Saturday, November 30, 2013

November and December

November - with uncanny witchery in its changed trees. With murky red sunsets flaming in smoky crimson behind the westering hills. With dear days when the austere woods were beautiful and gracious in a dignified serenity of folded hands and closed eyes - days full of a fine, pale sunshine that sifted through the late, leafless gold of the juniper trees and glimmered among the grey beeches, lighting up evergreen banks of moss and washing the colonnades of the pines. Days with a high sprung sky of flawless turquoise. Days when an exquisite melancholy seemed to hang over the landscape and dream about the lake. But days, too, of the wild blackness of great autumn storms, followed by dank, wet, streaming nights when there was witch-laughter in the pines and fitful moans among the mainland trees. What cared they? Old Tom had built his roof well and his chimney drew.
"Warm fire - books - comfort - safety from storm - our cats on the rug." Said Barney,"would you be any happier now if you had a million dollars?"

December. Early snows and Orion. The pale fires of the Milky Way. It was really winter now - wonderful, cold, starry winter. Days of clear brilliance. Evenings that were like cups of glamour - the purest vintage of winter's wine. Nights with their fire of stars. Cold, exquisite sunrises. Lovely ferns of ice over the windows of the Blue Castle. Moonlight on birches in a silver thaw. Ragged shadows on windy evenings. Great silences, austere and searching. Ice-grey twilights, broken by snow-squalls, when their cozy living room with its goblins of firelight and inscrutable cats seemed cozier than ever.

~ L. M. Montgomery, The Blue Castle

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Challenge I Was Given and How I Have Acheived It

This weekend marks the fourth Thanksgiving of my marriage to Roman Mallery. Each year we have had the over-indulgent, and highly enjoyable experience of a table-loaded meal with our respective parents and siblings (on separate days, thankfully). This year is no different, all the usual hallmarks of the holiday, traditional dishes, family games, the round-the-table-expressions-of-particular-thanks. Every year the table is a little more crowded as many babies rapidly swell our ranks (my in-laws have twelve grandkids and counting). A crazy weekend to kick of the round of holidays.

In this big picture story, there are always details that form us. Details like dessert. Every year I have contributed to the dessert table. While my dear husband has raved about my cooking skills from day 1, there is one area where I never quite measured up to his expectations.
And a Thanksgiving without pie would be drastic.
It seems I had rather a lot to live up to in the pie department. Roman's dear Grandma Mallery is a pie maker whose fame has spread across the northwest. All who know her rave about her pies. Roman's mother is not bad herself, and one of my sister-in-laws has a knack for the flakiest piecrusts you will find anywhere. So with each November I find myself scouring my cookbooks and the internet to make a pie that my husband truly enjoys. Last year I pulled off a Sweet Potato Meringue Pie that knocked his socks off and this year I think I may be able to join the ranks of Mallery women and their pies. The lard piecrusts have been far more successful than butter. Lard rendered from the pig we helped raise and now stocks our freezer. Yesterday's Apple-Sour-Cream-Crumb Pie achieved the highest praise from my husband yet. Last weekend I made a test pumpkin pie that was rapidly consumed by my son, daughter, and husband. Today I made three more Pumpkin Pies for our Mallery gathering tomorrow and if my son's longing gaze is any indicator, they should be alright.
In conclusion,
I may not ever achieve the level of recognition that Grandma Mallery has in her 80+ years,
and I don't think pie will ever be my specialty.
However, I think have given my husband a satisfactory improvement in the last four years
and I can safely say that I have accomplished a great personal challenge.
And buying a pastry mat, the kind that marks each size circle, has been the smartest purchase this baking season.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!