Monday, November 05, 2007

A Delightful and Refreshing Aperitif

Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Whether you think this looks like a delightful and refreshing cold-weather aperitif* or a goblet of dog puke probably depends on whether or not you ever ate Christmas dinner at my Aunt D's and Uncle J's house. If you ever had, then you would most definitely be in the delightful and refreshing aperitif camp.

In case it's not obvious, what I have here is some rainbow sherbet bobbing about in a quantity of unfiltered, unpasteurized apple cider from the Draper Girl's [sic] Farm in the Hood River Valley. It's a bit sludgier looking than the concoction Aunt D made (she had no option but to use Mott's filtered and pasteurized apple cider), but I think it's much tastier. I made some tonight to help me unwind from yet another stint of working the phones for the Yes on 49 campaign (one last time before tomorrow's deadline) and it got me all nostalgic.

Deprived as my siblings and I were of all things sweet and desserty, we looked forward immensely to getting our glasses of apple cider and sherbet--I don't know if there's an actual name for this stuff. Shider? Cidbet?

It was so tasty! I liked to let the sherbet melt down a bit, which gave the cider a sort of creamy frothiness. Alas, the cidbet was always served in binky little glasses, and I was too shy to ever ask for a refill.

Usually, however, there were other off-limits foods (i.e., foods that were never to be found in our own house) laying about that we could snack on until dinner rolled around. For example, it was at Aunt D and Uncle J's house that I was first introduced to the Chocolate Orange. I ate most of one in the brief interval between the cidbet and the announcement that dinner was served.

For some reason, dinner always had to be called several times before anyone would mosey over to the dining room. Aunt D and Uncle J always invited a few orphans from their church where Uncle J was the choir director or from the university where Uncle J was a professor. The table often had a couple of extension card tables pushed next to it to accommodate all the extra people. This suited my cousins just fine because it meant that they'd practically be sitting in the den--the den with the TV set into a cubbyhole in the wall, the TV that was tuned to the football game. I didn't get it, but then again my cousins were boys and were all at least 10 years older than me.

The dinner menu was always exactly the same: Turkey with stuffing; mashed potatoes and gravy; a quivering cranberry-strawberry-celery Jell-O mold that came with a sidecar of cream cheese "dressing" (I once lobbed a massive dollop of the dressing straight into my lap.); dinner rolls; butter (not margarine like we had at home); green-bean casserole (you know which one I mean); sweet potatoes with bronzed mini-marshmallows on top; and pumpkin pie, mince pie, and Christmas cookies for dessert.

Here's what I'd eat: The tiniest sliver of turkey I thought I could get away with; some stuffing; the Jell-O thing (with dressing if I could manage to maneuver it to the plate); at least three rolls very liberally buttered; a small serving of the green-bean casserole (I'd try not to dig too deep, so as to maximize the ratio of fried onions to canned bean gloop); no mashed potatoes (unless Uncle J inexplicably forced me to put some on my plate), and no sweet potatoes (unless pressured by Uncle J, in which case I'd try to just skim off the marshmallow scum on top). Truth be told, the only thing I really liked were the dinner rolls, the butter, and the stuffing. And you know what? If I were served that meal today, my plate might look much the same.

Of course, I always saved plenty of room for dessert, and I always had a slice each of pumpkin and mince pie, a la mode. In fact, I didn't really like either variety of pie that much, but they were desserts and desserts were a scarce commodity at home, so I had to git while the gitting was good. I loaded up on the cookies, too. Aunt D always made at least a dozen different varieties, but I was (and still am) especially partial to toffee bars.

After dinner there was a lot of grown-up talk, usually centering around the antics of choir members. My siblings and I would ask if we could "be excused." Then we were free to roam Aunt D and Uncle J's huge old house. Everything about their house was pretty much the opposite of our house.

Where our house was a modest one-story ranch built in the late 1950s, theirs was a massive old hulk from the early 1900s with three stories and two staircases. One used to be a servant's staircase! Our house was kept at a frigid Jimmy Carter-ordained 68 degrees (or lower), while their house was toasty warm. Hot even. And it always smelled great. That is, it smelled like dinner rolls. What could be more delightful and welcoming?

Overall, everything was just ritzier, cleaner, and classier than our house, but somehow not in a snobby or pretentious way. Even the toilet paper was posh. It was white with an off-white fleur d'lis pattern printed on it. I later found out that Aunt D bought that fancy toilet paper at Marshall Field's. Imagine that!

Today's random NaBloPoMo blog: Love from Leila

*Edit: When I wrote this late last night, I had a niggling suspicion that an aperitif might, by definition, have to contain alcohol, but I didn't bother to check and just went ahead and used the word, because, heck, how often do you get to use that word these days? Being the stickler I sometimes am, I looked it up this morning, and, yes, an aperitif is indeed an alcoholic beverage. However, Aunt D and Uncle J were teetotalers, so the cidbet was about as close to an aperitif as they were ever going to get.

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