Yesterday, we were very busy elves and Anne began working on our Christmas cards. I had been handling this task of late, but this year she has taken a more active role. She wrote our Christmas letter. I figured that it needed a different voice than mine. She then spent most of the day compiling our list of recipients. For this she used Google docs. I had been using a different system.

Every year, we hang the cards that we receive on decorative strands from the hearth. At the end of the season those cards go into a box, waiting for next year. I then used this box of past year’s cards to compile the new year’s list. She must have spent the better part of the day pawing through that box, rereading old cards and letters. Occasionally, she would read one aloud to me. I think that the best of these was one from her Uncle Louie, now passed. It must have been from almost ten years ago. Like I said, she spent all day doing this. In it Louis said that for his birthday that year, his ninetieth, he got a pacemaker. While his “younger, fitter” brother Harry, “the rock of the family”, only got a hangnail. They shared the same birthday, six years apart.

Meanwhile, I busied myself in the kitchen. After last Christmas, we ended up with an extra bag of cranberries in the freezer. Where it has sat all year, except to make a trip to the cabin and back. Why? I don’t know. Accompanying it on that cabin run was a Tupperware of cranberry sauce. For Thanksgiving, we put both items down. We had the sauce, which was no worse for wear, but the bag of berries lingered. Not wanting to see such a precious heirloom go to waste, I consulted the New York Times recipe section.

I have been digitally subscribing to the Times for years now. Ever since a certain someone dubbed it failing and I see it as a bargain, especially, on a Sunday morning, but it has always irked me that they want a second subscription to access their recipes. Why of all of the many sections of this paper should food be so special? Anne has been getting from them a regular, weekly emailed recipe of the week. Many of which I have made and we have enjoyed. I guess that it was over Thanksgiving that Anne just up and subscribed to their recipes section and I’m glad that she did. I made their Cranberry Lemon Bars that featured twin tartness and almost all of our sugar. As a shortcut, I used a sheet of leftover Pepperidge Farm dough for the crust, which might have been a mistake. We could never quite get it to fit tightly enough in the pan, so that when the top, rather runny layer of lemon was added, it ran all over everything. It still tasted fine, but it didn’t look like their photo.

In place of such a picture, I offer you the above photo of persimmons, still on the tree. They are supposed to be even tarter than cranberries or lemons. According to folklore, splitting open a persimmon seed will reveal the shape of a fork, spoon or knife on the seed’s interior. The image of a spoon indicates that the upcoming winter will feature an abundance of heavy, wet snow; a fork predicts light and powdery snow, and a knife forecasts a winter with bitter, icy winds.


Yesterday’s food porn post was a big hit, but today it is time to turn to the seamier side of the kitchen. Something so seamy that even lemon cleanser can’t clean it up. Citron is a key ingredient in fruitcakes and is not to be confused with Citroën, the French automobile manufacturer that sounds the same, but has nothing to do with fruitcake. Citron is also necessary for Cuccidati, a dish also known as Italian fig cookies. Anne has a recipe for Cuccidati that she inherited from her Aunt Fran, who doesn’t spell it this way. Maybe her spelling has been anglicized? There were several variations of it on the Internet. Anyway, she’s made it before and now she is planning on making it again.

I have shopped for her on these occasions. It requires a wide variety of dried fruits. Its most exotic ingredient is citron. Citron is a tropical fruit, sort of a giant wrinkly lemon. This fruit’s skin is processed into diced gelatinous cubes that become the ingredient citron. Previously, I just picked it up at the store. This time, neither of my shopping services supported such an exotic item and I had to special order it. I went with Now, I’m inundated with Google ads for fruitcake mixes, as if. We haven’t yet tested their products, but their packaging is sure colorful. As an aside, I also regularly order lemons in bulk. They come packaged in decorative bags that on one side refers to them in English as lemons, but on the other side calls them out in French, as citrons.

Making dinner, I had thrown away one of these bags, citron side up. Anne saw it lying in the trash and I got into trouble, me an innocent man. She must of thought that sometime after midnight, I had snarfed up all of her ingredient. Now this may not sound too unseemly, but trust me, this post has undergone cycles of wash-rinse-repeat. In Anne’s defense she was tired from having done so much cooking. But this is not the first time that I have been accused of something I didn’t do. I especially hate it when I am accused of doing something wrong in one of her dreams. Roundup all of the unusual suspects! Protect the guilty and prosecute the innocent. I didn’t do it… It was on accident.


X-mas/X-Men – Superhero Giraffe

We cooked and cleaned, ate and ate and phoned friends and family across the country. All in all, a pretty good Thanksgiving, considering that we were home all alone. Yesterday morning, I heard on the news that Zoom had opened its lines as free to everyone for the day. I knew that they didn’t have the capacity to handle the inevitable onslaught, but as it turned out more personal technical difficulties would have prevented our participation in any Zoom meetings anyway. We did try Facetime when compatible phones permitted it, but even that form of teleconferencing suffered from a lack of bandwidth. Regular dial-up access still worked fine. I think we had participated in half-a-dozen conference calls by the end of it all.

