Just want to give a quick shout out to all the Veterans who have served and sacrificed everything for the things that we all too often take for granted.
For everyone else, here’s a couple of cartoons from the legendary WWII cartoon Willie & Joe, written by Bill Mauldin.
I had forgotten about a particular tradition until Lindz visited one of her professors before Christmas. Her professor receives a box of citrus from one of his former students every year during Advent. When Lindz showed up to visit, he had just gotten his yearly present and he realized that he couldn’t eat it all before it went bad. So, Lindz ended up with a box of fruit.
The tradition that I forgot about was the giving of a certain bag of “goodies” at Christmas time. This bag consists of an orange (maybe an apple too), nuts in the shell (usually peanuts), and some form of candy (candy canes, old fashioned ribbon candy, chocolate coins, etc). With a bit of research on the good ol’ internet, I found that a lot of people used to get these in their stocking from their parents. Personally, I received it from our priest every year as a youngster. I’ve heard of this custom off and on over the years, but never knew the origin. I’ve always assumed that it was a “healthy” and/or “inexpensive” gift. But the more that I heard about it, it slowly dawned on me that this wasn’t just a local Catholic thing, it was far more widespread phenomenon. This year I finally took the time to do the research. It turns out that the actual origins are pretty murky. Frustrating, but not surprising. On the web, a lot of people remember this as a kid, and many continue it with their own children. Most people are comfortable with the answer of “I don’t know. It was just something that grandma (or whomever) always did.” They assume that it either came from the old country, (Italy, Poland, England, etc) or it dates back to the time when oranges were a rarity and hence an actual treat, or some combination of these two factors. While I can see these two reasons being factors, it just didn’t feel right for how widespread and long lasting this experience is.
Wiki to the rescue!
In his (St. Nicholas) most famous exploit, a poor man had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably, in absence of any other possible employment, would have to become prostitutes . Hearing of the poor man’s plight, Nicholas decided to help him . . . and drops the third bag down the chimney (where) the daughter had washed her stockings that evening and hung them over the embers to dry, and that the bag of gold fell into the stocking.
Ok, but how do we get from a bag of gold to an orange? Here is where symbolism comes into effect. The best explanation is that an orange is a similar color to gold and that oranges are similar in shape to bags of the shiny stuff. Also, in some European countries, oranges have symbolized Jesus’ love for the world. I’ve listed a bunch of the more interesting links that I’ve found at the end of this post.
Now that the history lesson is over, on to the food!
We weren’t eating the box of oranges as fast as we should have and they were in real danger of going bad. So I had to come up with something to use a whole bunch of oranges at once. I’ve had a venison loin sitting in the freezer since last fall and it seemed like it would be a perfect pairing for an orange pan sauce that I had in mind.
Since the sauce was going to be the star of the show, I simply cut the loin into medallions and pan fried them in a bit of oil.
As a side, I went with roasted potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic all mashed up together.
Once the venison was fried off and resting, I made the pan sauce. The recipe that I borrowed quite heavily from is the Orange Pan Sauce with Middle Eastern Spices from the Cook’s Illustrated cookbook. I really wanted the sauce to be a “Friday-night-drunken-barroom-brawl” explosion in your mouth, so I went very heavy on the OJ and zest.
- 2 Shallots, minced
- 2 tsp Sugar
- 1 tsp Ground Cumin
- 1/4 tsp Pepper
- 1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp Ground Cardamom
- 1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1/4 C Orange Zest
- 3 Tbs Red Wine Vinegar
- 2 C Orange Juice
Pour off all but 1 1/2 Tbs fat from the skillet (of whatever meat you are making). Place skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Stir in sugar, cumin, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, and cayenne; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in vinegar, scraping bottom of pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the fond. Add the orange juice, increase heat to medium-high and simmer until reduced to about 3/4 C, about 10 to 15 minutes. Off heat, season with salt to taste. Spoon over meat and serve.
I managed to create the citrus barrage that I was intending. Plus, the other spices weren’t lost in all of the citric acid. They were a nice background note in the sauce. What is even better, is that the sauce worked equally well on both the meat and the roasted veggie mash. All in all, I was quite pleased with this meal. In fact, I am hoping the bag of lemons that we have in the fridge right now linger around a bit so I have an excuse to try this with a different citrus.
p.s. Sorry if there is less snark in this post than usual. Lindz has been hoarding our household’s share of it lately.
An informative page, with emphasis on the Canadian Prairies.
A well-researched page (much more effort than I put into mine) that is a nice narrative.
This page looks at this Christmas tradition with regard to its English origin.
A sugar- and food-centric page that emphasizes the sweet and preservative aspect of fruit.
An interesting audio story from Minnesota Public Radio about the impact of a couple from Minnesota and their influence on the Christmas orange tradition here.
A not very helpful page with regards to Christmas oranges, but a still very interesting read.
A wonderful page full of Polish Christmas time traditions.
This is one of my all-time favorite snacks. It goes back to the days that I was growing up on the ol’ farm. I don’t have it often nowadays. but that’s mainly because I don’t usually have heavy whipping cream sitting in the fridge. For whatever reason, I don’t think of picking some up on the grocery runs.
The recipe is really simple. Cut up fruit of your choice, throw it in a bowl, sprinkle a little sugar onto it, pour enough cream to cover, and enjoy!
I sometimes marvel at what passes for healthy (or even normal) eating on the farm. Granted, more often than not, you were burning through 4000 calories in a day, but still boggles the mind.
Been avoiding this for a while now.
Lindz’s Grandma Alice passed away on the 4th. It was extremely unexpected. From what the paramedics and Kirk (Lindz’s dad) could tell, she did her usual morning routine, poured herself a cup of coffee, and sat down in front of the TV to watch Cash Cab. When Kirk stopped by later in the afternoon and found her, she was still sitting in her chair, no longer with us.
