Sunday, December 28, 2008

Food for the belly, food for the brain

Did everyone have a good Christmas? I sure did! My holidays were filled with lots of meals shared with the people I love, lots of lovely chats catching up with those I hadn't seen in a while, and the feeling of having been spoiled repeatedly.

On the 24, Marc dropped by to pick me up before heading to my parents' place in NDG. Thank goodness for the lift because all the heavy snow of the morning and early afternoon had suddenly turned into rain and it was slippery! Our original plan was to drive to the airport to pick up Annie, who was flying in from Vancouver. Unfortunately, Annie did not land in Montreal until 1:35 a.m., almost ten hours late. We were lucky she made it, my favourite airline ended up canceling many, many flights between Vancouver and Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, on December 24, forcing hundreds of people to come up with new plans for the holidays. What a disaster. So, Marc and I had dinner with the parents, a lovely five-course meal beautifully prepared and presented. After dinner, we watched some old movies on TV and went to bed around 11 p.m. for a quick nap. We woke up around 1 and made our way to Trudeau, cursing the slippery sidewalks on the way to the car. Annie arrived quite tired, so we didn't stay up late.

Christmas tradition has always been to wake up together at my parents', enjoy a hearthy breakfast together and then open the presents. I slept over to wake up with the family, as I always did when I was visiting from Vancouver. 34, yet still a kid. I know. Marc slept at his place, so he met us for brunch around noon (nobody woke up really early after the late evening the night before). Brunch was again a feast with lots of yummy treats and even some bubbly. No better way to start a festive day like mimosas (bubbly and orange juice).

I received several fantastic presents, including snowshoes, earrings, beauty products, and a few books: The Origin of Species, from Nino Ricci and Outliers from Malcom Gladwell (his latest, after Blink and The Tipping Point, both of which I have read). I'm currently reading The Origin of Species and really enjoying it. The book is set in Montreal in the 80's and uses the city as a backdrop for the story of Alex Fratarcangeli, a thirty-something student / ESL teacher who seems to be going through a bit of an existential crisis.

In the evening, we had yet another big dinner with my grandma and aunt making their yearly visit. The dinner started with Slovak soup (I think it's called kapusnica), a cabbage soup with spicy sausages and ribs. My great-grandmother used to make it when I was a kid, then my grandmother and today, my aunt is the keeper of the family recipe. It's incredible to be able to enjoy this traditional dish year after year. I cannot imagine Christmas without it. I believe the only year I did not have this soup was my first year in Vancouver, as I did not return home for Christmas. The rest of the dinner was again incredible, with two roasts as the main course and a very chocolatey Christmas log for dessert.

I ended up staying another night at my parents', to spend more time with Annie. I returned home on the 26, only to head back to NDG on the 27 for a post Christmas brunch with dad's side of the family. With the weather being nasty and the roads slippery in the Eastern Townships, we weren't sure people were going to make it to Montreal but in the end, everybody showed up. There was so much food! Cut veggies, cheeses, meatpies I made with dad, a ham, croissant, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, tomato pies, and so many other dishes that I forget what I had. Before jumping in to the desserts, we had our gift exchange. Normally, in a gift exchange, you buy one gift and receive one but some folks probably didn't read the fine prints. I ended up with many gifts, including two books (The Upside of Down from Thomas Homer-Dixon and The Everyday Activist from Michael Norton), cherry jam, a t-shirt, a pot, a beautiful rack (for spices or other jars) handmade by my godmother and a purple tuque, handmade by my cousin. My family includes some very talented and creative individuals.

After dessert and coffee, it was time to go home, pick up my fondue set and head over to James' place for dinner. Yes, more food. I prepared the meat fondue, James made a salad, and we snacked on baguette and cheese while watching Traitor (starring Don Cheadle) in blu-ray on a 52" flatscreen. It's amazing how much detail you get to see in this format.

Annie slept over last night and since neither of us had plans today, we went to AMC to watch Slumdog Millionaire, the story of a poor boy from the slums in Mumbai who ends up answering all the questions correctly on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and then, as he is about to answer the final question for 20 million rupees, is accused of cheating and has to tell the police how he managed to come up with all the right answers so far. Very entertaining, I recommend it.

Enough movies and food, tonight I'm having a light soup, some cheese, and will go to bed early, reading.

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