Dick McEachern Asks...
Dick McEachern Asks...
I have been following a discussion on the ABA solo and small firm listserve that has proven to be very interesting--what is the worst holiday dish you recall from either childhood or recent memory? The responses have been entertaining (albeit many are gross and disgusting--thus the entertaining nature...) so I thought I would pose the question to the Gunroom.
What is the worst holiday dish you ever encountered?
Adam Quinan rebuts...
I really enjoy fruitcake, some of my earliest memories of Christmas involve helping my grandmother mix and bake and then I used to be allowed to decorate the icing on the Christmas cake with silver balls, angelica and the traditional plaster decorations she had. Then we all ate the heavy sticky fruit laden cake and nibbled on the increasingly hard Royal icing with the marzipan underneath. Now perhaps, happy memories alter the taste buds but there you are.
That sounds amazingly disgusting. There must be a longer explanation? WHY would anyone prepare such a thing?
It was. The story:
In her later years, my grandmother became quite a culinary experimenter. She found a recipe in a magazine that included just the smallest bit of horseradish in lime jello. It was quite good. So the next time she made it, she decided that if a little bit was quite good, then a lot of bit would be a lot of good. As dutiful family, we ate without saying a word (my mother would have killed us). Once we returned safely to the environs of our own car, on the drive home, however, . . . .
Kevin Danks (partial to a little horseradish, just enough to bring a tear to the eye) inquires:
Horseradish jello, or jelly we would say - eaten with beef, perhaps?
Roast lamb is eaten with mint sauce (fresh mint from the garden, finely chopped, mixed with vinegar and a little sugar) or mint jelly (bought in a jar). If you can have mint jelly with lamb, why not horseradish jelly with beef?
Doug squelches that idea:
Served as dessert.
Norm Crandles despairs:
Let it be said that anyone who would use mint jelly with their lamb would probably relish horseradish jelly with their beef. There's no accounting for taste.
Rowen on Jello/jelly:
Jello (brand name) in the US is gelatin, like sugared aspic, eaten as a salad or dessert, with things like apples or marshmallows or mandarin oranges or coconut and cream cheese whipped in; not jelly or jam as you'd spread on toast. Very sweet, and I believe Doug mentioned lime flavored.
Horseradish sauce or jelly with beef, maybe, but I really can't imagine lime horseradish Jello with bits of marshmallow quivering there beside the Roast Beast.
Fortunately, there were no marshmallows in the dessert. Simply the pure, unadulterated flavors of lime jello and horseradish.
Sarah Scott suggests:
But given how tasty hot pepper jellies are, I'd say it had potential.
Horseradish jelly on toast-- hmm, I'll let you know how it is next time I dig horseradish...
Much potential, Sarah. And the first incarnation of said jello made by my grandmother was very tasty. Only when she ramped up the amount of horseradish (mind you, I love the taste of horseradish!) did the dish lose its appeal.
Matt Cranor weighs in:
That recipe must have been mass-produced somewhere, or (harder to fathom) passed lovingly hand-to-hand amongst a certain cognoscenti, because I've had it, too. Made by grandma Mahala in St. Paul MN around about 1965 or so. Tweren't bad, neither.
Worst holiday dish? Candied yams.
Least favorite holiday dish...
Turkey. I have never been a big fan of the holiday bird. And after the year my father came home with 6 large birds in total between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We bought 1, the others came from various gifts, awards, bonuses and well meaning friends.
We even had a live bird, which my mother swore we'd never do again. Some relative, probably meaning well, delivered to us a live, kicking, and yelling turkey to kill and consume for I believe Christmas. My mother had no clue what to do with it, all of the turkeys in her past were safely dead from the butcher or supermarket. My father had some idea of what to do to kill said bird, but he couldn't do it. (My dad had a soft heart for animals.) Eventually it found a new home, my parents said it went to a farm, but I believe it went to a friend of my father who wasn't as squeamish. But after dealing with caring for a live turkey, she swore she'd never get food that wasn't safely dead, prepped and ready for cooking.
After all that turkey, you should not be surprised that we changed our family tradition to going out to dinner to a nice fancy place that served a number of other kinds of birds. Goose became more of a Thanksgiving tradition for me. (and it's much tastier if done well).
But ever since, I just don't find turkey to be all that appealing.
Other than some fruitcakes, I can't recall any holiday gastronomic insults. My wife, however, remains horrified at the Kegel family custom of serving sauerkraut, with a dollop of turkey gravy, at Thanksgiving.
