A dear friend writes from Paris, where he was visiting last month, that amidst the boarded-up shops and unnatural quiet on the once-bustling streets, the traditional boucherie was open. Blood-smocked men behind viande-adorned glass doled out their daily fare with the standard French growl.
Our holiday plans remain uncertain. A trip to Germany to visit a son and expectant wife is on hold. Friends due in from the UK have told me to keep our guest room on pause. We have grown accustomed to the unaccustomed, at one with imbalance. The new not-so-normal fills the air.
This Thanksgiving I suffered from culinary anomie. The baking shows exploded with so many pies that I feared Newton’s apple would rise and take flight. The vortex of stuffing recipes made me long for a bag of Pepperidge Farm. The turkey was not carved before our phones were lighting up with dire reports of logistics hell. I found myself humming the theme to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” weeks before it aired.
“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
I am a card-carrying Jew with a passport for Yule tidings. My 93-year-old mother remembers our childhood decorated with white branches adorned with fragile glass balls of green and red. I may not celebrate, but I feel the holidays to the brim of my soul.
And so, on Christmas Eve, I shall roast a bird! Albeit small, a four-pounder at best. I’ll line its cavity with pepper and salt, and stuff it with pierced lemons and garlic. And whether I find myself alone or together with my commuter wife, I’ll set the oven to 400°F and await the aroma of roast chicken to fill the air.
These times take a toll, but they cannot extinguish our spirit. The snow will fly and the lights cast a glow that speaks December to the core.
Come your own personal celebration, perhaps pluck a recipe from an old tattered box?
Fill your kitchen with scents and set your mind to idle. Memory is as strong as the heart is full. I’m squinching my eyes tight and imagining how it once was.
Love and deliciousness to Marcella Hazan, from whom this recipe has been cribbed and refined by millions. If you are feeling plucky, start the bird breast down and then flip after a half-hour or so.
- 1 four-to-five pound (2kg) bird
- 2 small fresh lemons
- 6-8 cloves of garlic
- Extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F (180°C)
- Remove gizzards, give the bird a rinse, and dry thoroughly
- Rub a healthy amount of salt and pepper inside the cavity
- Pierce the lemons and slide inside
- Add the cloves of garlic as well
- Paint the skin with olive oil and salt and pepper the exterior
- Rack (or not) and roast for 60 minutes (Figure 15 minutes/lb)
- Raise heat to 425°F (220°C) and wait to brown (you can baste if necessary)
- Dinner is done when the breast registers 165°F (75°C)