Posted by: scribe9 | December 17, 2009

Take two

Loyal readers will recall that I almost succeeded in making a Traditional American Thanksgiving dinner, lacking only a turkey for reasons beyond my control: the butcher ordered a frozen rather than a fresh turkey, so I had to substitute chickens.

In speaking with New Zealanders, I found out that the TAT dinner is extremely close to the traditional New Zealand Christmas dinner—cranberries and all—differing only in the dessert. So I figured I wouldn’t have any trouble getting a turkey for Christmas.

Both Rick and Emily will both be at the hospital all day, so we thought about having the big dinner the next day, on Boxing Day, which is on Saturday this year. We’re out of town until late Christmas Eve afternoon, the butcher is never open Saturdays, much less major holidays, so obviously a fresh turkey was out of the question. Considering the Thanksgiving result, I was happy to order a frozen bird, and I was willing to give the butcher a second chance, so a couple of weeks ago I ordered a 4.5-5 kilogram frozen turkey.

Today I went to pick up the turkey, and was waited on by the woman who had taken my order over the phone. It was only 3.5 kg, even though my order was attached. What had happened? “I guess the boss told them it would be okay.” Both my home and cell phone numbers were on the order form, so I could have been consulted, and no, it was not okay. Did they have a turkey of the size I wanted? Of course not—just a 6 kg one.

The butcher I’d dealt with at Thanksgiving got involved, and he gave me a serious price break, so I ended up taking the big one. I know that the third time is a charm, but it’s just as well that there’s no third American holiday involving turkey. I don’t think the butcher would survive. 

At least we have a turkey, and cranberries for the sauce. The only issue is dessert, and we’ve decided to skip the pies and do the New Zealand thing. Traditionalists serve fruitcake, and there are dozens of kinds to choose among, but my family won’t go for that. The other main choice is Pavlovas. They’re named after a petite Russian ballerina of the early 20th century, and they’re simply meringues topped with whipped cream and fruit. There’s some dispute whether they were invented in New Zealand or Australia (one of these days I’ll write an entry or six or eight on the rivalry between the two countries). We’re planning on the strawberry sort, and I hope by then we can find fruit that’s not crunchy.

In the meantime, we’re making a few traditional Christmas cookies. A family favorite is brownies topped with mint frosting and bitter chocolate. With a firm layer topped by two soft ones, it’s something like the slices so popular here. Today I went to the store to get ingredients. There was no spearmint extract, just peppermint, but I could live with that, since that was the original flavor before I amended it. What surprised me was the total lack of unsweetened baking chocolate—although that goes along with the huge New Zealand sweet tooth. I ended up getting some Lindt 85% dessert chocolate and adjusting the recipe. When I next get some algebra tutees, I’ll give them the problem I had to solve, of how much 85% to use and how much less sugar. They’ll be happy, I know.


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