Real Cooking

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CHERYL JOST
With my tummy full of warm, creamy potato soup and my Thanksgiving break coming to an end, I didn’t feel up to doing anything except for perhaps nodding off. But since it was only 7 o’clock in the evening, I thought I would try to hold the Sandman at bay a wee bit longer by trying to organize my family’s December calendar.


“I need everyone’s attention for just a moment,” I called to my family members, who were scattered about the house. “Can we find somewhere to meet to discuss our holiday plans?”


Now, generally, I would have asked them to adjourn to the living room, but our living room is currently not suitable for living, let alone meeting. The carpeting has been ripped up and there’s a new hole in the wall where a doorway will be…eventually.


And the floor is covered with a fine layer of…well, I guess the best way to describe it is to call it silt. We’ve been scraping the cottage cheese off of our ceilings and that chalky junk mixed with sheetrock dust and old, disintegrating carpet padding adds up to…silt. We sweep and sweep, but the floor continues to be gritty.


What’s that? You want to know why I have cottage cheese on my ceiling? Well, I’m not referring to the dairy product, but to the ceiling finish that is blown on by machines and makes those little white globs that cobwebs stick to. Well, thanks to Keith, it’s coming down.


Anyway, I finally got my family corralled for a couple of minutes so we could get a handle on what the coming weeks might bring. I placed in front of me my giant write-on calendar that came in so handy when I was planning events for clients and called the meeting to order.


“As you know, the holiday season has started and I would like some input from each of you in these three categories. One, what activities do you have for the month of December that need to go on the calendar? Second, what would you like to do as a family to make Christmas a special time and three, what gifts would you be interested in receiving?”


After sorting through the wedding invitations, JAM basketball schedules, birthday parties, Sunday school parties, dance lessons, piano lessons, banquets and work schedules, we moved on to things we would like to do as a family. Baking peppernuts. Going to a movie. Having a candlelit dinner with the “good” Christmas china and holiday crackers from England.


“So, what do you want for Christmas?”


I was surprised how quiet my kids were. In years past, the Christmas lists would begin to be feverishly assembled sometime in September shortly after the Penney’s Wishbook Catalog appeared in the mail. By Thanksgiving, a pared down, detailed list would be duly handed to me in the hope that I might share the itemized information with St. Nick himself.


“Well,” my son began slowly, thinking out loud, “I’d like a wake board, but that would make a better birthday present since we can’t go out on the boat in the winter. But I could just use my birthday money for that. I don’t know.”


He continued, “Maybe just some small stuff.”


“You know, Mom, that you said we were going to get a bigger TV when we get the new addition finished,” my daughter reminded me. “Why can’t that just be our Christmas present?”


Holy cow! Where did my little kids go? Where are the kids who used to mark each toy in the Christmas catalog with stars-color coded, of course-in the formulation of who wanted what for Christmas?


Those little kids are gone. They’re gone with the toddlers who needed a bottle to fall asleep. They’re gone with the small boy and girl who had trouble negotiating crossing a street in town with actual traffic, something that seems so normal to city kids and so threatening to country kids. Gone with the Barbies, the Tonka trucks and the Playskool tike bikes.


It was then that I realized that the days were over of searching for “Poochie…not a black one, but a brown one. Not the miniature one, but the one in the dog house box. Look, Mom, here it is in the catalog. I want one just like that, it’s my favorite.”


And even though the thought came as kind of a relief-Christmas shopping would surely be simpler-I was saddened, too. It had all gone by too fast. The toys, the trips to talk to Santa, “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” my children lying on the floor using the pieces of the wooden creche to reenact the story of the birth of our Savior.


My attention was drawn back to the family when a discussion arose as to just where our Christmas tree might be set up because our living room and present family room are both in shambles, and the rest of the common areas are crammed full of furniture and boxes.


“Maybe we won’t have a tree this year,” I suggested.


“You’ve got to be kidding,” my daughter chided. “There will be a tree, and our stockings will be on the fireplace, no matter what.”


“We’ll have a tree, but we might have to put it up later than usual,” my husband responded with glee. “I might actually not be sick of seeing it by Christmas this year.”


“Before I get into it with Scrooge here, I’ll declare this meeting over,” I said as I got up and walked to the kitchen.


As I started unloading the dishwasher, I started to sing, “Rudolph, the red nosed reindeer….”


“Reindeer,” echoed two voices from the living room.


Not missing a beat, I continued, “Had a very shiny nose.”


“Like a light bulb!” came the reply.


Maybe they’re not so big after all.


* * *


OK, let’s just get down to brass tacks. This recipe is nothing but pure fat, but it is so good and so easy that every now and then it just hits the spot. And at this time of year, when the schedules get hectic and the family is in need of a little comfort food…ahhhh.


And yes, use real butter and cream. The flavor and texture will not be the same if you don’t, and I won’t be held accountable.




Easy Potato Soup


(2 lb.) package frozen hashbrowns, thawed


1 stick of butter


11/2 cup chopped onion or 2 tbs. dried minced onion


2 cups whipping cream


2 cups milk


1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese




Melt the butter and saut? the onion until translucent but not browned. Add the other ingredients and heat over medium flame until heated through and cheese is melted. Serve with garnishes of green onion, shredded cheese or bacon crumbles.

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