Smoked Beef & Cheese

These are the days I like best...

...littlexmas_400The twelve days of Christmas that begin after the chaos of December 24 & 25 and which run up to the Epiphany of January 6. I remember being told at an early age by my Italian grandmother that "Little Christmas," or Epiphany, was the most important day of the season in a religious sense. It was, after all, the day when the Three Wise Men arrived on the scene with their gold, frankincense, and myrrh ... and truffles, cheesecake, and raisins dipped in white chocolate.

But today, two millennia later, for me at least it is a time of exhalation after the busy Christmas season. A time of quiet reflection. A time of casual reading. A time of creative writing. A time of watching the newborn winter sky for a sign of flurries. A time of summing up the closing year, and a time of considering the infinite possibilities for the coming one. A time of eating Hickory Farm smoked beef sticks and bricks of cheese!

On the first day of Christmas, Lucy, my Boston Terrier, awakened me from a deep sleep around 6am. Time to go out, so I opened the back door on our enclosed backyard and out she went - all 21 pounds of her, dressed in black and white. She immediately spied a rabbit and the chase was on. I don't think she ever caught up to the rabbit for if she had it would have been a pretty even fight.

Once inside again, Lucy sat before the Christmas tree, whining, thinking she was to receive more squeaky toys and Milk Bones, I imagine. Later in the morning, once the sun had risen high enough in the southeast to cast a filtered gray light on the situation, I did notice that she was, in fact, correct. There was one small, forgotten package resting in the branches - a leftover gift from the kennel we had visited earlier in December where she had had her toenails trimmed and grinded for the holiday season. Once again, I am proven wrong by 21 pounds of terrier.

By 11am, showered and cleanly shaven, and with no particular thing to do but perhaps clean out the gutters again, I found myself in our one-car garage, puttering around while listening to classical music playing from a small radio. A garage is a wonderful place for a guy to hang out any time of year. It is clearly his place, smelling of motor oil, old fishing tackle, and grass clippings. Perhaps someday they'll make cologne for men featuring a mingling of these aromas - Au de Garage, I suppose they'll call it - "for the man who loves his lawnmower."

In the garage is a spare refrigerator. Like NASA, I like to have backup systems in place, just in case. For instance, I still have an old black & white TV kicking around that I bought way back in 1982 ... just in case the two color TVs we own happen to die on the same evening during the second period of the Bruins game. I have a spare tire in the garage that doesn't fit any of our cars, just in case someday I happen to purchase a car it might fit. And I still have a world globe that shows Russia as the "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics" - just in case Communism ever comes back.

But getting back to the spare refrigerator, it is strangely smaller than a regular refrigerator - about three-quarter size. We hardly ever plug it in. Good God, that would be madness! No, it usually just sits there, holding extra cans and bottles of soda, etc - sort of serving as a pea green-colored pantry throughout the year. But last night I was forced to plug the thing in as we had just too many holiday leftovers for the kitchen refrigerator to hold. I closed my eyes when I turned it on, imagining the meter on the side of the house spinning away toward some outrageous electric bill to be received sometime next month. Yet, I must admit to taking some pleasure in telling the kids to "check the garage refrigerator" when asked, "Where are the turkey leftovers?" or "Where's the cheesecake?"

This is clearly a season of eating. We seem to have enough figs, dates, dried apricots, oranges, mixed nuts, smoked peanuts, dark chocolate truffles, extra dark chocolate truffles, peanut butter milk chocolate truffles, peppermint chocolate squares, cheese cake, vanilla white hot chocolate mix, peppermint hot chocolate mix, peppermint cookie creams, fine hazelnut chocolates, milk chocolates with whole hazelnuts, leftover turkey & sweet potatoes & mashed potatoes & cranberry sauce, leftover Chinese food, smoked beef sticks, cheese, and eggnog to last the twelve days. 

But just in case that all runs out, I still have four small pumpkins left over from Halloween that we can make into a pie or eat raw. Just in case.

Jack Sheedy

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