Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Very Absinthe Christmas

How did I spend my Christmas vacation? Well, teacher (and fellow classmates), I applied myself energetically to accompanying three Divine Services, complete with vocal solos, choir numbers, and more than the usual quantity of hymns. Then I set the cats up for a few days on their own (putting out extra food and water), gathered up a few things, and hit the road.

Sunday the 25th was a beautiful day to drive from Saint Louis to the Lake of the Ozarks. Ideal, in fact: the temperatures were cool but not cold, the sky was a bright clear blue, the traffic was within mental-health tolerances, and I managed not to get ticketed for speeding this time.

I arrived at my parents' lovely home around three in the afternoon. I enjoyed playing Santa Claus, contributing to their nicely-stocked minibar a bottle of Glendronach 12-year-old single malt Scotch and a selection of beer bottle bracelets to help keep track of whose beer is whose at any reasonably-sized convivial gathering. I also brought along a bottle of 110-proof absinthe, a box of sugar cubes, and a slotted spoon designed to rest on top of a glass, so that we could experiment with that oft-romanticized, and sometimes demonized, herbal spirit.

Well, I'm no wiser as to what wormwood tastes like, but the herbal blend of which it is a part tasted to me a lot like licorice. Licorice with a kick. After sipping it straight, mixing it in the wrong proportions, and then mixing it right (with two parts absinthe to three of water and a sugar cube), my father and I both concluded that one was too many, and two was not enough. We were pretty well buzzed after having two absinthes each for lunch on Tuesday.

We enjoyed food as much as drink. For Christmas Day's supper, Stepmum cooked up a wonderful shank-cut, hickory-smoked ham and served it with crusty bread, scalloped potatoes, and an off-the-beaten-path green bean casserole made in the style of cauliflower casserole (with cheese and biscuit crumbs and... heck, I'm going to need to get that recipe!). Monday night's feast focused on homemade pizza whose crust was made with beer, and topped with a generous mixture of shredded mozzarella and fontina, plus a sprinkling of Grana Padano. One pie was dressed in black olive which we all found very yummy, the other in a combination of pepperoni, onion, and mushrooms which might be frankly dangerous. And finally, Tuesday night we dined out at a Mexican joint that served $1.50 margaritas and cuisine that sets one's mouth on fire so that it isn't hard to down three margaritas in an hour.

Besides watching whatever was on TV, we spent our time in a variety of amusements. Dad and I went out to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie and to consume mass quantities of popcorn. One day we also watched a DVD of District 9 while Stepmom was at work, and we agreed that she wouldn't have liked it. I particularly enjoyed the cheese flight we shared over lunch on Monday, and the return flight on Tuesday, when the main attractions were taleggio (a soft, strong-flavored Italian cheese), manchego (a hard, flavorful Spanish sheep's-milk variety), and a nice safe English favorite, Double Gloucester. Cut into hunks, they all went nicely when eaten alone or on a cracker.

The days I spent relaxing with my folks were very restorative. I didn't mind being indoors while it rained, froze, and frosted up over the successive days and nights, so long as it always seemed to be sunny or at least clear when we went out, and I had good weather for driving home again. I got a bit of reading done too, both in audio-book form (with a couple of Neil Gaiman novels on my CD player) and on paper (as I've been working my way through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And I'll soon be spending more time reading books in electronic format, now that my boss & his wife have given me a sleek Kindle for Christmas. I've already "bought" a couple dozen free books in Kindle format.

But, after all, it's nice to be home. I started to miss my cats, painfully, last night when something on my parents' TV reminded me of them. And I've been missing my very own, familiar bed on which I seem to get more sleep, and better sleep, than anywhere else on average. I had fun with my parents, and their hospitality is wonderful, but there's no pillow like your own pillow!