With the approach of the holiday season comes my annual consideration, dandled through the idle moments of December, right down to the wire, and inevitably discarded, i.e.,
Should I make a buche de noel this year?
Or, put another way, should this be the year I go to no small trouble to craft a rolled sponge cake cut and decorated to resemble a fallen log in the forest, complete with marzipan mushrooms carved by hand and smudged with cocoa so as to look authentically “dirty,” etc.?
It’s not part of my cultural heritage, although I suppose, living in an area first settled by the French, I could claim it as a local-history exercise. I generally avoid it on more practical grounds, seeing that our family is small and one-third of it got her palate from her father’s side of the family and has a default setting of ew, gross on all new foods. One of these years, but likely not this one.
I write a sentence like that and think, you might not be here next year. Do you want to pass into the next world and stand before whatever gatekeeper is there and say, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, tops among them, I never made a buche de noel?” No, but then, I’d never put a non-existent buche de noel in the top 10, or even the top 100. Rather, my hesitance has more to do with another lesson learned: That the more trouble you go to for food, the more disappointed you’re likely to be.
I’m veering dangerously close to a Bob Greene column he trotted out every six months or so, the sparkling wit of “never travel for food.” Greene liked to say — and say and say and say — that if someone told you the pizza was better in the next county, the pizza would inevitably be awful. I disagree because that’s a self-evidently stupid contention. The food is better in Paris than in Detroit. It may or may not be worth the enormous expense to go there and find that out for yourself, but it doesn’t make it any less true. (The food is probably better in Indianapolis than in Detroit. With very few exceptions, this is the worst restaurant city in North America, and the next person who tells me to visit Lafayette Coney Island is going to get the high hat from me, because I did that — once — and feel fortunate to have escaped with my stomach lining intact.)
I have found, however, that the best food is the easiest food, and the more difficult the preparation gets, the more likely it will disappoint. This is why I don’t brine turkeys and will never, ever deep-fry one. The best food is a perfectly ripe raspberry plucked from the bush and popped into your mouth, and it goes downhill from there, but you get the idea. The Italians have it right — the best ingredients, minimally messed with. Winter is a time for cooking, certainly. The raspberry bush is rattling its bare branches in a frigid breeze as we speak. But I don’t think it’s time for a buche de noel just yet.
What’s your pain in the ass holiday food preparation? Lately I’ve been looking at a recipe in last December’s Gourmet, for Christmas cookies. Sanding sugar in vivid colors is called for. I’m starting to waver.
No bloggage today but this. Some people have to learn lessons the hard way:
Alexi Dohnal arrived at the East Bank Club for a facial, changed into a spa robe and placed $140,000 worth of jewelry in a locker. When she returned, she found the lock cut and her jewelry gone.
Don’t worry, the jewelry is insured. Still, she’s “disheartened” and “depressed.” Poor bunny rabbit.
Off to the gym.