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At the Table: A delicious Christmas fable | Food


Rose Hollander

’T’was the day before Christmas, the table was set,

For a meal to be shared, indulgences to be met.

As I worked in the kitchen, hands rolling out dough,

Visions danced in my head, making progress so slow.

What does it matter, the speed that it is done?

‘tis time to reflect on past Christmases and fun.

Pleasant daydreams brought a memory so fine to behold,

my father’s Lobster Newburg, a Christmas pot of gold.

“Oh, what a fine addition,” I thought with a smile,

And away I dashed to the Burritt seafood aisle.

I worried about expense, then shooed this away,

It’s a time to be merry, not a time for dismay!

The store was a jovial bustle within, but I sped in a thrice

To the glistening jewels from the sea on crushed ice.

There was one lonely lobster and it’s mine, I thought,

When a man in front of me pointed, and it was bought.

He was dressed all in red from his head to his toes,

With a snowy white beard, twinkly eyes and bright nose.

He sensed my dismay, as he viewed my sad face.

“Did you want this lobster?” his voice a deep bass.

“It’s no matter!” I said, “just a last-minute splurge.

Perhaps it’s best to be frugal; not give in to the urge.”

“How will you cook the lobster?” I gave a wee smile,

“I can share a fine recipe; I have it on file.”

Before I could blink, he handed me the prize,

And with a warm look, gave these words so wise:

“My day has been busy, many children on my knees

Whispering wishes they hoped to find under their trees.

A mountain of presents may bring joy for the day,

But what they’ll remember, as you did, is the way

A holiday table with lobster, pierogies, and roast beast,

Oysters, shrimp, and crab made great epic feasts.

It’s hard to indulge when we think we should not;

But having those memories are precious, are they not?”

“How do you know of these food memories of mine?”

“You listed them perfectly, line by line!”

As if I were a child, he patted my head,

“It’s the magic of Christmas,” he winked as he fled.

“Merry Christmas!” I called to the folks I did meet

As they set up their candles along Webster Street.

Paper bag luminaries would soon glow in the night;

The revelers would come, singing carols with delight.

That evening as the lobster bubbled away in the pot,

The pierogies were filled, the brown butter was hot.

Our family made latkes, drinking fine Rare Bird beer

As we spoke of past Christmases, all with great cheer.

Then the doorbell did ring with carolers a-plenty

Eric invited them in; the room swelled to twenty:

The Vosses, the Otwells, Gary, Lisa, and Barb;

Along with their children, all dressed in wintry garb.

The carolers were ushered in, “come share the meal!”

Plates were filled with warm food, but what was the deal?

The lobster pot never ran out of its delicious treat,

Truly! It kept filling itself up, a magical feat.

As I lay in my bed, happily recalling the night,

I heard a sleighbell ring ever so slight.

I crept down the stairs and opened the door.

Santa stood there, and said, “We met at the store.”

“I smelled your lobster and I do have to say,

Cookies and milk are fine, but after this day

I could use something savory, hot, and tasty.

May I please have a bowl? It’s late; I’ll be hasty.”

I ladled some from the never-empty pot to a dish.

He ate it, licked his lips, and confided his wish.

“I had a plan for the lobster; it was a gift for the Mrs.

Yet I am glad you made this; I’ll give her Hershey’s kisses!”

It was my turn to smile as I gave him the rest,

“This should make the Mrs. happy; give her my best.”

He nodded and turned, climbing into his sleigh,

“It’s time to go home; it’s been a long day.”

“Now Andrew, Now Ken, Now Joan and Paul

On Katie, On Pete, On Henry and all.

To the top of the pergola, to the top of the wall,

Dash away, dash away, dash away all.”


Gather family and friends to your holiday table

And be sure to offer the very best you are able.

Food and good drink, laughter and a tall tale,

This is what makes memories that prevail.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good meal!

Simple Potato Latkes

Trick to good latkes is to make them just before cooking, then eat them right away!

Makes about 3 dozen

2 russet potatoes (1 lb.), washed and cut into quarters

1 large yellow onion (8 oz.) peeled and cut into quarters

2 large eggs, beaten

½ C. flour

2 t. salt

1 t. baking powder

Oil for frying

Applesauce, sour cream for serving. Try smoked salmon and chives for a treat!

Grate potatoes and onions on the coarse side of your grater, or with a food processor. Place misture in a clean dishtowel, and then wring out the liquid.

Transfer potato/onion mixture to a large bowl. Add eggs, flour, salt and baking powder. Mix until the flour is absorbed. Have a baking sheet with paper towels or newspaper to place latkes on after frying.

Place ¼ inch oil in a medium sized, heavy frying pan and warm over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, drop heaping tablespoons of the potato mixture into the oil, flattening each into a disk with a spatula. Turn when you see the edges browning (after about 5 minutes) and cook another 5 minutes until the other side is brown. Place on baking sheet until you cook them all. Enjoy!

— Rose Hollander

Homemade Irish Cream

A delicious indulgence and, I think, better than Bailey’s! Needs to be refrigerated.

Makes about a quart

1 C. light rum

1 C. blended whiskey

2 oz. Kahlua

1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

2 C. half and half

1 t. instant espresso or coffee

Blend all ingredients well, and place in clean bottles.

— Special thanks to Karen Schaub, who gave me this recipe long ago.

Lobster Newburg

I shared this recipe last December but in case you missed it, here it is:

Serves 4

4 T. melted butter

2 C. boiled or roasted diced lobster meat

¼ C. dry sherry or Madeira

½ t. paprika

¼ t. nutmeg

3 egg yolks

1 C. heavy cream

Salt and white pepper (or cayenne) to taste

3 C. cooked buttered white rice

Melt butter in the top pan of a double boiler over the almost boiling water (water should not touch the bottom of the top pan.) Add lobster and cook gently for a few minutes, then add sherry and cook another few minutes. Add the paprika and nutmeg. Beat the egg yolks and cream in a separate bowl, then stir into the lobster butter mixture. Continue stirring until mixture thickens but do not let it curdle. Taste for salt, sprinkle with a little pepper and serve immediately over rice.

— Rose Hollander, adapted from “Joy of Cooking”

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