Good morning to you all and a splendidly splendid Happy New Year. Once again, we saw the new year in by slumbering peacefully as the clock struck midnight. As usual, we didn’t make it much past midnight in Cape Town, Sofia, Athens, Tallinn, Helsinki, Bucharest, Johannesburg, Istanbul, Kyiv, Harare, Cairo, Ankara, Jerusalem, Beirut or Amman (to mention but a few). In days gone by we could also have celebrated midnight in Minsk and Moscow but you may remember that those wacky Russians decided to extend daylight savings time throughout the whole year so those places are now permanently one hour ahead of where the sun suggests they should be and, in the summer, two hours. I am sure in these difficult times they can do with all the extra daylight they are saving.
I was struck this week by the reminder from both Pam and Amanda that the consumption of Hoppin’ John is an essential New Year tradition. This got me to thinking about such traditions and whether they translate. Hoppin’ John, as most of you will know, is a southern US variation of a rice and beans dish traditional throughout West Africa and is intended to guarantee a prosperous year filled with good luck. In the UK we don’t have this tradition, I guess partly because the Brits were largely responsible for transporting people from West Africa to the United States rather than assimilating them (eventually) into their community and thus into their culture.
Rather, the most prevalent New Year’s Eve tradition we have is for young women to dress themselves in a skimpy outfit, pour significant quantities of alcohol down their throats and teeter around the town centres in spikey high heels before collapsing in a heap somewhere. The blokes skip the first and last parts of this tradition and simply pour significant quantities of alcohol down their throats.
Fortunately, neither Ms Playchute nor I are particularly traditional.
Before I move on from New Year’s and give a summary of our Christmas festivities, I ran across the following cartoon this morning which just about sums things up. It’s from The Other Coast by Adrian Raeside:
As you know, we enjoyed Christmas with Nick, Lucy and Annabelle at their “new” home in Bishops Tachbrook and a splendid Christmas it was too. Pen’s folks came along with us and Lucy’s dad Peter also joined us for Christmas dinner.
Nick, in spite of his personal vegetarian tendencies, prepared an excellent turkey breast crown which, I have to confess, I hadn’t heard of before. I guess everyone else will know what it is but I didn’t. Once it was explained to me, however, it makes perfect sense. It is described on one of the cooking sites as a “wingless, legless turkey.” Now, call me an out-of-touch ignorant old fart but when did scientists start breeding turkeys without any wings or legs? I can understand why one would breed such a bird but how is the real question. How does it get around? Does it shuffle along on its backside to get from place to place? How do they mate to produce more little turkey crowns for next year’s Christmas?
Actually, as Penny kindly pointed out, it’s a “normal” turkey from which they remove the legs and wings for use in turkey twizzlers and turkey burgers and all those processed turkey bits and pieces which are no good for anyone. So, we were left with just a turkey breast which was excellent. Easy to carve and very little waste – as Bernard Matthews used to say, “Bootiful!”
Along with that we had several dozen different styles of stuffing/dressing, my favourite of which was a spicy variety which had little chunks of spicy sausage. There were also thirty-seven varieties of vegetables including Brussels sprouts with cashew nuts – why did the good Lord invent Brussels sprouts? A less appealing vegetable one is hard-pressed to imagine, unless one remembers turnips or parsnips. Added to all this we had the sixteen dozen “pigs in blankets” of which there never seem to be enough.
For dessert Pen had made a bread and butter pudding which complimented the standard Christmas pudding in an excellent fashion. All topped off with my own home-made liquorice ice cream which was, if I say so myself, outstanding!
You’ll be surprised to hear that we came away with enough food to feed a small sub-continent for the next week or so.
And, of course, the star of the show was Annabelle who kept everyone marvellously well amused and entertained especially when she emerged from one costume change in a rather fetching reindeer outfit.
A couple of Christmas stories caught my eye this week, both of which centre on the theme of peace and goodwill to all men. Firstly, we had the story of a fight at midnight mass at a Roman Catholic service in Southampton on Christmas Eve. Three men were arrested on charges of causing an affray.
Then, a day or so later I ran across the story of scuffles breaking out between rival groups of Greek Orthodox and Armenian clerics in a turf war at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity in the run-up to the Orthodox Christmas celebrations.
And finally, how’s this for an alliterative headline?
Peeved Penguins Poo on Panda Punters
The story concerns the penguins at Edinburgh Zoo who are apparently somewhat disgruntled that their position as the most popular attraction has been supplanted by the two new panda bears the zoo recently received from China. There’s a short video of the Peeved Penguins Pooing on the Public here.
You couldn’t make this stuff up!
Love to you all,