Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Alternative Version of Events

Given that it is the season of goodwill, red velvet, gold ribbons and refined sugar as well as the annual spike in the national suicide rate, you may very well be asking yourselves: what could Christine possibly be doing that is so compelling it kept her from blogging about La Griteria, Saints Budoc, Mennas, Eulalia of Merida, Daniel the Stylite and Lucia.

I will tell you.


On La Gritería (In Nicaragua the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, a dogma taxing to the credulity, is celebrated with fireworks, public revelry and chanting.) I made dozens of cocoa rum balls. These involve the mixing together of many healthy and alcoholic ingredients, then rolling the paste between the palms of your hands to make little spheres, and then rolling the spheres in confectioners’ sugar. They are even better after being locked inside a metal box for a week.

The next day was the feast of Saint Budoc. He was a perfectly fine abbot, but his mother, Azenor, was remarkable: when her father was being attacked by a snake, Azenor smeared her breast with milk and aromatic oil to lure to snake away from her beleaguered Papa and onto her breast. Naturally the snake obliged. But the snake wanted to stay on that comfortable spot, so Azenor was forced to chop off her own breast and throw it into the fire. God recognized her for this kind act by replacing the charred breast with a new breast made of gold. Later she survived five months sealed inside a casket in the ocean, and in fact she even gave birth to Budoc inside that cask.
I made candied orange peels. Candied orange peels are my new favorite way to put myself into a hyperglycemic coma.

On the anniversary of the miserable death of Saint Mennas (eyes and tongue plucked out, feet flayed, beheaded) I made anise drop cookies. The thing about anise cookies that intrigues me is that after making the batter and dropping into onto the cookie sheet, you have to leave them out overnight before cooking. If you fail to do this, the cookies will have the texture of socks. Otherwise, they are a delicious soft and crunchy paradox. That same day was also the feast of Saint Eulalia of Merida (asphyxiated by the smoke from her burning hair), because there is little more appealing to a painter than the opportunity to paint a bloodied and naked young woman on the snow.
Painting by John William Waterhouse

To honor the feast of St Daniel the Stylite (the second-best-known of the pillar saints, they who sit atop pillars for ridiculously long periods of time, after St Simeon the Stylite, the best-known) I made gingerbread. And why is this gingerbread so good? Because it contains mustard (the dried kind in the lovely yellow tin) and candied ginger. Now candied ginger is rather difficult to chop (try it if you don’t believe me) but I have come up with a solution. I freeze it first, and then it cracks apart so easily you (I) wonder why it took so long to figure that out.

Painting by Domenico Beccafumi.
And then on the feast of Santa Lucia I made meringues. There is very little I can tell you about Saint Lucy that is true. When the wicked Diocletian sent her to be ‘exposed’ in a brothel, God made turned her to stone so that she became immovable. When Diocletian minions set her aflame, she did not burn. In order to dissuade an over-eager – and pagan – suitor, Lucy ripped out her eyeballs and presented them to the hapless swain. But God put them back in.
What color were her eyes? Probably not red or green, but those were the colors of the meringues I made. CSB, being the purist in the house, was distraught to see the tell-tale little bottles of food coloring, but in this holiday season certain aspects of our domestic order are jettisoned (good taste?).
Meant to look like eyeballs on a platter.

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