My Christmas Eve and Christmas Day haven’t been nearly what I intended, but I realized yesterday that it’s okay. Allow me to backtrack a bit…
I was baking hunklich, a Transylvanian (Hungarian) dessert that was favoured by my maternal grandmother and became a family tradition. It’s a pie-type dessert with a baked (not terribly sweet) custard and sour cherries and nutmeg. It turned out well and I turned my attention to the cheesecake.
My cheesecake recipe is tweaked somewhere between my mom’s recipe, Alton Brown’s recipe, and my own little modifications. It’s delicious and although I *could* bake it year-round, I just don’t. For whatever reason, I bake it most often at Christmas and New Year’s. It’s heavy on eggs (just like the hunklich), and unfortunately, my egg-lady up the road ran out before I got there. Dang. So I had to get (more expensive, significantly inferior) grocery-store eggs. Oh well~Mark tried to convince me that my family wouldn’t know the difference, but I surely did~the yolks broke on impact in the bowl, the shells were thin, etc. But I’m spoiled. Fresh eggs are SO much tastier and better.
So I’m making the batter and it’s creamy, smooth, and just the hint of sweet in it, and like I’ve done for years and years, when I was done with the scraping and the beater on my mixer, I licked it. I commented to Mark that I could skip the rest and just eat it by the spoonful. The cheesecake bakes for 1 hour, and then gets residual heat from the oven for 1 hour and chilled. It looks perfect and was ready for our trip to Grand Rapids to be with my cousins and aunt & uncle the following day.
I woke yesterday and thought my blood sugar had dipped, because I felt a violent emptiness in my stomach that also gave me a nauseous feeling, so I munched on some rice crispies and thought I’d be fine. I ended up back in bed feeling as though I was on board a ship in a hurricane and not quite sure I was going to make it without going down like The Poseidon.
Mark decided to google salmonella poisoning and between how I was feeling and the number of symptoms listed on the CDC’s website (6) and the number of symptoms I have (5), we think it’s a case of salmonella bacteria from the raw egg in the cheesecake batter, which I thoughtlessly licked off the beater.
It’s weird~I’ve licked beaters forever and have never had any compunction about letting Brendan do the same. But all it takes is one bad egg, as I painfully figured out. So with not brining my turkey for today and not making it to the family gathering yesterday, I had lots of time to sleep (this really has taken it out of me, because I slept a lot yesterday and still slept all night long last night) and think.
It’s not a huge surprise to read that someone has realized what Christmas is *not* about, and I thought I knew where my priorities were. But I was disheartened to realize that my intended trip to GR yesterday was not going to happen and that the effort I put in to the desserts wouldn’t be enjoyed, and moreover, that I had screwed up the Christmas celebration I intended for Mark and Brendan.
My realization yesterday was that despite all of the trimmings and effort, and family gatherings, it’s really *not* about that. Despite all of the delicious cheesecakes, pies, turkeys, etc., it’s not even about that. Because there are many in our world who would be grateful for the opportunity to have even a smidgen of what we have and what we will do to celebrate. Christmas comes whether or not I’m “ready” for it, and whether or not hunklich and cheesecake are made, whether or not the gifts are wrapped, or anything else. The First Christmas didn’t have any of those things, and although the trimmings are nice, it’s certainly not *required* for a joyous celebration.
I was vertical yesterday for about 90 minutes in the evening~we went on a “light drive” and saw beautiful decorations on homes and the path of luminaries set out in the Village, and that was good. Despite going out in my PJs and coat and feeling quite icky, it was truly lovely and the simplicity of the community coming together and putting out the luminaries was breathtaking. I just love it.
If you’re celebrating Christmas today or any time this week, may it be peaceful, joyous, and just what you want it to be. Whether or not I’m truly up to it, I’m headed out tomorrow for the after-Christmas sales and Ikea’s annual clearance sale.
Oh, and take the note to self to heart: if you’re going to lick cheesecake batter, make sure it’s from fresh eggs from a farmer you know and whose hens are healthy. Otherwise, don’t risk it..