Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Groaning With Christmas/Seasonal/Holiday Joy: Part I

Our goal was to have family and friends over and spend QHT while eating good food and drinking better beer and wine.

We certainly succeeded.

After a late Friday night at a club, listening to a favorite band (as if still in our twenties), we slept in on Saturday and then tried to clean the house for awhile. Having no fun, we ditched that plan and watched Christmas (“the little lights are not twinkling”) Vacation instead.

On Sunday we got ready for company and cleaned for a few hours, then headed to the grocery store where we spent a whopping and ridiculous three hundred bucks, seventeen of which went for a single bottle of olive oil I had picked up in error. In my righteousness, I accused the grocery store of overcharging (in my humble defense I offer that they do indeed overcharge us on a regular basis, which I thought was nearly impossible with the ubiquitous bar-coding of our society, but they do).

Way behind schedule, I was just putting away the last of the groceries when company all arrived. Together we started preparing the first of our Amazing Meals: welcome to Italian Night! I had stuffed shells on my mind, and dug out my favorite cookbook cooking website and thanks to that skinny Italian chick, had a fab recipe just waiting for me. I substituted this

for the pancetta. (If you’re just joining us, D. and I are vegetarians. Well, I am, and D. tries. Real hard. His heart’s not completely in it, but it’s 98% there.)

While my sister-in-law and I were chopping, chopping, chopping (and I was cutting my left index finger and my right thumb), D. ran back to the grocery store to apprise them of their grievous error and collect our cash. Turns out I had really chosen a $17 bottle of olive oil. Sheah, right?? I like my family, but. . . no. D. returned the bottle and purchased a more reasonably-priced model. Mass-produced and probably environmentally unfriendly (oops) to boot, but affordable.

Meanwhile, I dumped a box of jumbo shells into boiling water and up to the surface floated not only a few of the shells, but a handful of tiny brown things. Upon closer inspection, the little brown things revealed they were each sporting a pair of wings and a few dozen legs. WHAAAAT??? I inspected the box, searching for some sort of explanation, while my cousin offered, “Oh, they’re just a little added protein.” Chuckle, chuckle, upchuck. The glue holding the box ends together was littered with bug bodies and there were a few survivors still crawling around.

ICK. When D. returned from the store, I showed him the pot of doom and the box o’bugs. He grabbed both boxes for evidence and headed back to the store for another refund (this time truly not my bad). He called me from the store to report that every effin' box was crawling with creepy little insects (just going about the business of survival, but still). The clerk who assisted him with his return and subsequent empty handedness said, “Yeah, we’ve been having problems with bugs in these boxes.”

“Great—thanks, I’ll head to Trader Joe’s,” said D., barfing a little as he left.

Without our shells, the rest of us were stymied: we couldn’t do anything beyond making the sauce, mixing the filling, and shredding a pile of mozzarella. So we drank beer. And chatted and chatted. And looked up favorite You Tube videos to share. Nothing better than Brenda Dickson's Welcome to My Home to make you laugh so hard your beer comes out of your nose. . . but that wasn't me.

D. called from the road. “TJ’s is out of ‘em . . . I’m heading to the other store.”

He called again. “They’re out, too. . . I’m heading to Fred’s.” Who knew that stuffed shells were such a holiday tradition in the Pacific Northwest? In New York where I come from, Italians are everywhere and each family makes at least ten pounds of pasta per person for the holidays. I don’t think I’ve met the first Italian-type person here. But I’m sure they exist, because they bought all of my shells.

Finally D. arrived back at the hacienda with pest-free shells. We proceeded with our dish, the girls stuffing and spooning sauce and the boys watching and drinking beer. (At least they stayed in the kitchen with us.) I messed up the recipe, though (could it be the beer?) and dumped the mozzarella into the ricotta instead of putting it on top. Pity—it made the filling a little heavier than I preferred, but nobody complained.

We sat down to dinner at about 10 p.m. How very European of us. How very Italian of us. At that rate, we should have followed dinner with Midnight Mass, but. . . no. We followed dinner with Trivial Pursuit. My cousin, who is beyond brilliant, and would have won had he stayed, left for home at about 1:30. The rest of us could not, would not stop playing until the game was over.

I actually won. It was 3:20 a.m. Our friend D. went home and the rest of us went to bed.

That was food, drink, and game night #1. It was grand.

The next morning I got out of bed at 10:52 a.m. Wow. I needed the sleep to prepare for our next gastronomical adventure: Indian Night! Details to come. . . .


Nora Bee said...

Sounds like a pretty darn awesome day (especially someone else doing the pasta-hunting)! Merry Christmas!

Mrs. G. said...

I hope it was merry and bright...despite the bug carcasses. Sounds like gyspy moths to me.

Professor J said...

Bugs in the pasta--eww. It sounds like a wonderful time nontheless. I can't wait to hear about Indian night. I love Indian food, especially that wonderful spinach dish with cubes of white cheese (can't think of the name of it).

Claire B. said...

nora bee, mrs. g., professor j.:

Thanks for stopping by! Indian recipes to come. Yumm ME! God it was so good.

Claire B. said...

PS Palak Paneer (It's D.'s favorite too.)