In-between phone calls we received photos (above) of what everyone else was or would be soon eating. Not to be outdone, Anne snapped a picture (below) of her own baking creation.  We ended the day with full bellies and plenty of leftovers.

Anne’s Pumpkin-Pecan with Gingersnap Crust Pie

But Thanksgiving is behind us now. Time to move on. On to the big one. On to Christmas! A trip to the post office is in the offing for us today. One of many yet to come I’m sure. Today being Black Friday, a “holiday” that we don’t observe, midnight-madness sales come to mind, but the pandemic has put a crimp into the regular goings-on. No more lining up in the wee hours of night, outside of big box stores for that big rush to the electronics aisle. Now it is all done online. Dan told us that Walmart’s entire inventory of the new Sony PlayStation 5 was entirely gone in under a second, like at the stroke of midnight. Scalpers with their bots snapped them all up. They are now available only at highly inflated prices from said pirates. Isn’t technology wonderful? The giraffe is from 2012. I found it the archive. We regularly walk by its house, but it isn’t there anymore.

Happy Veterans Day!

Garrapata Greenery

Here is a personal shout-out to my father and my father-in-law, both of whom our veterans and both of whom are thankfully still with us. Here in Saint Louis the usual Veterans Day festivities are a bit muted this year. Because of Covid, instead of the big annual downtown parade all celebrations are now virtual. Looking forward to the next holiday, we have begun planning our Thanksgiving dinner. Anne remembered an ancient newspaper article, like from 1995. After some searching, she located the rather yellowed newsprint. Hey, she has recipes that are even older than that. Recipes that date back to her college days. This article features a festive feast for two. Perfect! There are only two dishes, two-for-two, a baked onion relish and a smoked turkey, cranberry and barley salad. We’ll likely use these recipes only as a starting point, as something to riff from, but they look like a good start. Plus, we’ll add dessert, a pie, probably pumpkin. We already have the baking pumpkin leftover from Halloween.

The good news about the vaccine this week, has led me to think thoughts about next year. Happy thoughts! In particular thoughts about resuming traveling again next year. We already have Dave and Maren’s wedding in October on the calendar and I’m sure that next summer will see us again going to the cabin. Hopefully, with more people to see there than this last summer. I think that a trip to Europe or really any air travel might be an air-bridge too far at this point, but that still leaves plenty of other possibilities. With the coming of a new vaccine, maybe New York and the New England states will become more welcoming towards us Covid infested Midwesterners? Most of all, I would like to visit California and see my father again. We could revisit out planned itinerary from last summer and do a western road trip out there. I would really like that.

Who? Who Cooks for You?

Sleeping Barred Owl

For the second time this month our visit to Tower Grove Park has featured a Barred owl. On the first of the month we arrived at eleven and the sirens were being tested. Their wailing triggered a Barred owl that we only heard, but never saw. We went in search of it, but by then the siren test was over and without its noise, the owl must have fallen back to sleep. We never did find it. This time we were in the bird garden, which is a small wooded patch in the northwest corner of the park, where another birder pointed out this sleeping owl out to us. This was at the beginning of our walk around the park, but this photo was taken at its end and as you can see the owl is still there and still asleep.

On our orbit around the park we came upon another birder encounter. A group of people had trained their optics on a line of trees. In these trees little birds could occasionally be seen as they flitted about. Many of these birds were the same species that we had last seen on the shores of Lake Superior, a couple of months ago. Now, they must be passing through town on their southern migration. Tower Grove is a nice waystation for them in their travels, an oasis of greenery that is close to the river, amongst the urban sprawl that is Saint Louis.

Today is trash day. Or is it? Will Monday’s holiday delay the pickup? I don’t think so and neither do most of my neighbors, because the block is lined with barrels. Anne even took out the trash today and she usually gets a call if there is a delay. I suspect that Columbus day is on its way out as a holiday. Some are advocating that it be repurposed as Native American day, but I would prefer that the day off got moved to August. August doesn’t have a holiday. I’m sure that something happened sometime that could be celebrated. I mean it is only of academic interest to me now anyway. It always has been, because I never worked in government. I used to get UN day and NATO day off. Columbus never bought any F-15s. Never heard of them? I don’t blame you. They weren’t real holidays, just a couple of days off, but because so few other people had them off, it was kind of a nice time to go places, back when that was still a thing.

Who Cooks for You? Around here that would be me. We have successfully sloughed our way through the mountain of leftovers that had somehow had accumulated and now that mother’s march on leftovers has successfully concluded, it is time to make some more. Emptying the dish drainer this morning I found the washed remnants of last night’s leftovers, three sandwich sized Tupperware-like containers. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders why none of their lids fits any of the other containers. It’s a puzzle. Tonight’s menu? Scored flank steak marinated in Worcestershire sauce—easy, but all so tasty too. Leavened with an orzo, feta and spinach NYT recipe that I have also come to cherish. Sound good? There should be enough to make more leftovers.