Jane's cozy homestead on Thursday night to celebrate the holidays together.
The setting was what we hope for every year; both familiar and welcoming.... Jane and Jo waving from beside the Christmas tree on the deck; Jake the pup barking a welcome to us, the enticing aromas of food simmering on the stove as we walk in. We all embrace, pour wine from various bottles (Chronic Cellar's Dead Nuts Zinfandel from me; a wedding gift from Cassie and Abs), and settle in around samples of the evening's appetizers, Boursin and creamy Saint-andre cheeses. The gifts were once again suitably foodie: gourmet Rossi pasta from us, loaves of bread locally made at Bloom Bakery from Jo, baskets of spices bought from Planter's (Greek and and an amazing garlic-roasted red pepper included) by Linda, cutlery from culinary Wonderland Pryde's Kitchen from Jane and wonderful jars of homemade pickled onions from Jeff and Ronnie. Ronnie also once again brought the Christmas crackers for some Euro-flavored fun with little prizes and paper crowns that we all wore during dinner.
Soon, we gathered around the table and swooned over the wonderful food. We brought the asparagus bundles that we made at Thanksgiving (recipe here). Jane made a delicious Chicken Piccata with mushrooms over rice and a light salad of greens and berries and Jo provided the loaf of crusty Bloom bread with garlic-herb butter. The perfect ending was Linda's chocolate-coffee cake beautifully paired with a glass of that red wine she also brought.
The other characteristic of this get-together that I believe we all crave is the inevitable gales of laughter that permeate the evening. The subjects were as wide-ranging and ridiculous as ever: bat-shit crazy mothers; choosing a dog that would enjoy watching Downton Abbey; the Vulture article that said Zooey Deschanel looks like she just pooped a Smurf. The most titters might have come from Linda's new favorite Christmas present...a pocket Mr. T. Press a button on this little plastic wonder and hear that familiar growl," I pity the fool! Stop that jibber-jabber!" Those beloved convulsions of tearful guffaws these evenings always create, that lift and heal us and make the rest of the world go away are the best tonic for all of us. After all, less than 24 hours later, we along with the rest of the world, would be gutted by a cold, hard dose of reality in the national news...the kind of reality that makes me treasure nights with loved ones like this all the more.
And yes, there remained an underlying current of watchful concern we all in attendance possess where our precious Jane is concerned...her health woes may be foremost in our mind, but even Jane herself turned that into a chuckle and a toast to Christmas miracles. Jane's annual Christmas dinner is a indeed a treasure. Much like Jane herself.