LIKE A JAR OF CHUTNEY

Forest Gump's Momma was only sort of correct when she said, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

With a box of chocolates you know, whichever you bite into, it’s bound to be sweet. And if it happens to be a box of Whitman’s or See’s Chocolate (my favorite…hint hint) you know exactly what you’ll get because a full description of each piece is included.

Being older than Forest’s Momma could ever have been, had she actually been, and have clocked more miles, I’d like to amend that. I say:

Life is like a jar of chutney, sour vinegar, bitter zest, sugar, salt and seeds and spices blended together. With age the flavors meld & mellow, ripen, like memories.

Usually, I stuff my holiday turkey with a sort of Waldorf salad—apples, oranges, onions, celery, paprika, salt, butter, sage—and slow cook the bird breast down. The turkey comes out juicy and slightly citrus, and the drippings make an especially tasty dark golden gravy. The cooked fruit, however, goes to waste. This year, I decided to try something different. Instead of stuffing the turkey with Waldorf, I stuffed it with the makings of cranberry-apple chutney. In my mind, it was sooooo tasty!

FYI: Cranberries don’t grow in Trinidad, they are imported. And this year, it seems, only a few bags made it. A flurry of text messages went around as frantic cooks in the American Woman’s Association searched Port of Spain for them. One AWA neighbor, Becky, posted that she had a bag of cranberries, thus initiating a bidding war. She ended up selling her bag for TT100 (US$ 16.00). Her teenage son said he’s bringing back a suitcase full of cranberries to sell next fall. The winning bid was not mine (I didn’t even try.)

Canned whole cranberries were available, so I made due by cutting the sugar from my chutney recipe and using the canned. The Turkey Cranberry Chutney looked and tasted great, but… The drippings were too sweet for gravy, so we added more salt, pepper, brandy, but it still wasn’t right. As much as it’s about the chutney, it’s about the gravy.  So maybe life’s like gravy, too. A balancing act.

Going into the holiday season,  we’ve had so much bitter and salty already. On this second night of Hanukkah, with less than a week until Christmas we welcome—and are so ready to add—Spicy & Sweet! A new baby, family & friend time, and maybe some chocolates!

Here’s wishing us all Spicy & Sweet!

Cranberry-Apple Chutney

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 green apple peeled, cored & chopped
  • 1 sweet apple peeled, cored & chopped
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Orange cut off the remaining peel, seed & chop flesh
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup white or apple vinegar
  • Salt
  • Ginger
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon
  • Whole mustard seed: yellow, black, white or a mix
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Nuts: chopped pecans, walnuts, pinenuts

Put all the ingredients into a heavy brassier or wide-bottomed pot, stir, heat to boiling, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 2 or 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Serve warm or cold. Mellows with time.

 

Jar of Chutney Playlist:

Happy Holidays!

Count Down to Christmas with Not-Your-Ordinary Christmas Books

Radios are counting-down to Christmas by playing 30 days of Christmas-ish Songs (In Trinidad make that 100 days...who knew there were sooooooo many).

TV stations are playing 25 days of Christmas-ish Movies.  

I'm joining the festivities with a count-down of my own: 12 Days of Christmas-ish Children's Books, with a twist! I'm listing all 12 now so you can:

  • Read one a Day . . . 12 in one day . . . or all 12 every day!
  • Buy one--or all 12--for tots on your list!
  • Use my list to bring to inspire you to pull your favs off the shelves!
Co-written by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, art by Steve Borkman  

Co-written by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, art by Steve Borkman
 

#12: NAUGHTY!  Alfie F. Snorklepuss doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, and he’s being a real pest about it. Cranky Alfie is everywhere—on TV, in the newspapers, over the radio—telling boys and girls what he thinks is the truth. Then, one Christmas Eve, the man in red himself packs up Alfie and brings him to the North Pole for an attitude adjustment, Santa-style.

Brand new from Anne Broyles, art by KE Lewis

Brand new from Anne Broyles, art by KE Lewis

#11: FOLKTALE-LY: It's time for Arturo and his Central American grandmother, Abue Rosa, to decorate their Christmas tree. Abue Rosa shares with him the family history of each ornament as it is hung. But what happens when Arturo plays with-and breaks-a glass bird?

by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, art by HB Lewis

by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, art by HB Lewis

#10 FRIENDLY: Each year at Christmas, Joe writes a letter to Santa. But they've had a few misunderstandings in the past. Last year, for example, Joe wanted a fire-engine-red racecar with retracting headlights, and he did get one — but it was only three inches long. So this year Joe is really, really careful. He describes exactly what he wants — and on Christmas morning, guess what's waiting for him under the tree!

