The COVID Christmas I had once dreaded arriving has now passed. I survived it, in fact, it might just have been one of the best Christmases’ I’ve experienced. Deciding to take on the anticipated misery directly, we planned to conjure up the memories of Christmases past (and I mean way back) by revisiting old family recipes for festive treats (both sweet and savoury) and combine them with the magic of some recent Christmas memories that Bae and I had created for ourselves. The plan worked flawlessly. This was a Christmas that I will remember as special, unique, and as one enjoyed versus one of misery for having not been able to gather with friends and family.
We stumbled across a great deal on prime rib on one of our provisioning-in-anticipation-of-the-return-to-isolation trips to Costco back in November; just a little one of about 2.5 lbs, and we saved it for Christmas Eve. When the day came, I decided that a Christmas Eve prime rib deserved smoke, so on the spur of the moment I decided to get the Broil King Keg running a night early, and got the charcoal started.
A frantic misadventure of attempting to find my wireless thermometer radios ensued that left two lessons learned:
- Never start the charcoal unless all your tools are in place, and
- When your brain tells you something is in a bad place to be stored, and suggests that you move it so you can find it quickly the next time you need it, do it!
I was left wondering what the cooking and meat temperatures actually were as I searched. During breaks from my looking high and low and in every drawer, I had to rely on my experience to adjust vents for airflow and watching the level of smoke to help judge where the temperature was at. After finding the radios, then discovering one of them to have dead batteries which then initiated another scramble to recover batteries from another device to get us up and running. My mind revolted at the no name brand of battery as I attempted to insert them into the radio, oh and of course, I then had to turn one battery around (because, idiot, the pointy end is positive), and finally I had the thermometers working. The ambient temperature popped up at 240F, a little higher than the target 225 F, but not bad considering I’d been eyeballing it for the last 45 minutes. When the meat temperature registered, it said 246F! My heart sunk, I was needing about 140 F as my target for medium prime rib temp. Then it dawned on me, the meat temperature probe function had failed to track the temperature rising a cook earlier in the summer, so I’d had to rely on my grill probe to check temperatures. After one last dash to the kitchen to retrieve the probe, I lifted the keg’s lid and stuck the probe into the side of a smoke kissed prime rib, encrusted with herb and discovered the temperature to actually be 136F right smack in the medium temp I wanted. By way of a minor Christmas miracle, I hadn’t ruined the focal piece of our Christmas Eve dinner. With some delicious Yorkshire pudding cooked to perfection, horseradish and some incredibly delicious smoked beef gravy, we had a fantastic dinner. We toasted our parents, and agreed the year that really wasn’t the worst ever after-all. For desert, we watched Last Christmas as we’re both George Michael fans, (but we were in it more for the music than the story); I sense we found ourselves with a new tradition to look forward to in the years ahead.
Christmas Day started leisurely, with good coffee and cinnamon buns. It was perfect; Bae and I spent the morning replaying and reliving tropical memories of holidays in much warmer places in our mind and with our bodies; let’s just say Christmas was very merry indeed.
By noon it was time for me to get the turkey that had been brining for 42 hours into the smoker. 225 F for roughly 5 hours to cook the bird. This was that third smoked turkey that Bae and I have enjoyed at Christmas, and probably the very best to date (cut the salt by half for the brine). With some duck fat on Brussel sprouts, Bae’s family recipe for dressing, her gravy, and my pan buns (from my grandmothers’ recipe) we had a tasty, but simple little feast for ourselves. So much time spent preparing a meal, only to be done with eating in about twenty minutes is a bit laughable, but because of it being Christmas, that is what you do, and COVID hadn’t changed that. Bae and I discussed our respective family’s roots in farming, and how the recipes we’d shared with each other in the last ten days were so incredibly similar and familiar. We might not have been with family physically, but the spirit of family was very much present with us.
I was reminded on Boxing Day that Monopoly is really a game that should be banned from Christmas. Although there are so many memories of all out monopolistic war being played out on table tops at Christmas time, I will have to learn to put the killer instinct aside, and simply focus on the good memories of the past, and enjoying the new ones being created to go along with them.
I found myself wondering how this Christmas could have been better, and I all I could honestly think about was sand and blue water. There will be future Caribbean Christmases ahead for me, and they’ll be spent with Bae, who is family enough for me, but I would certainly welcome those dearest join us. We’re thinking that 2021 will be too soon to return to that reality (COVID really wasn’t much in our thoughts, but it’s presence still influenced our thinking, and it appears that early immunization numbers are showing that things aren’t happening as quickly as forecast, so far).
Tonight, as 2020 comes to it’s long awaited conclusion, I’m attempting to look back on it soberly and not focus on what it took from us, but instead reflect on what we were able to discover about ourselves and our lives in the silver lined clouds that accompanied the pandemic’s arrival.
It would have been simple, and lazy, to stick a ‘worst year ever’ label on the last 365 days. While this year did have more than it’s fair share of disappointments (for nearly every person on this now şeemingly smaller planet), it also brought the opportunity for my life in The Boil to come to a screeching halt thanks to The Pause‘s arrival on March 12, it set the stage for my life to take an unexpected turn by the end of June. I know there are positives that countless others have discovered, and I look forward to hearing about some of those valuable lessons and discoveries you’ve made for yourself and how you will carry those learnings forward through The Pause into whatever follows as the new normal.
If the arrival of a new year means that I once again have the opportunity to choose the lifestyle I hope to maintain going forward, i reflect on whether it will be the one I was living during The Boil, or the one that emerged on June 29th, during The Pause? Hands down, without any hesitation, I would select the blue pill again.