Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas is Coming and the Chicken Turkey's Getting Fat!

Tomorrow is Christmas! Even our little corner of this island is starting to feel festive. We found a ‘tree’ at a nursery and that helped the spirit quite a bit. Then we found ‘chasing lights’ to put on the tree. Basically, your every day Christmas tree lights, but the package says ‘chasing’ instead of ‘Christmas’ here in Sharia land.

We made a couple of ornaments out of homemade salt clay. It’s so humid we had to leave them out to dry for days. After awhile you forget about them. By the time we remembered they were on the floor on top of a piece of cardboard, there were only a few left, thanks to Sabrina and the dog sampling them. So, whatever the dog and Sabrina didn’t eat we put on the tree.

I made a garland with some fuzzy white yarn left over from my never finished scarf I was attempting during Jared’s football practices, and some sequins. We cut out snowflakes and made an angel out of a toilet paper roll. Very high brow!

Then on to the kitchen. Christmas to me has always meant baking and cooking, but here with my Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven and a house full of boys, I’ve realized I have to adjust my wants to meet my reality. In this household a few batches of homemade red and green playdough and some red and green frosting covered cupcakes fit the bill quite nicely.

I did have high hopes. I scoured the Internet and found a fudge recipe not requiring marshmallows (very hard to find and when you do they will put you back about $8 US a bag.) that turned out quite nicely. I did the cooked eggnog so as not to show up at tonight’s holiday party with a “Merry Christmas, would you like some rum with your Avian Flu punch?”

Rob thinks the eggnog is much better with the rum than without as it cuts the flavor of the UHT milk. I think rum makes pretty much everything taste better.

Tonight’s Christmas Eve party is all about not eating rice and rendang, but recreating the best we can the foods we are familiar with. I am in charge of the traditional if not kitschy green bean casserole. My friend who is hosting the party called me up excitedly to tell me a package from her sister in law just arrived and is complete with the Durkee French Fried Onions. Now that is the sign of a good Christmas.

Next is my traditional fruit salad inherited from my mother. She discovered it while living in Alaska when I was a baby. It has everything in it a grown up person isn’t supposed to eat; marshmallows, cream cheese, canned fruit. The story I got from her is it was so hard to find fruit in Alaska way back in the late ‘60’s they relied on the canned variety and spiced it up a bit. My thought is, if the cans of fruit cocktail needed ‘spicing up’ by being smothered with cream cheese and marshmallows, I question the intelligence of eating them in the first place. At any rate, now I’m addicted and I too must have the fruit salad.

I’ve replaced the walnuts with cashews, since there aren’t any walnut trees anywhere on the island. I couldn’t find the canned pineapple, but I did find a can of tropical fruit and picked out all the weird gelatinous white fruits so they wouldn’t mar my memory of the coveted fruit salad. Canned papaya? Fine. Canned chewy fruit de cacao? Nope.

I tried to make marshmallows. Twice. All I can say is it’s impossible with a cooktop that goes from hot to hotter, no electric mixer and no candy thermometer. My second attempt looked promising; the sugar water/gelatin concoction was starting to turn white and grow. But just as my shoulder was starting to burn from the frenzied fork whipping and I excitedly called Jared into the kitchen, the froth of sticky whiteness collapsed in a heap of escaped steam and I was left with sugary sand stuck to the bottom of the pot.

I don’t know what kind of chemical reaction happened in my kitchen, as I am an Arts major, but I won’t be attempting that again any time soon.

So, yes in the spirit of the holidays, I sucked it up, bought the $8 US bag of marshmallows and admitted I am no Martha Stewart.

The cupcakes took five hours since I could only cook about eight at a time in the Easy Bake.

It is kind of funny how much food matters, especially living in stressful environments. I’ve done this all before; boiled down enormous squash to make ‘pumpkin’ pie; snuck ham underneath my underwear in luggage destined for other Muslim countries; traveled three hours by hot van just to find spegettios for my children. I’ve thought nothing of going over the weight limit on the airplane if it meant bringing back a few extra jars of peanut butter. I’ve been known to pay $15 US for pop tarts.

That, I must say, is the true test of honesty in a relationship. Do you confess to your spouse that you were idiotic enough to pay that much for some lousy pop tarts? You’ve got to really love somebody if you allow them to eat a pop tart when they are $3 US a piece.

Our language instructor asked what we were eating for Christmas. I told him turkey, which translates to ‘kalkun’ in Indonesian. Here they call them ‘ayam kalkun’ which means ‘chicken turkey.’

This discussion of course digressed into the various types of chickens you have here on the island. You have the ‘ayam pudong’, which is the big, white chicken. (Know as the KFC chicken, or as I joked, the bule ‘foreigner’ chicken).

Then you’ve got the ‘ayam kampung’ – the ‘roaming chicken’ which here could be called the ‘garbage eating chicken’ but in more polite societies we’ll call it the ‘free range chicken.’

Then of course, you have your ‘ayam kampus’ or ‘wandering chicken’ which translates to the loose woman of the village.

At any rate, we’re happy to have found not only a chicken turkey, but a friend who does not have an Easy Bake oven. It is, after all, the simple things in life that make you happy. Merry Christmas!

No comments: