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WND – Obscure Realities

January 14, 2010

I’ll admit that occasionally my concept of what everyone knows bears no relationship to the reality of what is actually common knowledge. I wrote my college thesis on medieval female mystics so obscure that even my father, who is the king of obscure historical European personages hadn’t heard of them. Actually, I was really proud that I’d come up with people so esoteric even my father looked at me blankly, but that’s just a family thing. And, while I think everyone should know what the Conference at Yalta was and who attended*, I have been forced to concede that apparently this isn’t actually common knowledge. Unless, or course, you’ve been who’ve been forced to listen to me explain why Yalta was important about once a year for the last 10 years – which is to say, anyone who plays Trivial Pursuit with us on New Years.

I was reminded of the gap between my reality and everyone else’s this weekend when for reasons that now escape me we started talking about dinner parties and seating chart etiquette. I went to college with the assumption that everyone** made a seating chart for Christmas dinner, and wrote out a list of what everything would be served in a week ahead of time. This is apparently not true. Many people only have family over for Christmas dinner and therefore don’t actually have to try and figure out how to seat 16 people, a third of whom are related to one another, so that family members don’t sit next to family members, and the table is gender balanced while still seating my father at the head of the table, my mother and I somewhere near the kitchen, and making sure that none of the fragile chairs are occupied by hulking teenage boys. Apparently some people even wear jeans to the dinner table and don’t have a glass of sherry while they cook dinner. I know; it’s shocking.

So this weekend while two of us rambled on about boy-girl-boy-girl table arrangements and separating family members the rest of the table looked on with varying degrees of interest and amusement. Someone finally asked why we knew this, to which I replied, “Well, you’ve met my parents.” Everyone nodded in understanding, because among my friends my parents are the terrifying examples of austere European propriety, never mind that my mother’s from Virginia. I’m pretty sure everyone thinks I grew up in a family that’s only about three steps removed from the mannered environment of a Merchant Ivory movie. The other answer was a lot of Jane Austen novels and a penchant for research. Which to a certain extent is also true for me, but really mostly it’s because I grew up making seating charts for dinner parties and learning what kind of spoon you use to eat what kind of soup, and I genuinely did not realize this was in any way unusual until I went to college.

We’re having people over for dinner on Saturday, which firstly means that my house is unnaturally clean, because while Dinner knows that I don’t care enough to dust on anything like a regular basis, I do object to other people knowing this. I can’t decide if the fact that I spent 3.5 hours last weekend dusting and cleaning windowsills and you can’t really tell, is reassuring or just depressing. It also means that it’s Thursday and I have thought about what serving dishes I plan to use and how I will set the table, and I have a mental map of where everyone will be sitting. If it weren’t for the fact that I have no interest in learning how to blow dry my hair, and I find making conversation with stupid people tedious I would make such an awesome trophy wife.

* And the Potsdam Conference, because between them they redrew the map of half the world, and set the stage for all the major conflicts in the second half of the 20th century, and I was a history major and I tend to think that, ‘those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it,’ is more a statement of fact than a witty aphorism.
** Where everyone = everyone from a similar cultural/socio-economic/educational background.

Roasted Chicken
Roasted Potatoes
Apple Sauce
Candied Cranberries Cranberry Sauce
Green Beans

Roasted Chicken
I confess, I need chicken stock.

Recipe previously given: Macaroni & Cheese

Roasted Potatoes
I was going to make Scalloped Potatoes, but realized that I lacked sufficient space in the fridge to keep them overnight. So I roasted the potatoes with the chicken fat rendered from the roasted chicken and lo it was excellent.

Recipe previously given: Is It Spring Yet?

Apple Sauce

Recipe previously given: Bangers ‘n’ Mash

Candied Cranberries Cranberry Sauce
I didn’t get Cranberry Sauce at Thanksgiving, and cranberries being a New World phenomenon and in short supply in the South of France at Christmas (you can, however, get frozen Ocean Spray cranberries fairly easily during hunting season) we had homemade spiced pickled peaches at Christmas Dinner instead. However, seeing as how I had a half pound of fresh cranberries in my fridge I decided to indulge myself and make cranberry sauce to go with Dinner this week. Only, apparently when you only make half of the cranberry sauce recipe you also only need to cook it for half the time, so I ended up with something more like candied cranberries than cranberry sauce. Still tasty, but not quite what I was trying to achieve.

1 lb cranberries
2 cups sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ cup bourbon*

Preheat oven to 350.

Pick through cranberries and remove any that are soft, or squishy. Toss cranberries with sugar and cinnamon in a 9×13 baking dish. Cover tightly with tin foil and roast for 1 hour, stirring once. The sauce is done when the sugar is dissolved and the cranberries have all popped open. Remove from oven, stir in the bourbon. Refrigerate until cool.

* Or you can use Calvados or any kind of brandy. I, personally, am partial to the Calvados.

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4 comments

  1. […] Recipe previously given: Obscure Realities […]


  2. […] Recipe for Cranberry Sauce previously given: Obscure Realities […]


  3. […] Cranberry Sauce The original recipe has you make a basic boiled cranberry sauce – I substituted my standard roasted cranberry sauce, and brought it back up to a low simmer before I served it so it was warm instead of cold. Recipe previously given: Obscure Realities […]


  4. […] If I have time, or I have some leftover, I like to use this cranberry sauce (https://mondaynightdinner.com/2010/01/14/wnd-obscure-realities/), but it’s also good with marmalade.  You want something that’s a little bitter/sour, and you […]



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