A Different Kind Of Holiday Season

Two of my favorite holidays are celebrated this week, Pie Day (3.14) and Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17th).

We began the week with corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots. You can never start celebrating St. Patrick’s Day too soon.

Actually, we began celebrating last Sunday when we had to visit two different McDonald’s to get our annual Shamrock Shakes. After sitting in line at the one nearest for over twenty minutes, we finally got to the pay window and submitted a ten dollar bill for two small shakes. The woman at the window charged us a price that wasn’t the price on the sign at the drive-thru menu, but it was less costly. The menu quoted the price at $4.19 each. She charged $7.64. So, Stephanie gave her a ten. Before she handed back the change, $2.36 she said, “I was just informed that we have no Shamrock Shakes.” She became flustered because she wasn’t sure what to do. A manager came up and she explained the problem to him. He said to give back the ten-dollar bill. Now, you would think that would be simple, but it was a problem because she didn’t know how to work the till to reflect the fact that she rang it up but couldn’t deliver the goods. Before we could get our $10 returned it took several minutes for the manager to reach around her and punch buttons to get the cash drawer open. Meanwhile, two cars pulled out of the line. We got our ten bucks and headed out to a different McDonald’s.

We passed by another nearby McDonald’s, but we questioned whether it was open. There were no cars in the parking lot. When we got to the next McDonald’s we moved quickly through the line. This time the cost of two shakes were the same as on the menu – $4.19 each, or $8.38 for both. Stephanie started counting coins from the ash tray in the car. “You’re going to confuse her,” I predicted. Stephanie handed the cashier $10.38. Guess what? Yup, she confused the cashier. Once she figured out that all she had to was to return three dollars to us we traveled the fifteen feet to the next window where we actually saw an employee making our shakes. Fake whipped cream from a can on top of fake ice cream. You think they would have given us a real maraschino cherry, but nope, no cherry at all.

Sunday’s corned beef was delicious. We realized that in the past we had to buy two flats of corned beef because the first went with the vegetables, the second was always used for sandwiches. There was a time when I pickled my own corned beef. Thirty-five pounds of beef brisket layered in a crock, covered with brine and a cheesecloth bag of spiced buried in the middle. Leave it covered in the garage for six weeks to two months and the finished product is excellent. This won’t work in Florida, Arizona, or coastal California. The garage needs to remain cold.

I told a fellow lobbyist about this, and he wanted to make some for himself and others. Cal Hultman commissioned me to watch over his product of making his first batch of corned beef. The first thing I needed to do was trim several pounds of fat from the briskets he had bought. He said he got a good deal. After trimming fat for a long time and eyeing the mound of fat compared to trimmed brisket, he wasn’t so sure in the end. But on we went. I told him that in order to assure that our brine was salty enough we should float an egg. If the egg didn’t float we didn’t have enough salt in the brine. He went to the kitchen to get an egg. It sunk like a rock. I added more salt, and he tried the egg again. It sank just as fast as the first time. This was not working like it should have. I asked to see the egg. It was frozen solid. We worked some of the salt from the brine and tried it again, making sure that the egg he brought us was not frozen. After two months, we had more customers than we had corned beef. “Next,” Cal said, “I’m going to smoke my own bacon.” I told him he was on his own.

I make my own sauerkraut, so later this week we’re going to have Rueben sandwiches, but I may have to buy another chunk of corned beef. Be sure to buy a flat if you want to make sandwiches. A point is okay for a corned beef dinner, or corned beef hash, but a flat is always your best bet.

Stephanie is in charge of the pie. on Pie Day. Pecan.

The Ides of March will be celebrated in between the two big holidays, and we have no plans yet, but I guess it will be a cake day.

We’re not sending out cards this holiday season, we’re too busy baking and eating. They’ll be no present, either. They’ve been consumed.

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