Birthday, as well!
I woke up a little after 6am, having foolishly neglected to disable my
alarm. The flower_cat woke as well, so we snuggled for an
hour before she went back to sleep and I got up to take my drugs and make
coffee. super_star_girl came down a little before 8am and
woke the Cat, and chaoswolf came down about half hour later,
at which point we opened prezzies. I got a case of Sierra Nevada
Celebration Ale, three cans of Stilton and port wine soup, and a huge
quantity of very dark chocolate. I'm always good for edibles and
drinkables, and it saves the trouble of figuring out where to store them.
The family got a copy of Universe from "The East Coast Clan" -- asavitzk and family. All I can say is "Wow!" It's impressive --
huge, gorgeous, and as informative as it is beautiful. I'm hoping that
the kids like it as much as Colleen and I do. We've left it out in the
living room for guests -- if I or Colleen starts reading it we'll end up
being unsociable all afternoon. And we don't want that.
After presents we started making the borscht. There are two kinds of
borscht -- the cold, clear kind I grew up with, and the hot, thick
Ukrainian kind we make now. They're both made with beets, cabbage, and
lemon juice, and served with a dollup of sour cream and a sprinkle of
fresh dill, but that's where the similarity ends. I first encountered hot
borscht in the little newsletter that came with one of our first bills
from Pacific Gas & Electric; it vanished a few years ago but we've
found another recipe that's similar and even better in a Russian cookbook
called Please to the Table. It comes from the area around
Kiev, where my mother's mother came from.
Proper borscht, as we make it, involves a 4-pound chuck roast, a ham hock,
about two diced onions, four cloves of garlic, (brown the meat and onions,
then add...) three quarts of water, six peppercorns, two bay leaves, four
potatoes, six baby carrots, a stalk of celery, (simmer for an hour to an
hour and a half, then add...) eight more cloves of garlic, two parsnips,
two heads of cabbage (at least one of them red, for color), two cans of
julienned beets (better if you do 'em yourself, but it's messy and we
couldn't find eight large beets this year), three bay leaves, juice of a
lemon or two, and a partridge in a pear tree. Simmer for another hour or
so, until the roots are cooked and the meat is almost falling apart. Pull
the meat out and cut it into bite-sized chunks.
I went out for my walk (wearing a Santa hat) at noon after adding the last round of ingredients
to the soup. Twice around the Rose Garden. By the time I got back an
hour later the house was full of happy visitors and the smell of borscht
just ready to serve.