The Christmas tree went up yesterday. I’m back in the railroad business, running a line in which featherbedding is not only allowed, but encouraged! I love lying by the tree, watching the engine navigate the tracks, pulling cars from lines that no longer exist, at least not independently: the Burlington, the Maine Central, Erie Lackawanna, B&O, the Santa Fe, the Western Pacific. Add a fire in the hearth and I can lay there for hours.
My daughter shares in the excitement of Christmas and is willing to forgo most anything in order to haul the boxes out of the attic. After getting the tree and sitting it in the living room, I make her wait while I string lights. She didn’t even ask about using multi-colored light this year. She’s either old enough to understand the magical appeal of miniature white lights, or she’s learned there are some things for which I’m pig-headed and she better not go there. After getting the lights strung, we pause for dinner.
One of the benefits of mooching off of friends for Thanksgiving is that you don’t have to worry about leftovers. Because I was going to be close to home all day, I figured it was the perfect time to make a pot of beans (of the pinto variety). When you use dry beans, they need to cook for a good while. I threw in a ham bone I’d saved and let it boil gently until the beans were tender. I also fixed cornbread (check out my recipe below) and diced up some onions. Dinner consisted of a bowl of pinto beans topped off with diced onions, a chunk of cornbread, washed down with a bottle of Southwick Irish Ale. Sometime I’ll have to post about my favorite restaurant in Bastian, Virginia, right by I-77 and the Appalachian Trail, where you use to be able to get a bowl of pinto beans with onions on top and a slice of cornbread for a buck twenty-five.
After dinner, we put ornaments on the tree. This always brings back memories. Most of my ornaments have either been gifts or have been picked up while traveling or living in various places. My favorite is a hand-carved boot sent to me by some guy down in Florida the year I completed hiking the Appalachian Trail. Then there is the one from the Chateau Lake Louise and numerous other National Parks and lodges, all which have special memories. Of course, having grown up on the Carolina coast, there is a collection of North Carolina lighthouses. I had to pause this year when putting up a collection of Boy Scout ornaments, all which came from National Capital Council, where a friend of mine was Scout Executive. Ron died this past year from a brain tumor. They’ll be no more of those ornaments, but I’m thankful for the memories they bring back. The tree is finished by bedtime; clean-up can wait till tomorrow.
Sage’s Cornbread (remember—ingredients are approximate)
Preheat oven to around 425 degrees F.
1 cup of yellow cornmeal
1 cup of white flour
3 teaspoons of baking powder
½ teaspoon of baking soda
Dash of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
Add one beaten egg (make sure it’s black and blue) and a cup of buttermilk (pour yourself a second cup to enjoy while baking). Mix until all the dry ingredients are wet.
Put approximately ¼ cup of Crisco (or use bacon fat if you can spare the cholesterol—it’ll taste heavenly and if you eat of it, you’ll find yourself heavenly bound) into a cast iron frying pan. Melt the fat/shortening. Add the mix into the frying pan and bake somewhere around 20 minutes (or until your toothpick comes out clean).
Now before you Southerners get all upset about me putting sugar in cornbread—as if I’m a Yankee—let me suggest you try it. They may not always be right up here, but sometimes they do have good ideas.
On other news, Lauire, over at Slowly She Turned, gave this endorsement of my blog: “I like smart-ass pie-baking dark beer drinking desert rats.” THANKS! That’s the best compliment I’ve had since my mother called me Sonny. Lauire and friends publish a web-journal titled “Tar Heel Tavern. Check it out!