Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Festivus

All you pagans gather 'round the fire for a wicked wiccan — no, wait, I mean dreamy Druid-y Solstice festival. 'Tis time for the Saturnalia!
Tonight, as the sun sets on the year's shortest day, you must surround yourself with the comfort of lights (candles, Duraflame, Christmas bulbs, even that ratty, buzzing, overhead fluorescent light in the kitchen, spilling its skimmed-milk luminescence out into the living room) and welcome the imminent return of longer days, and with them, the food-growing season.
But for now, you must live on winter crops along with whatever you managed to preserve and store. You must dance around the mystical megalith. You must listen to Spinal Tap.

Stonehenge, where the demons dwell
Where the banshees live and they do live well
Where a man is a man and the children dance to
the pipes of pan
Tis a magic place where the moon doth rise
With a dragon's face
Where the virgins lie
And the prayer of devils fill the midnight sky

And you my love, won't you take my hand
We'll go back in time to that mystic land
Where the dew drops cry and the cats meow
I will take you there
I will show you how

Today's Saturnalia meal chez Cookiecrumb and Cranky consisted of bread (stored grains) topped with slow-cooked onions (root-cellared produce), butter and grated cheese (milk's leap toward immortality, as Clifton Paul Fadiman put it). This strata, if you will, is then baked for a surprisingly long half hour. We got the idea from Lidia's recent-ish cookbook. She stresses that if the cheese is very airily poofed on top of the bread and onions (not packed down), it will turn crisp but not burned or gooey in the oven.
Well, she's right. This dish went from an iffy pile of untoasted bread slathered with mundane "toppings" to a crackly, crusty package filled with a meltingly tender center. Call it quiche without the eggs. Pissaladière without the anchovies. French onion soup without the soup!
The house was heavenly with oniony aromas made even more wonderful for having been slowly sauteed with fresh bay leaves from my new laurel tree.
Hey: A tree! Wouldn't that make a cool pagan decoration for the house? But who'd be damn foolish enough to drag a tree inside?


Monkey Gland said...

Thank god for that, I swear it got dark at 2.00pm today.

"In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history, an ancient race of people... the Druids. No one knows who they were or what they were doing... "

cookiecrumb said...

Oh, you're good, MG: I had pulled that quote in case it came in handy, but I couldn't find a place to stash it.
Have you noticed how long it takes to get light in the morning?

b'gina said...

That strata looks scrummy.

Up where I am, we've had mist all day. We get a lot of that, and fog, over the hill from San Pablo Bay. It doesn't seem as though the sun has risen at all.

And I'm being totally non-seasonal and making salmon cakes for dinner. Salmon's what I have leftover, and salmon cakes appeal to my tastebuds at the mo.

Happy Hols of all sorts!

Monkey Gland said...

Oh bugger, couldn't resist one more:

David St. Hubbins: I do not, for one, think that the problem was that the band was down. I think that the problem *may* have been, that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being *crushed* by a *dwarf*. Alright? That tended to understate the hugeness of the object.
Ian Faith: I really think you're just making much too big a thing out of it.
Derek Smalls: Making a big thing out of it would have been a good idea.

Kalyn said...

I was leaving for work today, a bit earlier than usual because I had forgotten to get some goodies for the students and I had to stop at the store, and I swear it was pitch dark. I love it when it starts getting lighter.

(Have I mentioned in the last ten minutes how much I hate winter?) However, I do like Winter vacation, which starts tomorrow.

cookiecrumb said...

b'gina: Misty and rainy here. Not as cold as the past week. Tomorrow we're finally venturing out of the house for eggnoggitude.
Monkey Gland: Yeah, well, see, that was the other quote I had pulled and didn't use! Great minds, same gutter. :D
Kalyn (and MG): Good luck with that winter mood thing. I don't like the dark days or cold weather, but the Pollyanna in me is able to say, [Haley Mills voice] "This might be the shortest day of the year, but tomorrow we shall begin to be ever so happy again, because the days will be longer from now on, forever!"

drbiggles said...

I do apologize, but you knew this was coming and I can't resist it, being a corny Biggles.

where the roasted meat dwells
Where the Biggles lives
and he do live well

drbiggles said...


Do you ever attempt to make sense of the Word Verification? Kinda like those personalized license plates?

Qoowsk, I say! Qoowsk or I'll take your head clean off!

mrs d said...

Now where did I put my 45 of "Christmas With The Devil?"

cookiecrumb said...

Bigs AND Mrs D:


KathyF said...

So, in honor of the solstice, I went to three grocery stores in two days. That has to figure somehow.

Did manage to live-blog the winter solstice, despite driving home during sunset (around 3:45).

Nice pic. Did you take that yourself?

Jennifer said...

Mmmm.... I recall a similar strata from childhood. Cheese, bread, onions... so very, very good. May have to arrange that for Christmas morning!

Stonehedge lyrics much appreciated. Made me smile.

cookiecrumb said...

Kathy: No, I confess I swiped it from a Stonehenge web site (and wow, there are lots of Stonehengians out there).
Jennifer: It's about an hour, total, of prep and cooking, but it was outrageously satisfying. Amazing combo of crunch and creamy. Huge flavor. We used Parmesan, and just happened to have a loaf of olive bread. You trim the crusts off, and assemble bread slices in the buttered baking pan to fit together snugly, like a jigsaw puzzle. 425 oven, probably 25 minutes.

Sam said...

banner much better today

i touched stonehenge when i was small.

there are some great word verification words, but I don't have one to share with Biggles today.

cookiecrumb said...

Wow, I just this second got that banner up. Thanks, Sam.

Monkey Gland said...

Is an impeach something that is not at all like a peach? is it as far from being a peach as is possible? The antithesis of peach.

hkgysjat - which is funnily enough the word peach in Latvian....who knew.

Sam said...

amd MG, did you know that Latvian for "cheeky monkey" is tshybmd???

drbiggles said...

I wasn't going to post, but my Word Verification is hlpsik. Which is probably what I should have called in today instead of going to work.

Monkey Gland said...

Better watch that Dr Biggles. Very tricky those. You'd better apply some vafgplr before it gets to enflamed.

drbiggles said...


I think I'm coming down with something.

Brett said...

You're all reminding me of the one time I actually got a name, I think it was Colette, as a word verification during a post for Farmgirl's sheep-naming contest. I suggested it as the sheep's name, but she didn't go for it:<

As a Child of the Solstice (although the year I was born it was the 22nd), I have to wish you a belated happy, what did you call it, Saturnalia! During the festivities, we traditionally say "atofi!" to one another (nah, just kidding, that's my word verification...I couldn't resist being fashionably late).

cookiecrumb said...

Yeah, well, see, Brett? golfv!