Although the traditional answer is lutefisk, and I cannot tell a lie- I enjoy fruitcake- I'd have to say that one of the worst holiday dishes I ever had was a sort of sausage made from...well, I'm not sure.
But it made headcheese positively homey and scrapple shalimar.
Bill Nyden just couldn't resist:
That had to be the wurst holiday dish.
Without a shadow of doubt, Lutefisk!
Katherine S. commiserates:
Mm, I believe one memorably bad year (memorable because most of the holiday food at our gatherings is exceedingly good), there was lutefisk at one dinner, and stoltz (I hardly like to think about it, so I cannot know if I've spelled it correctly) at another. The latter, as my pleased Austro-Hungarian elders informed me, was a gelatin or aspic of pig's feet, topped with shreds of the same, pickled. Yargh. Neither had appeared before, or have since, so I believe my nostalgic elders must have realized their mistake.
Astrid Bear admits: I have to confess that I deliberately inflicted lutefisk on my dear husband and children -- so notorious, never tried; and there it was, pale and glistening in the fish case so I brought it home and served it up with parsley and butter, and purple potatoes on the side.
I never quite cottoned to the Christmas (Navidad) specialty of Costa Rica, which was tamales. They always seemed to be cold, or get cold quickly, which means cold cornmeal mush. No Mexican-type spices. Cooked in banana leaves, which imparts a sort of sourish green flavor, and stuffed with green olives (more sour, there) and raisins (not a good match) and pork.
Brussel sprouts. My mother-in-law gave me single one gift wrapped in many boxes, each smaller than the one before, as one of my presents last year. A very funny lady.
Cod. It is not that I would eat it, but it was a tradition in my grandmother's home when I was a kid, and you couldn't avoid the smell. All the house was full of it. She was from a town inland in Galicia, Spain so, when she was young, salt water fish got there only salted, never fresh, and she loved getting salted cod for Christmas. Thus she bought salted Galician cod (instead of the local fresh one) and boiled it for hours to make it tender, and the whole house would smell awful.
But that was only the worst. In Buenos Aires, it is summer. All the traditional food came from the northern hemisphere, where it is winter. None of the food was suitable for the weather.
Worst holiday dish was our Christmas Eve Swedish rice with milk, sugar, and cinnamon. My cousin just wrote and said his mother served that, too, for the sake of her Norwegian husband, and they had their big Swedish meal on The Day.
My mother served up the rice some years; we hated it but thought it was a tradition so we went along with it...
The first sea story I sent to the Gunroom was about precisely this topic: the worst holiday dish I ever encountered.
I hope Lissuns will permit me to tell it again. What good is a sea story that's told only once?
Got out of the navy in 46. Went into the merchant marine in 47. First ship was the SS Winfield Scott, a liberty ship, Sword Line.
Somebody on that ship was incompetent. Somebody in the steward's department.
Bread, baked aboard, had little black thingies in it. At first we picked them out, later we ate them. They were dead, after all. The baking killed them. Meat, cooked aboard, was also full of dead thingies. The meat refrigerator was filthy.
When, in Australia, the public health people surveyed our meat and had it thrown overboard to poison the great white sharks in Spencer Gulf, a new supply--great Australian meat--was stored in that same refrigerator...which hadn't been cleaned in the meanwhile, and that new meat started crawling within a week.
But that's not the story: here's the story.
After 53 days at sea, we had reached Cochin, in India, just in time for Christmas. The steward made us a feast with foul turkey, decayed vegetables, and spotted bread. But there were also three kinds of pie. The apple pie fell apart, the pumpkin pie was wet, but the mince pie looked great, smelled great. And we fairly gorged on it.
There were a great many hungry people out on deck, staring in at us feasting on the first good food we'd had in months. The steward solved that problem by shutting the deadlights over the portholes. But that's not the story either.
The story is that the second mate leaped up with a shriek. "The pie's alive!" Right. It was crawling. All those little mince thingies--half of them were bugs.
Later I saw the steward out on deck: he was giving mince pies to the hungry.
Not exactly a holiday dish, but I remember a lengthy sequence of holiday dinners challenged by bottles of cranberry wine that had been given to a former father-in-law, cranberry wine of a sweetness that would beat down the most sickening of Kool-Aid concoctions, yet politeness required a brave smile and expressed assurances that the wine was quite unrivaled in quality.
Dick McEachern Asks...