *BLESSINGS* to You and Yours...
The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist at December 19, 2005 3:31 PM
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at December 19, 2005 5:43 PM
The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist
i am honored; however, don't sleep too long, and check this out when you wake up...in case you missed it.
Iran: Assassination, Confusion or Disinformation? - STRATFOR
That is my second update from STRATFOR tonight. i listed their first mention of such at my Blog tonight: " President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's motorcade attacked by “Bandits”"
Something is up, in my humble opinion, and it doesn't look good for Mahmoud "Squint" Ahmadinejad...
Just testing Mahmoud's nerves and reaction. He is really slow, huh...so to speak of a 'Dead Man Walking'.
The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist at December 19, 2005 6:19 PM
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