By Laura Leuck, art by Gris Grimly

By Laura Leuck, art by Gris Grimly

#9 MONSTERLY: Mack and Zack are getting ready for Christmas, hanging up their smelly socks and blistertoe, decorating their dead pine tree, making poisonberry pies. Here in the rollicking rhyme of Laura Leuck and the gruesomely silly illustrations of Gris Grimly, is a truly memorable Christmas tale.

by Kandy Radzinsky  

by Kandy Radzinsky
 

The 1st was so popular, Kandy followed up with the collection of Cat letters to Santa.

The 1st was so popular, Kandy followed up with the collection of Cat letters to Santa.

#8 CATISHLY: A cat-happy twist on the traditional English Christmas song for hard-core feline fanciers of any age. . . . they'll appreciate Radzinski's solemn, admiring paintings of her subjects, each whisker heroically articulated, and her settings (the sleeping twosome curl up prettily in a basket with a Christmas quilt, six cats a-playing are decorously entangled with ribbon and gift wrap).

Leave it to Bob Shea!

Leave it to Bob Shea!

#7 PREHISTORICALLY: Dinosaur is getting ready for Santa! He tackles many challenges--decorating, making presents for Mom and Dad, trying not to be naughty--and defeats each one with his trademark ROAR! But on Christmas Eve, when he hears some rustling downstairs, he can't resist a peek. Will our feisty red friend meet his match in the man in the red suit?

Richard Paul Evans originally wrote this as a gift for his family members. After sharing it with your family, try creating a story of your own? Maybe your young artists can illustrate it?

Richard Paul Evans originally wrote this as a gift for his family members. After sharing it with your family, try creating a story of your own? Maybe your young artists can illustrate it?

#6 WARMHEARTEDLY: Rick, Keri, and their 4-year-old daughter, Jenna, are hired as caretakers and are welcomed into the home of Mary, an ailing widow, just in time for the holidays. Before long, it becomes apparent that Mary cherishes their companionship, and this young family begins to understand that their relationship to Mary is more special than any one of them could have realized. These tender relationships, fraught with real-life struggles, are the backdrop for unraveling a mysterious secret that gently propels the reader through this short story.

Eve Bunting and David Diaz are an incredible author-illustrator duo. Warning: this story will make all y'all think differently about homeless people. CAUTION: could prompt spontaneous giving . . .

Eve Bunting and David Diaz are an incredible author-illustrator duo. Warning: this story will make all y'all think differently about homeless people. CAUTION: could prompt spontaneous giving . . .

#5 THOUGHTFULLY: Simon and his mom don't have much--the cardboard house they built for themselves, a tiny Christmas tree, and a picture of an angel pinned to one wall. On Christmas Eve they take in a frail stranger who needs a place to keep warm, and the next morning Simon wakes early to find that the woman has vanished. Instead, he sees December, the angel from the picture, with her wings fanned out over their cardboard house. Could she be real?

Story and Art by Chris Van Allsberg  Watch the movie, too! Tom Hanks is the conductor/dad!

Story and Art by Chris Van Allsberg

Watch the movie, too! Tom Hanks is the conductor/dad!

#4 MAGICALLY: The tale of a young boy lying awake on Christmas Eve only to have Santa Claus sweep by and take him on a trip with other children to the North Pole

By Eve Bunting, art by David Diaz. These two make an amazing team!

By Eve Bunting, art by David Diaz. These two make an amazing team!

#3 POINGNANTLY: Christmas is coming and Carlos and his family are going home-driving south across the border to Mexico. But Mexico doesn't seem like home to Carlos, even though he and his sisters were born there. Can home be a place you don't really remember?

I love you, Little Cindy Lu Who!

I love you, Little Cindy Lu Who!

#2 Susically: "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch" and oh how we love you! Gotta read it every year. Gotta watch the movie, too--two times, maybe more, sing all the songs, feel that heart grow three sizes . . .

#1: TRADITIONALLY: Thanks to Clement Moore for T'was The Night Before Christmas . . . or Henry Livingston, whichever actually wrote the story of Santa's stop one Christmas eve. poem. (A mock trail was even held to determine the true author.) Once a season, at least, this book needs to be read. Which version? You're choice. This classic Christmas poem has been retold in scads of different versions: Cajun, Golden Book, Cowboy, Cat, Thomas the Tank, even Pop Up . . . Call in "Henry's revenge" that royalties for all these go not to Clement Moore's heirs, but to the retellers.

We've come to the end of my counting down to Christmas: 12 Days of Christmas-ish Children's Books List. I hope you'll have as much fun reading through the season as I have!

  • Please add to the list by sharing your favorites. Help build the list to 25 days of Christmas-ish reads, and onto 100!  (Post suggestions in the "comments" section! Curious minds want to know.)