Well, I hope you had or are having a nice seasonal celebration, if you have one. Our family had a very nice Christmas, celebrated in what has become our usual way—a traditional Polish Wigilia on Christmas Eve, ably hosted by my sister-in-law's brother, Ed Noyszewski, and his wife Mary—Wesołych Świąt!—and then a family-traditional internationally-themed dinner on Christmas day hosted by my brother and sister-in-law.
They are good enough cooks that their adventures in cooking are not only edible year after year, but delicious. This year the theme was Australian, so dinner consisted of, among other things, pumpkin soup (outstanding), a fish and lobster-claw appetizer, and kangaroo (what else?). You Ozzies out there might think kangaroo common, but it's exotic in the suburbs of Chicago. It's the only time I've ever tasted it (and the first time I've had red meat in almost three months). Strong but tasty. Dinner was topped off by a dessert concoction that would be better described as "out of this world" than Australian—it was called—it was called (brain struggles with proper-noun-aphasia...)—a "Pavlova," I think, after the famous dancer. I have no idea how common a dish that is in Australia, but I put forward a motion (that was seconded, and carried) that we make it a traditional dessert of ours. Yum.
We suspended our gift exchange a few years ago—there's only one child in the extended family at the moment, who is showered with plenty of gifts—so I took an amount of money and divided it between three charities. This year it was St. Joseph's Medical Clinic, a free clinic for the uninsured and underinsured in my hometown; the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation, in support of the Lakota kids, which I started helping to support on the recommendation of photographer Aaron Huey*; and the Philippine Red Cross, for Typhoon Haiyan relief. It's a great privilege to be able to give.
('Tis good to remember that the original Santa Claus, Nikolaos of Myra, a half-historial, half-mythical Greek bishop around whom are gathered many stories of gift-giving, gave to the poor and the needy. Sometimes it's good to give yourself a present too, though.)
After dinner we had a Bible reading by my nephew David, who recently converted to Mormonism, and a reading of fun facts about Australia collected by my neice Mari, who is thinking of becoming a teacher. Very interesting—lots that I did not know about our neighbors Down Under.
Ed and Mary are good friends, and it's always nice to stay over with them—this year we solved the world's problems until 3 a.m., which is always fun (Ed works as a night-shift nurse, so he was just getting into his usual day when I finally faded).
But talk about aphasia...I left my camera at their house, which is why this post doesn't include a photo. That's not middle age, however. I've been leaving cameras hither and yon all my life, starting with my first serious camera which I lost at age 14. I haven't lost more than that first one, but I misplace them often enough that I have anxiety dreams about it. Too bad there's not an app for that.
More later today—
(Illustration by Elisabeth Ivanovsky)
*Be a bit careful, though, because they sell your name and address. Although the Red Cloud School is bona fide and does good work, some of the "Indian Relief" organizations are faux-charities that donate very little to native Americans and keep most of the donations—93%, in the case of one I researched—for "administration." Just sayin'.
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Featured Comments from:
Peter Gilbert: "I'm an Aussie from Melbourne. Aussies, not Ozzies. Crayfish, not lobster. Kangaroo would be 5% or less of the meat department at the supermarket and rarely seen in a butcher shop. Glad to hear you liked the pav, they are pretty good. :-) "
Pritnam Singh: "The nationality of the creator of the Pavlova dessert has been a simmering controversy between Australia and New Zealand since forever. I'd be loath to allow the credit for it to be handed to the Ozzies so facilely. If anything, it weighs in favour of the Kiwis so far as I know. In any event, it is an enduring controversy with a mostly good-natured tug-of-war between the two countries and a far less robust one than, say, rugby or cricket."
Mike replies: Not Ozzies, Aussies.
Peter: "Don't let anyone from New Zealand try to tell you pavlova was invented there. They do this all the time."