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Jon a Few Years Ago, When We Went Snowshoeing

I see my only sibling, my brother Jon, twice a year if I am lucky, once in summer and once during the holidays. Needless to say, our time together is very special to me. In the summer months, our time together is often spent in a combination of hiking, fishing (Jon actually fishing, me driving and reading), writing and some photography. Winter it’s writing, photography, snowshoeing and cooking. I really look forward to these activities. Actually, just about anything we find time to do together is fine with me, it’s having that precious quality time that is so important, the staying connected.

Each Christmas time, Jon comes home from the West Coast for a week or so and we enjoy cooking Christmas Eve dinner together. Christmas Eve is when my family gets together to celebrate the holiday season. We usually start cooking early that day and focus on one ‘new’ dish. The menu for our Christmas Eve dinner is similar from year to year, except for this one dish. Initially, we just worked on the Yule Log together, as it is very time-consuming and much easier and more fun when made with help. We’d vary the filling and frosting types from year to year but that was about as creative as we got with the menu.

Usually we feast on roast pork, studded with garlic overnight and a fruit glaze, baked stuffed potatoes, wild rice or corn bread stuffing, a red, green and yellow vegetable and a Yule log for dessert. Variations from this theme are generally treated with skepticism and are not universally well received. There’s some comfort in knowing what to expect and looking forward to it. That’s all part of the Holiday Tradition. When we do make a change, it’s usually just one item at a time. Then one year we became a bit more adventurous. The first time, I think we replaced the time-honored dessert with an English Trifle, then the next year, a lemon mousse, then an English Plum Pudding, en flambe ! That last dish was very dramatic!

Over the years we have made some interesting dishes. Once, we replaced the traditional pork roast with a standing roast, and another year we filled and rolled it with a blend of cheeses, liqueurs and dried fruit. We made a memorable roast vegetable and herb dish one year. Once we deviated completely and made an Irish type liqueur, a cream whiskey sort of a drink for after the meal. I don’t really remember the details but I think it was a lot of fun … I vaguely recall that it involved a lot of sampling and taste-testing to perfect the recipe …

A few years ago, we included a new tradition when Jon’s been home the week before Christmas. We’ve had a tree trimming get together, inviting some of his friends from his school days. We put some ornaments on the tree, try some different wines, listen to old-fashioned Christmas tunes and make a fondue meal, reveling all the while in the holiday spirit (s). It’s a lot of fun!

The colder weather lately has turned my thoughts to more inside and wintry activities, cooking more complex meals and the holidays. I’m looking forward to the anticipated preparation of the Christmas Eve dinner. It’s a lot more fun to cook with companionship.

So Jon, what will we make this year?