Tuesday, December 25, 2012

By Popular Demand

Back in the days of little boys in short pants and little girls in crinolines, Mrs. Hall remembers many a Christmas eve spent propped on a cushion and pushed up the big people's table, starring down a bowl of the inevitable first course to what seemed then like the Meal That Lasted At Least Two Days.  Forced to endure this annual ritual, it generally involved listening to a flock of elders drone on endlessly, then dawdle over stripping the table, washing every dish in the house and then sometime about oh, midnight or so, decide that perhaps we might just let the little ones open those pesky Christmas presents after all.  And the opening salvo to this supreme tantalus of an evening was always a steaming bowl of sauerkraut soup.
  Some foods come naturally to a child, like ice cream and birthday cake. Others have to sidle up slowly to their little senses, and after much wooing and pleasant talk, eventually make nice with the infant's tastebuds and a new favorite is born.  The giant mushrooms floating atop the sauerkraut soup like grisly lilypads on a murky pond did not come to be on Mrs. Hall's list of Happy Anticipations by any of those routes; they were imposed, as things often were in those days, abruptly and absolutely by martial law.  Despite however, these rough beginnings, the glorious heady broth and winey aftertaste (if perhaps only by repetition) finally wore their way into her heart.  And yet another generation grew that could not imagine a Christmas eve going by without a family around the table, impatience and anticipation intertwined and the saying of Grace over an beloved bowl of sauerkraut soup.
Mrs. Hall's phone rang last week and it was Master Ian calling from Okinawa, Japan.  He was hoping Mrs. H. could wrap up a jar of her sauerkraut soup and ship it out to him for the holidays.  When asked about Christmas, Erick remarked last weekend that the one thing he was going to miss this year was having that wonderful soup at the beginning of the meal, and just Tuesday afternoon, as the Halls drove out to join family for dinner, Colleen texted Mrs. H. that she too was dining with friends, but it wasn't the same without the soup.  The circle will not be broken.

(Editor's Note: In case the Gentle Reader would like to inflict tradition on a brand new generation of innocents, the recipe for Sauerkraut Soup can be found here.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tis the season

Killer purred contentedly.  Her ample proportions filled her new kitty bed completely, and lulled to sleep with visions of feckless vermin running through her head (and considerable catnip coursing through her system) she managed a tidy fifteen hours of bliss a day.
Mr. Hall glanced over his shoulder at her behind the couch and adjusted his pillows.  Mrs. Hall had given him the complete series of "Frasier" on DVD for his birthday, and even with all the disciplined rationing he could muster, he still seemed to be devouring the episodes like peanuts.  There were thirteen episodes to a season and he was on the third season already.  "What gets me, " Mr. Hall muttered, as he settled in comfortably with his soda and snacky chips within reach for the fourth show that afternoon, "is how that cat can just lay there for hours in the same position, day after day."  Mrs. Hall opened her mouth to speak, but then thought better of it.
Birthdays come but once a year, and although Mr. Hall had insisted on no fuss, no party, no cake- Mrs. Hall knew there had to be at least a smidgen of pomp and ceremony.  She promptly came up with a solution.  "Make a wish, darling, and blow out the candle!" said Mrs. Hall.   "I've already got my wish," he said, smiling. "Erick's coming out this weekend for a visit and I can hardly wait to see him!"
Mr. Hall's son Erick came in on the late flight from Seattle Friday evening.  Pestering him for any news from the homefront and plying him with considerable homemade chili until late into the night, they finally let the poor fellow lie down and get some rest.
The next morning an unseasonable overcast marred an otherwise beautiful day as the little band trotted out to check out some of the suburban hotspots.  Erick was familiar with the highlights of the Strip, but the outlying areas had seen significant growth since his last visit, and the Halls enjoyed playing tourguides to the outer rim diversions.  After a brief stop at Tivoli, they ended up at the sports book at the recently renovated Red Rock Casino; the boys checking the spread on some basketball games, Mrs. Hall perfecting her trifecta skills.
 A lively dinner at their favorite mexican restaurant, washed down with a few pitchers of margaritas to celebrate their winnings and the weekend seemed rounded out very nicely indeed.
Time always seems to fly by in a blur when company comes, remarked Mr. Hall sadly, as he ferried his son back to the airport Sunday morning. "At least you're leaving with a profit- I always think that's the best way to vacation."  Hugs were served all around, and Erick sped off back to work.
 Mr. Hall settled down into his favorite spot on the couch and queued up another "Frasier" episode.  He looked over at his empty glass and turned to Killer.  "Oh, don't get up- I'll get it."  Killer emitted a low yawn, rearranged herself on the couch and covered her head with her paw.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Mrs. Hall arranged the Christmas cards on the bookcases and sighed.  Noticing her wistful state, Mr. Hall came over, smiled and gave her a warm hug. "What is that delicious aroma you're wearing?" he asked.
  "Well, it depends," she moped. "If it's redolent of rosemary and mint, it's that lovely shower gel I order from that glorious spa in New York.  If it smells like Old Spice©, then it's my anti-perspirant from Walmart."
  Mr. Hall sensed there might be some discord in her soul. "It's just that I was thinking of all the things we'd be doing if we were back East," she said.  "Right about now, Oakwood Crematorium would be having their yearly cocktail party after work.  We'd stroll on over after filing a death certificate or two, have a short one with the boys and remark on the state of the business, admire the sextant's landscaping and toddle on home.  They always have such a nice buffet; although I understand the chef they use is famous for his barbecue.  Darling, why do you suppose they never have it on the menu?" Mr. Hall smiled gently at her. "I'm guessing they try to steer clear of anything smoky at those functions."
  "I miss the holiday dinner at Coleman's Irish Pub." she continued on dreamily. "The bar decorated to a faretheewell and the parking lot a sea of black Cadillacs. All the old faces we'd see there- Scottie Kerr from Batesville and Bob Atkinson from Wilbert Vaults, all talking business over the hors d'oeuvre and desserts.  Ah- good times!" Mr. H. nodded as he slipped on his coat to retrieve the afternoon post.
  She was still sulking on the couch when he returned with a handful of colorful envelopes.  "You'll have to put aside your homesick pout for another day," he informed her after perusing a brightly colored missive that had been taped to their front door.  "We've been invited to a neighborhood mixer tomorrow night. Fetch a shiny bow from the giftwrap and see if there's a bottle of that cheeky Beaujolais left in the cooler." But he looked around to discover he was talking to himself; all that remained in the room was a whiff of mint and musk- Mrs. Hall was already nose deep in the Christmas ribbon.

Tell your friends!