Visions of Meconium Dancing in My Head
[Note: This essay was written over the Christmas break, but as part of the "15 essays in 30 days" didn't get scheduled for posting until nearly the end of January. Just imagine, if it helps, that my children dream visions of sugar plums while waiting for Punxatawny Phil's appearance. There, now we're nice and timely. -- Liam]
This morning, my mother, my children and I engaged in a time honored Christmas tradition: we made Sugar Plums.
We've all heard of them, visions of them dancing in the heads of the children on Christmas night, but few of us could probably pick the sticky confections out in a police line-up (sugar plums being notorious petty criminals), and so it occurred to me that it might be a fun family activity to try making them, especially since my youngest son has significant food allergies which make most traditional Christmas treats off limits to him, while Sugar Plums, containing nothing that anyone of any discerning palate would consider "good", are therefore entirely within the confines of his diet.
We divided the labor in the traditional way. I chopped up the ingredients and mixed them together, my mother got out ingredients for me, mixed some side bits, and generally bustled about keeping her kitchen cleaner while in mid-recipe than mine is after a careful spring-cleaning binge. My children took on the vital task of "going downstairs to the TV room to play Wii", except for my daughter, Caitlyn, who, in typical extremely thoughtful fashion, slept through the entire experience. As a typical teen-aged girl, Katie sleeps later on the average day than Rip Van Winkle bitten by a tsetse fly, with all of the outward signs of animation of a corpse, but somewhat better smelling.
Mom and I decided that since Sugar Plums are such an old fashioned tradition, that we should make them as authentically as possible, which means we used the Cuisinart, but only on "pulse" mode.
Sugar plums comprise an ingredient list which is predominantly dried fruits and nuts. The recipe from which we were working called for dates and dried apricots, but I'd found similar recipes which called for prunes, and it seemed appropriate to include them, inasmuch as, as a humor writer, it's only possible to be this full of, well, "it" by having a constant low-grade constipation, which I thought the prunes might help alleviate. Well, that, and since prunes are dried plums, it did seem that some plum ingredients should exist in sugar plums.
But therein lies the first problem. Dates come chopped. Dried apricots will chop up comparatively nicely in a food processor. Prunes become a thick paste spattered on the walls of the machine, with almost nothing remaining that even partially resembles fruit. It's a lot more like "tar" or the very first poopy diaper a newborn uses to indicate to his first-time parents that although he's cute and generally a blessing, life will also be an endless series of less than savory moments. Prune paste smells about the same, too.
So you take these three fruits, mix them up with a large batch of chopped pecans, and then, because that whole mess isn't quite sticky enough, you pour in a mixture of honey and spices and stir until you have a sticky, gloppy mess which can stick to almost anything. It sticks to the bowl, the spoon, your fingers, the table top if you spill some. It sticks to the wax paper you're supposed to put it on. What it does NOT stick to is itself, so that when you take handfuls of this glop and attempt to form them into balls, you end up with what can only be described as gloves fashioned from fresh road kill, but nothing even remotely "ball" shaped.
Still, in the end, I managed to get them formed into something that approximates spherical (in much the same way that I approximate Brad Pitt), after which I dusted them with powdered sugar and then took them straight out to the trash bin, because it was pretty clear from looking at them that my children would turn up their noses at them, and having visions of sugar plums squishing between my fingers, I didn't think I was particularly likely to want to risk touching them again, if I ever manage to get my hands clean.
Still, I feel rather good about myself, having at least attempted this Yule tradition, good enough that I celebrated afterward by mincing around in a particularly swishy fashion, the traditional the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. It was easy to do, now that I'm thinking about Brad Pitt.
Copyright © Dec 28, 2010 by Liam Johnson. http://humor.liamjohnson.net