Published in Canadian Living magazine
By Steve Pitt
I know I'm weird but I can never truly believe it is Christmas until I smell the
sure, the signs are all there. It's Christmas Eve, CBC radio is playing its annual
evening of "Christmas Carols No One Really Likes". In the last 24 hours,
I have received 35 spam e-mails shilling breast enlargement, penis enhancement
and Botox Injections as the "perfect way to say Merry Christmas". And
if perky breasts and a face full of botulism doesn't make me feel Christmasy enough,
I just have to look across the street at the new monster house owned by pair of
bankers. Every year, they seize on the latest trend is in holiday decoration and
turn it into a disaster. Last year, they strung up so many icicle lights their
house ended up looking Superman's arctic Fortress of Solitude after .
year, they have opted for a gigantic 12-foot-high Santa; unfortunately, with a
slow leak. Every evening, they dutifully inflate Santa with a battery powered
tire pump run connected to their BMW. Every morning, Santa is found slumped to
the ground in some sort of macabre death pose. The kids on the street call the
display "Drive-by Santa".
enough of the gawking, I have work to do. So far, I've have spent 48 consecutive
Christmases in the same house and every year, we have turkey. It was something
my mother started because when she was a girl, turkeys were exotic and expensive.
I do it for my wife and in-laws. They're from Sri Lanka. Although I have learned
how to conjure up competent curries, whenever my wife's clan come for Christmas
dinner, they want the full Dickens table. Once, I tried to get Naked Chef on them
and suggested that we try Cornish hens with basmati rice and wild mushroom stuffing.
That stopped the conversation like a free-falling elephant. Since then, I have
stuck with sage and onions for Christmas and restrict my Naked cuisine for other
holidays like Thanksgiving and Easter.
year's dinner, however, had its own challenge. A week before Christmas, my parents-in-law
won a frozen turkey as the door prize at their building's combination Diwali/Christmas
Senior's Night. When my son and I stopped by to pick the beast up, I was dumbfounded
to discover that it weighed more than 20 kilos. My son, Kevin, dubbed the bird
Archie, after Archaeopteryx, some sort of dinosaur bird he was studying in science
we got Archie home, it was obvious he was too big to fit in fridge and even protruded
out of my biggest sink by six inches. I was at a loss at what to do until I remembered
that my mother used to thaw huge turkeys in the back of the family pick-up because
Toronto temperatures in late December are often just above freezing - perfect
for defrosting. The only downside was having a rock-hard turkey carcass rocking
and rolling around your truck bed. It made a heck of a racket going around corners
and once we almost lost Dad when Mom hit the breaks hard and a 15 pound bird cracked
the cab window like a cannonball just behind Da's head.
idea was to take my son's old child seat out of storage and reinstall it in the
back seat of the car. I buckled Archie up, tucked a baby blanket around him to
keep the sun off with a jaunty "Go! Leafs! Go! Touque" and for the next
three days Archie rode shotgun while I completed my final Christmas chores.
worked like a charm, unless you want to count that hostile stare I received from
a woman who happened see me emerge from the beer store with a 12-pack in either
hand. She took one look at Archie all bundled up inside the unheated car and began
making gobbling noises as I climbed in behind the wheel. She advanced, motioning
that she wanted me to lower the window to say something but I put the car in reverse
and made a shusshing motion while pointing to Archie.
then there was that other awkward moment when I got pulled over for a R.I.D.E.
check. One keener cop noticed that the baby seat was an obsolete model and growled
that he SHOULD give me a ticket for endangering a passenger. I pulled back the
blanket and said "And I suppose you think stuffing him full of bread and
cramming him in a 325 degree oven is a no-no too."
ticket, but no complimentary ice scraper either.
Christmas Eve, I estimated that it would take at least half a day to cook a bird
this big which meant I had to get up before dawn to have Archie reposing in his
full glaze and glory the time the company began arriving by 4 p.m.
the alarm went off at 3 a.m., it felt like just another early day. I had found
a pan that would hold Archie, but inside the oven, it was standing room only.
I propped him up with some butcher's cord and a tripod of wooden spoons soaked
in water. Not bad, I thought as I slowly pushed Archie into the oven. In profile,
he had a kind of had a Michelangelo's David standing-on-his-head thing happening.
doing the dishes, I thought about sleep but did not feel the least bit tired.
I microwaved some leftover coffee and sat in our still dark living room to watch
the first rays of dawn enter the room and touch the top of our Christmas tree,
playing across four generations of ornaments. The TV's weather channel played
a no-name version of "Mary's Boy Child". Across the road, Drive-By Santa
was down on his knees, head bowed in the dead still air.
from the kitchen for the 49th consecutive year, the scent of onions, sage and
turkey began to fill the house.
This article has opened into a new window. Close it to return to the main site.