When I was about 16-years-old, my mom watched my then 4-year-old cousin, Julie, for a day. All the old toys and books were pulled out for her including The Little Match Girl — a beloved childhood read. Like many childhood cherishings I hadn’t thought of this book for many years. My mom curled up on the couch with Julie and I curled up beside them to listen in. And that’s when the story finally made sense.
“She dies,” I exclaimed in disbelief. My mom paused in her reading, a long enough pause to allow Julie to take in what I’d said and become upset. “No, no,” my mom and I shushed her. “Look at how happy she is with her family. Look at the pictures of the yummy food.” We glossed over the sad parts for my little cousin…just as others must have been done for me.
Look back now at all those old Christmas stories and you’ll find that sorrow and death were common themes. Ghosts were par for the course. I suspect that when they were read around the Christmas fire, just before the wee little ones’ bedtime, there was no glossing over.
But, we live in modern times when even Charlie Brown wins. As a concession this Meals to Die by will finish with one of my favorite Christmas stories where only dismemberment, not death, was a possibility but still didn’t happen. Nope, despite everyone’s prediction little Ralphie did not shoot out his eye. Yes, it got a little bloody, but the icicle got the blame.
Risk of partial blindness is not what makes me think of A Christmas Story as a Meals to Die by. As a child seeing Flick’s tongue stuck to the frozen pole competed with Santa kicking Ralphie down the slide for the most disturbing part. Now, of course, I find it hilarious. Going off-track for a moment, you know those pictures most parents have of their kids sitting on Santa’s lap? There isn’t a single one of me. Supposedly this is because I refused to. Yup, I was scared of Santa. Although, technically I was scared of some stranger dressed up as Santa.
This is, I think, more realistic. It’s neither the death is the only escape moral of The Little Match Girl nor the everything works out in the end sappy sweetness of something like Miracle on 34th Street. A Christmas Story ends by them making the best of it…you can tell because they’re laughing, but the mother is also kind of crying. This ultimate Christmas story is all about the Peking Duck times.
Duck is what I meant to make. If I had only properly planned ahead. I didn’t. I thought about my choices — meatloaf, mashed potatoes, cabbage, tongue, glass of milk, bar of soap, turkey. Why mulled wine you ponder. You recall no mulled wine – though the parents did enjoy a drink…while still in their pajamas. All I can say is that sometimes plans* don’t go according to plan.
Mulled wine is one of those festive holiday eats especially nice on cold winter nights. Not that Austin is experiencing much of that right now, but you can always pull up images of frost covered Europe and pretend that you’re stuck in an airport being entertained by clowns while sipping on sweetened and spiced red wine. Or, if by some chance your own tongue is currently stuck to a metal pole I suspect that a hot alcoholic drink will solve your problem. And right there I connected today’s food back to the posts theme. Typically, recipes for mulled wine call for a bottle. However, this isn’t something I drink much of, really only the requisite yearly glass. So, that was all I made. Oh, and amounts are included, but they’re approximates ’cause not a single thing was measured.
*You may realize that this post is a week early. It’s on account of my poor counting skills. I was planning ahead and found out that Christmas was in the last week which meant it would need to be a Meals to Die by post. Just like Halloween and Thanksgiving. Not true. Yes, if I hadn’t been so excited by the prospect you may have had a death-free holiday.
1 glass dry red wine
2 teaspoons brandy
2 teaspoons sugar
1 orange slice
1 small cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
3 whole allspice
Combine all ingredients in a small pot over low heat. Heat for a few minutes. In my case until it started to smell lovely and I was tired of waiting, but this is also something that can sit over low heat for a while.