Christmas Greetings 2015
Transcript of Christmas Greetings 2015
. . . visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.
Mmmm – sugarplums? Never had one. Wouldn’t know a sugarplum if I saw one. But everyone has some kind of a vision – dancing, leaping, or just limping along – in their heads. In 2015, we learned one person’s sugarplum might be another person’s pain in the . . . A Colorectal Sugarplum Imagine you’re a 24-year-old auto parts vender in Comayagua, Honduras. One afternoon, armed thieves rob you, firing a bullet right through your colon. In this, the most dangerous country on the planet outside a full-fledged war zone, deadly violence is frequent. Fortunately for you, your life is
saved when surgeons perform an emergency colostomy on you – complete with a bag. This arrangement is intended to be temporary, only until your colon has healed. But reversing the procedure – an elective surgery – is costly beyond your means. Three years pass, and it’s looking like you may be saddled with this bag the rest of your life. You’re only 27 years old. What vision now limps along in your head? Might it be just the ability to poop like everyone else, if you please?
The first of 139 surgeries performed by this year’s Virginia Hospital Center Medical Brigade was a colostomy reversal for our now much relieved auto parts vendor. I can’t take any credit for the work of our 75 volunteer medical staff during my 10 days in Honduras, but I was honored to help prepare their meals. Starting at 4:00 am each day and finishing by 9:30 pm each night, Betsy Cave, Holly Vaughn, and I prepared and served some pretty good food in a kitchen that would likely not pass health inspections here. And nobody got sick! Exhausting work, but a sugarplum of an experience.
(For health reasons, Bill wasn’t able go this year; he insisted I go without him. Glad I went – thank you, Bill!)
The Virginia Hospital Center Medical Brigade in Honduras
The Return of Lost Sugarplums Now imagine you’re at Washington National Airport waiting to board your flight. You think you’re all set to go – not realizing you’ve dropped your VISA card somewhere between baggage check and Starbucks. An honest DC lawyer finds your card and hands it to Bill , the Travelers ’ Aid volunteer at the Information Desk. Bill announces your name over the loudspeaker system – but you, well, you’re texting, you’re distracted, tuning everything out, and don’t hear a thing. You don’t show up and Bill gets worried. So he searches your name on FACEBOOK and finds your profile, noting where you work. He phones your employer, and explains. Your employer then phones you, and of course you say, “OMG!! My credit card – AHHH.” You dash down to the Information Desk where, just waiting for you, Bill is there, smiling, with your lost sugarplum. This past year, Bill was honored as the Travelers’ Aid volunteer with the most volunteer hours. He loves doing this, and as you can tell, he’s really, really good at it.
The Taster/Tester of Sugarplums Just about every week, Bill dives into another culinary adventure as a recipe tester/evaluator for America ’s Test Kitchens (yes, even though this glorious task is by invitation only, it’s an unpaid labor of love). Four of our own favorite recipes this past year were the Portuguese beef stew, the gluten-free almond biscotti, the sweet potato soup, and the incredibly delicious peach jam. If you’re a Cook’s Il lustrated subscriber, watch for publication of these recipes in 2016.
Four of my best baguettes this year
“I have never made a perfect baguette, nor have I eaten a perfect baguette,” says chef Thomas Keller on page 257 of his book, Bouchon Bakery . He bakes 800 to 1000 baguettes every day. If he still hasn’t produced a flawless baguette, then surely I should be given a break for imperfections in my own baguette-making hobby. These babies are NOT easy: the sticky, moody, unmanageable dough doesn’t intend to cooperate with anyone; you have to trick it into doing what you want it to do. My persistence is paying off (I think), and now I’m almost proud of some of my results. Visions of perfect baguettes are now continuously dancing in my head.
There really are thousands of acres of sunflowers in Provence
When we decided to rent a centuries-old stone house in San Remy, France for a month during July, we had no idea how hot it would be. We heard people say, “I’ve never been so hot in all my life!” A heat wave from the Sahara had the entire country sweltering. Thank goodness our house was made of stone; its thick walls made the nights almost bearable. But who can complain when you have ten different bakeries and a Michelin-starred restaurant literally
within minutes of your front door? It was all GOOD!! Our furkids, Buddy and Maddie, were awfully good sports about the ordeal, and explored everything from the Pont du Gard to the Théâtre antique d'Orange with us. In France, dogs are allowed everywhere, it being a highly civilized land.
Buddy trying to stay cool on the stairs
Sugarplum Fairies Admittedly, they don’t dance, but when you come for a visit – please come soon! - they’ll welcome you with wet kisses and affectionate sniffs. Until then, Merry Christmas from Buddy & Maddie, and Larry & Bill