Real Cooking

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CHERYL JOST
My husband and I have been having a discussion around here for the last couple of days about what is better-fake or real?

To be fair, I think each side of the debate has validity, so perhaps there isn’t a correct answer to the question at all. I think it is quite possible that the answer lies in the eyes of the beholder. My opinion is that it is just a personal preference whether you are more attracted to the ones provided by nature or those manufactured by man.

I’ve been privileged to have seen many in their natural state and can testify to their majestic beauty. But on the other hand, I can recall an instance when I had openly admired another woman’s and was totally surprised when she told me what I was appreciating was, in fact, a counterfeit.

I had no idea until I delved in for a closer, more scrutinizing look.

To be sure, those that are “store bought” can be pricey. But if one looks on it as a long-term investment, the initial cost doesn’t seem as dear. Of course, no one can be certain when making such an expenditure that the product will hold up over an entire lifetime.

I suppose how roughly they are handled and how many times they are taken out and put on display would probably determine just how many years of use one could expect before they started to droop or loose their fullness.

Now, if it were just a matter of symmetry, the fake ones would have the real ones beaten hands down. Nothing in nature can be as perfectly shaped or equally balanced.

In addition, those of a synthetic nature can also be selected for size, contour and color, freeing one from having to disguise the inadequacies that are all too common in those grown by Mother Nature.

But even though the fabricated ones are seemingly flawless in design, it is in that perfection that they are found lacking, for there is no character of individuality. There is nothing uncommon, nothing unique, and nothing distinguishing making one look just like another.

And that’s what some folks want-perfection they can count on. But for others, well, they like a more natural look that changes from year to year. As for me, I’ve told Keith that ideally I would like to have one of each kind: one real and one fake.

I like how the artificial ones stand so proud without a lot of support and how they are so easy to maintain. The real ones just seem to need more attention. Just getting them to stay upright can be a major ordeal. In the past, I’ve used ropes, wire-just about everything imaginable to keep them in their proper place.

Keith came in real handy in those situations.

Recently, I’ve watched some of those “star tour” types of shows featuring the holiday houses of the rich and famous. I thought I might get some fresh ideas concerning the whole natural vs. artificial thing.

What I found was that Martha Stewart’s were real, of course, (she emphasized the point), but if I had to guess, I would say that Britney Spears’ (although beautiful) were fake.

The artificial ones do have advantages and they can be really impressive.

But I think the real ones are softer to the touch and that makes a big difference when applying adornment. And I think they smell better, too.

I don’t know if we will ever come to a conclusion as to which kind of Christmas tree is better for us. This year, we brought out the one that has been stored in the basement for the past two years and with its twinkling lights and red ribbons it looks bright and festive.

Last year we brought home a Scotch pine and enjoyed a tree direct from nature.

Real or fake? You make the decision.

“Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.”

-Joyce Kilmer

* * *

Since so many of us are looking for quick-to-fix holiday munchies to take for parties, family get-togethers and workplace break times, I thought I would include two recipes this week-one sweet and one savory.

Sticks and Stones Candy Bark

1 (11oz.) package of butterscotch morsels, divided

11/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

2 cups thin pretzel sticks

2 cups dry roasted peanuts

1 (10-oz.) package semi-sweet chocolate covered raisins

Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. Microwave 11/3 cup butterscotch morsels, chocolate chips and peanut butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl on high power for one minute; stir. Microwave at additional 10-second intervals, stirring until smooth. Add pretzels, peanuts and chocolate-covered raisins; stir well to coat. Spread into prepared baking dish. Place remaining butterscotch morsels in a small heavy-duty plastic bag. Microwave on medium-high power for 30 seconds; knead bag to mix. Microwave at additional 10-second intervals; kneading until smooth. Cut tiny corner from bag; squeeze to drizzle over candy. Refrigerate for one hour or until firm. Break into bite-sized pieces.

Magnificent Cheese Ball

2 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter (no substitutes)

1 tbs. instant cheddar cheese sauce mix (1/2 of an envelope of dry cheese from a macaroni-and-cheese boxed mix)

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 tbs. thinly sliced green onion

1 tbs. lemon juice

1 tsp. dried parsley

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or to taste)

In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese and butter. Stir in cheese mix, Cheddar, green onion, lemon juice, and parsley. Shape mixture into two large balls or logs and roll them in the chopped walnuts. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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