Today is Christmas Eve.
The plan for today is to enjoy a bit of a sleep in, and then to join the mad rush in the shopping centres to buy food for tomorrow’s Christmas Dinner.
Christmas this year is at Aunty Pam’s and Uncle Peters in Clonbinane, about 60km north of Melbourne, along the Hume highway, in a picturesque part of rural Victoria.
Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to provide the days lollies (candy) and chips, a task that is not to taxing on the family spending it’s holidays viewing thousands of kilometres of black top disappear beneath the front of their car, and for that I am grateful.
Alana and James have built a hair dressing salon in their garage, and she’s busy with clients all day, so we offer to do the grocery roundup for us all. The set up James has built is really quite impressive. It’s a modular salon, complete with floating floor, a wash bay with that funky head tray for the sink, special hairdressing chairs, and even a portable spray booth. When you walk through the full sized glass paneled timber door , you are transported into a salon that could be anywhere…anywhere but a Garage, that is.
We rise at a leisurely 10am, and gather shopping lists from various family members (to collect their Christmas Meal requirements) before heading off to Costco (again) with the boys in tow. This time they too will get to enjoy the Costco Hotdog and Pizza experience.
The next 4 hours are spent wandering the isles of Costco and other Grocery Stores, crossing off each item on the shopping list like Santa crossing off the names of naughty girls and boys. Included from Costco were 5 dozen oysters which were to come back and bite us a bit later on.
We returned to Alana’s house and divide up the groceries, before we start our meal preparations for Christmas Eve dinner as well as the Christmas Day feast. Jeri starts working on her Grandma’s Potato Salad recipe, as it is a tradition of hers to eat it for Christmas, so she was going to make it regardless of the simplified food request we had before us.
I decided to work on the Oysters, as I was going to prepare them in about 4 different ways. The first was a Bloody Mary Oyster Shooter. Then a Prosciutto Oyster Kilpatrick, a Mornay, and finally au naturale. I try one of the Kilpatrick oysters first, and the taste from the oyster itself is ghastly. I swallowed about half of it before spitting the rest out. From a different tray, I try a natural oyster, and it too was wretched. I took one bite and immediately spat it out of my mouth and into the waiting rubbish bin below. Alana takes a whiff of one of them, and quickly agrees that something is not right. We decide to take the safe option and throw all 5 dozen away. What a disappointment.
To try to make amends for the Oysters, I score and cube some large squid tubes, before marinating them for a couple hours. At the same time, I add about a kilo of mussels to a pot before pouring in white wine, water, some garlic and fresh herbs. I steam the mussels until they are just opening. Over cooking mussels makes them rubbery and bland, but properly cooked mussels are one of my favourite all time seafoods, and these turn out to be delicious. I also toss the calamari on a scorching bbq plate, just for a minute or two until just cooked, and finish them with a squeeze of lemon and a few turns of cracked pepper and rock salt. The result is tender and absolutely delicious. A bit of char on the calamari works with the lemon and salt, and makes the dish without overpowering the delicate flavour that squid has.
We eat half of the seafood before celebrating the rest of Christmas Eve with some refreshing cocktails. The distance between us siblings, though not as bad as it once was, still means we don’t get together as often as we would like…well at least not I. I love my sisters, and really miss their company at times. This is a good night, and in the morning, Santa comes.