Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Christmas feast

I wish I had taken a picture of the food we prepared on Christmas day. Delicious vegetable skewers, succulent pork ribs and rare juicy steaks all chargrilled on the barbeque. Bacon and black olive polenta cakes, nshima* with a fragrant tomato relish. Followed up by the best banoffee pie known to mankind.

That was the plan anyway.

"We'll eat at 4" we say.

So the husband has charge of the braai. The barbeque. The meat and veg is cooked to perfection. I am in charge of the polenta cakes and the nshima. And the pudding. I am halfway through the polenta cakes when the baby starts to cry. Real proper oh-my-god-I've just witnessed-that-fat-boy-from-next-door-eat-my-hamster kind of crying. The grandparents try to console her but she's having nothing of it. So I go to her and leave a glutinous, lumpy pot of Matter on the stove. The husband tries to deal with it. "What must I do?" looking all distressed.
"Just, add the onions and the bacon that I cooked earlier and a bit more stock if you need to and then put it in the oven" I say
He looks at me like I've just asked him to diffuse a nuclear reactor. Or fly a plane solo with no prior experience.
He comes back a minute later. "It's all lumpy"
"Okay, I'll come and deal with it just now"
All of this shouted at top decibels over the baby's screaming.

Finally the baby settles and I come out of the bedroom to see a perplexed looking mother-in-law and husband standing over the pot of said Matter. It is indeed lumpy and shiny and glutinous and looks ab.so.lutely disgusting. No matter, I put it in the pan and whop it in the oven nonetheless.

Now to the nshima. Halfway through making it I'm thinking, "This isn't right. It shouldn't be so wobbly, so lumpy. It should be grainier than this" Now where I come from unga is mealie meal. Maize meal. Here, unga is flour, it is mealie meal, it is basically anything powdered. So the unga I was using was not mealie meal. It was flour. I had, on the stove a gloopy wrist deep pot of white sauce except without the milk and butter. And with A LOT more flour. It looked like a huge albino wad of wood glue, left out in the sun.

And in the stove I had... well... words can't really describe it. It smelled good. But who knew flour could get so shiny? We decided the best course of action was for husband had to take over the fragrant tomato relish action ("Will this tin of tomato and onion mix do?" "Hell yeah!") while I tried to salvage the nshima issue. Found the real proper mealie meal, made a burnt bottomed passable pot of nshima. The polenta cakes? Well, I didn't bother trying to salvage those. I scraped off the cooked top bits and the bottom bits, which were alarmingly jelly-like, and put them in a pretty dish on the table. I tasted a little. The dogs enjoyed the rest. With coaxing.

And the braai? Had you forgotten about the braai? Coz we had. You would be forgiven for thinking we were serving up pieces of tortoise shell and bits of tractor tyre cut up just so. The vegetable skewers were unrecognizable. Even by eating them you couldn't tell what was what.

The funniest thing though, is that no-one said a word. We all sat around in our paper hats and everyone was all "Hmmmm, this is good! Well done guys, great meal!" And I felt like standing up on the table and cackling manically and saying "REALLY? You reckon?" But we all so hungry (we'll eat at 4? Yeah, right!) that we gobbled it all down like it was the succulent meal we had originally intended.

Oh, the banoffee pie was good though. (HAha! Just caught a typo that said that banoffee pie was food though. Yes, well....)

Maybe next year we'll go out.


*Nshima - a stiff mealie meal porridge thingy. Sounds disgusting but (usually) delicious! Called Nshima in Malawi and Zambia, Ugali in this part of the world, Sadza in Zimbabwe and South Africa

The picture window last night


Angela said...

I laughed tears! Well done and well told, Miranda dear! I`m glad they were all hungry enough, but surely it was good anyway. That is why on "special occasions" you should never try out new recipes, or unusual mealie meal.
I love your picture window.
Have a happy New Year, all of you!

Rob Inukshuk said...

A great account of your day, too funny and I shrieked with laughter at the fat-boy-next-door line!

And that night time view from the window is wonderful and ought to be painted, I mean put on canvas, not actually paint the glass!

Val said...

OMG Miranda!! a heroic attempt indeed... always a good trick to make dinner so late everyone is uber-hungry :-) love the view thru the window xx

spacedlaw said...

I am afraid you might have a few more of these meals, with the baby.

Shelley said...

Sounds like a wonderful holiday celebration...and one that will be long remembered and re-told!

I'm curious...what's a banoffee pie? The name is conjuring visions of a yummy combination of bananas and coffee?!

Miranda said...

Shelly - biscuit base, caramel (boil a tin of condensed milk for five hours) cream and sliced banana on top. I think you can put a bit of coffee in the cream. Yum!

Spacedlaw - yes, probably!

Val - yes exactly!

Rob - thanks! And maybe when I get bored of picture window shots, I *will* paint the window! Now *there's* something to think about!

Ha, thanks, Geli! It's only when the pressure is on that it's a disater. We had a most delicious barbeque only a few days before!!

Lori ann said...

Aw, poor things, you hubby and baby all trying to do too much in too short a space.my husband would behave in the very same way. so funny. i remember having similar meals. although i think we ended up drinking more than we ate (your food was probably much better than mine!)
your writing is fantastic. and you already know how i feel about this picture window sequence, it's my favorite thing in the whole world!

Miranda said...

Lori - yes we left it all way too late of course but the booze flowed and the company was good so what more can you really ask for! More picture window shots coming up. You should do the same from your lovely window....

pam said...

love that - the windows are just great - how do they change so much?

Good thing you ate at 4!

Mud in the City said...

It all goes to prove that what makes a truly memorable Christmas is the coompany around the table and not what's on it!

Happy New Year!