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Thursday, September 9, 2021

Merry Christmas to All

Merry Christmas to All …

I make a beef entree that I shamelessly stole from the covers of Fine Cooking Magazine. I always give them credit. It’s not mine, it’s theirs. I may embellish a little, but the basic recipe is Fine Cooking’s. And fine cooking it is. It’s one of those dishes that never ceases to blow the doors off any event. It’s a whole beef tenderloin, stuffed with a wild mushroom variation of a classic duxelle, served with a port wine reduction. Essentially, stuffed filet mignon with a port sauce. If it’s done right, it’s a melt-in-your-mouth, cut with a fork entree. It’s the kind of meal that people rave about, want the recipe, or they’ll invite you over to cook it for them. 


“The Tenderloin” will be the entree for Christmas 2008 dinner. Christmas is in beautiful Monterey this year, at the home of one of my best friends, who I’ve known since childhood, and his lovely wife. This has been the setting for so many memorable events over the years, including the celebration of the new millennium. 


As mentioned in an earlier piece, I’m not particularly religious in the formal sense of the word. But I love Christmas and think it should be celebrated as a day of peace and friendship with family and friends. It’s a day of giving, of both gifts and thanks for the people who enrich our lives. This has been a year of several losses, which unfortunately has been the case for the past three years. We lost two very dear friends 2 and 3 years ago respectively, and they’re still in our hearts, and are missed in a big way. This year saw the passing of my mom, who followed my dad by 14 years. Both went too young, particularly my dad. My sister’s husband lost his mom and aunt a few months ago, and they’ll be missed at their Christmas dinner in Woodside. 


We also lost two cats, which by no means should be compared to the loss of a friend or family member, but it’s significant, nonetheless. You get them as kittens, they’re part of your family for years and years, they get sick or old, and then they’re gone. But as with friends and family who pass, you remember the good things about them, not the bad ones. You remember how warm they could be on a winter night with snow outside … but selectively forget that they clawed a speaker or curtain beyond repair. You remember how glad you are that they’re still around to enrich your life and forget the thousands of dollars that you may have spent to get them through an illness. 


Annabelle and Cody were both “chosen” from future litters. Annie was a mutt, but I knew the parents and had watched a couple litters of awesome kitties go quickly. My co-worker was adamant that they didn’t want the mother to have another litter, but I “pre-ordered” the choice female, should she decide to take nature into her own hands. She did, and we picked our little Annie from a big litter of cute tabby-Siamese kitties. 

In her early years, she used to run at top speed from one end of the house to the other, then fly up the curtains and hang by her claws from the top rungs. She was always a “jumper” and had no problem even in her older years, getting up onto mantles, tall beds, counters, or anywhere else she wanted to get to (commonly to eat a plant, much to our dismay). She was bitchy, moody, nasty to her roommates, and earned and maintained the moniker of “bitch kitty from hell” very early on. But she was also a lover and would lay purring for hours on a congenial lap or shoulder. Annabelle made it to 18, and one final move back to California before her age caught up with her.


Cody, or more properly “Miranda’s Wild Bill Cody of Burney Falls” as his CFA certificate reads, was a huge Maine Coon Cat. Cody was also the pick of the litter and was “ordered” before he was even conceived. His color was technically blue tabby, but he was kind of a bluish gray. Big, big cat … 28 pounds at one point. Quite the conversation piece … you have no idea, until you’ve been around a cat this size. And not fat, just big. His daddy was a “Supreme Grand Champion” and at 17 pounds seemed like a big cat himself. 


Cody would terrorize the other three girl kitties regularly, because it was his job, and he understood this all too well. Chasing them up and down the stairs, cornering them in a hallway, taking an occasional swat at one of them with paws the size of a child’s hand, were all part of the daily routine. Cody managed to pick up diabetes at about 9 years old, so the last two years of his life weren’t tremendously pleasant, but we did everything we needed to, because that’s what you do for your pets. Although cats have minds of their own and totally lack the “aim to please” attitude of dogs, they’re members of your family. And you miss them when they’re gone. 


So, this Christmas, I’d like to give thanks to the friends and family that are such a cherished part of our lives. If my cooking, music, or presence can bring some happiness to someone and maybe add a little cheer to their life, I’ve reached my goal. We’ve all met people who go through life with an attitude of “what can I do to make your day a little better,” and if any of us can come remotely close to that, we’ll leave the world a little better for it. 


So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and wishing everyone a great 2009. 


The holiday menu:

Steamed artichokes 

Lobster bisque

Amuse bouche of lemon sorbet with grated tangerine zest, mint garnish, served on a Chinese soup spoon

Whole beef tenderloin with a wild mushroom duxelle stuffing, served with a port wine reduction

Broccoli casserole

Potatoes au Gratin

Small, mixed dessert tray


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