I’ve known her for only the last 6 years, but she became an important part of my life. Her place was a regular stop whenever we would go to Rochester and visit Lindz’s folks. No matter when we would stop by (even out of the blue) she was always happy to see her favorite granddaughter and grandson-in-law. Yup, we were the only granddaughter and grandson-in-law. She liked her ha-ha moments.
During the cold months, Alice would work on her jigsaw puzzles in the sun porch. It would take her a while to put them together because she didn’t always get the pieces right. So myself or Kyle (Lindz’s brother) would go through and pull apart whatever didn’t work. She didn’t mind, but she could still crank through several each winter.
When she wasn’t doing her puzzles, she was usually reading her books. She was a very frequent visitor to the library. She would occasionally complain (at least to us) if they didn’t have what she wanted in the large print. Though they usually did have a copy, or would find her one. It was really touching that the library sent a condolence card.
Of course, this is all secondary to when her “little hooligans” were over. Kirk and Denise have two English Setters, Ty and Rose, and the dogs would go over to Alice’s for doggy-daycare. This used to be more frequent, back when Kirk was still teaching. Alice spoiled those dogs like nothing else. It got to the point where the dogs wouldn’t eat regular jelly. They had to have orange marmalade on their breakfast toast when they went over to Grandma’s. I know the puppies ate more of her supper than she did. Alice and the dogs didn’t mind, but it needled Kirk because the dogs kept gaining weight and his mom wasn’t.
Alice was fond of telling people how she got her name. She was the youngest of 13 and after she was born, her dad, John, decided that it was enough kids and said “das ist alles.” Which translates from German as “that is all.” So it was decided that she should be called Alice. Both Alice and I loved a good play on words, so, for you Alice, I’m signing off with “und das ist alles.”
My family is Catholic (with the stray Lutheran or two), so when my Grandfather Mike passed away back in ’76, a mass was said for him. That has turned into a yearly tradition which has been going strong ever since. As other relatives have passed away over the years, they have been added to the remembrance.
The mass is held at my parent’s church (which also used to be my grandparents) and afterwards, everyone heads over to the farm to BS and eat lunch. So I thought it would be fitting to use this as a post on the one year (-ish) anniversary of starting this blog. The reasoning is pretty simple. Family gatherings like these have been a major influence on my life, both culinarily and communally. I look forward to this event each and every year because it’s one of the few times that I get to see a large portion of my family. That and the food. The Czecks love to eat. And they love to eat good food.
I just want to point out that the food has been scaled back significantly as the years have gone by. The food this year completely covered the kitchen table and the desserts took up a decent portion of a counter.
As noted in a previous post, my nephew Cole helped me make a kale salad (I really promise this post is coming soon). My aunt Rosie (and hubby Gary) went to the State Fair this year and she sat through a twenty minute demonstration in order to get this wild rice salad recipe (at least I think this is the recipe). I’m glad she was patient because it was very good. It had avocado, steak, wild rice, and all sorts of other goodies in it. One of my other aunties, Mary Ann, had a freezer full of pheasant, so she used this opportunity to get rid of some of it. Much to everyone’s delight I might add. She fried off the pieces, made a pan gravy, and finished it off in the crockpot. She had some of the younger kids come up to her and tell her how good it was. It was really cute. Some of those kids have never had pheasant before. It warmed my heart that they were willing to try something completely new and even more that they liked it.
Mom was the one who made the sausages. She picked up five pounds of the polish at Thielen’s (as usual) and it all disappeared by the time everyone was through eating. It really is that good. I can’t talk up that meat locker enough.
I think there may have been a riot if my sis, Chell, didn’t make coffee cake. (I’ve posted the recipe before.) I don’t even care that she didn’t make the poppy seed version because she sent a whole apple one home with Lindz and me. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m very easily bribed with food. It’s even easier when it’s really good homemade food.
I was joking with my cousin Jon about the popcorn balls that he brought. I asked him if he was trying to class up the Czeck gatherings by drizzling chocolate over them. He just smiled sheepishly and chuckled. Good enough of an answer because they were a chocolate-caramel delight.
I’ve tried for years to get Mom to sit down, relax for a minute, and grab a bite to eat. But she is having none of it. At this point, I ask the token question of if she needs help and then let her do her thing. For the record, I do gladly help when she asks for it.
As a final note, I am endlessly amused watching people on the farm. It started out many years ago with my cousins. They would run around like wild animals crawling over the hay bales, running through the woods, sitting on the tractors, chasing the cats, mooing at the cows, and spooking the chickens. Or what I would call a normal day. Now that my cousins are older and have kids of their own, I get to watch the next generation do the same thing. And you know what? It still hasn’t gotten old.
Today would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday. I’m sure practically every other food blog has some mention of her today, and well, I’m no different. What peer pressure? Like most Americans, I grew up watching The French Chef in some form or another. Julia’s TV career covered almost 40 years so it’s not surprising at how many people count her as a cooking influence. But what endears her to me goes deeper that just her culinary style and expertise.
In addition to being a foodie, I am a history buff as well. Particularly with the early/mid 20th Century. And even more specifically, World War II. So when I found out that Julia worked for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), my respect for her grew in leaps and bounds. She mainly worked as a secret researcher, but it was for General William Donovan, the head of the OSS. In the latter war years, she was stationed in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and China where she dealt with classified communications. In between those stints, she worked in Emergency Rescue Equipment Section developing shark repellent. Finally, I should mention that the OSS was the precursor to the CIA. Yes, Julia Child is that cool.
The other thing that I love about Julia is that she stood 6′ 1″. There is really no significance to this other than that I see her as a kindred spirit who has bumped their heads more than is healthy.