Ode to O’Della
Christmas is coming, y’all, so I
hijacked this column to give you guys
the Honest-to-Dog Holiday Post
that the Whisk will never do.
When I was fifteen, I went to a municipal swimming pool in my small hometown. At the pool, there appeared a hurricane in a brown tank suit. It was as if a wood nymph and a biker had had a love child. This whirling dervish of blond hair and profanity couldn’t have been more than 4 foot 8, and I outweighed her by at least thirty pounds. She scared the crap out of me. I’d never met anyone like this in my life. Her name: O’Della Brown. If someone that day had whispered into my ear that this was the beginning of a lifelong friendship, I’d have laughed, then peed my pants. This whiskey and cigarettes dame trapped inside a teenager’s body was, gentle readers, the Whisk’s famous Auntie Bo.
O’Della has always had a passion for food. And, she’s not just Kitchen Fairy Godmother to the Whisk. She is my guide as much as she is guide to my child. I had never cooked a big ole piece of pig. Pork butts and hams were big, and mysterious. I was afraid to buy such a big piece of meat and probably ruin it, and throw away the money spent. I was over at Bo’s one evening, and in her carport, she had a smoker set up. She was smoking a giant Boston butt with no drama. She was so casual about it that I found the courage to give it a go. I discovered the answer to the mysterious pig. Those parts are cheap, and easy to cook, depending much more on low and slow, and not so much on the skill of the cook. She also made me pizza on foccacia. I promise, foccacia dough makes the most delicious homemade pizza you’ve ever put in your mouth.
She’s found me when I was lost. We’ve laughed so hard Boones Farm has come out of our noses. We’ve cried so hard I thought we would break. She’s kept me out of jail, and saved my life. For this, and a million other embarrassing memories, thank you Bo, I love you.
For the rest of you guys out there in cyberspace, here is my Holiday gift for you:
I like for my Christmas gifts to be impressive, to make the recipient say wow. These days, all my extra cash is taking the Maple Express up to NECI, so wow can be problematic. So, not being flush enough to shock with a price tag, I make a lot of my own gifts.
I have about eight Christmas treats, four sweet, and four savory, that I make really well. I’ve been working on these recipes in one form or another for more than twenty years. These are the kind of holiday treats that you can’t buy and most people don’t make. It’s the homemade candy that your roommate’s mother sent every year. It’s the cheese crackers that your Aunt made. Not everybody loves everything in my baskets, but everybody has one thing that they love, and look forward to every year.
My basket list is based on a couple of ideas that make my life much simpler when it comes time to actually pack and deliver this stuff. With a mix of sweet and savory, you can tailor the gift to the recipient. For a hostess gift, or a gift to a group, a large mixed assortment is good. I have a diabetic friend that loves spicy, so he gets a whole bunch of my Copper Pennies. My mother usually gets a box of my chocolate covered, homemade marshmallows. Another friend has people visiting constantly during the holidays and loves to put out a tray of my goodies for her guests. And I must confess that I can’t wait to eat the first buckeye of the season.
If you want to put together a roster for yourself, here are a couple of tips: Choose things that you like and are good at making, because you will end up eating some of it and there are no experiments allowed in gift baskets. Recipes that can be partially made and finished later are essential. At the beginning of the season, I make a honking batch of hot cocoa mix and the peanut butter centers of buckeyes. I freeze them, then coat the buckeyes and bag the cocoa when I’m ready to give. I make the dough for my chocolate chip cookies, scoop it out, freeze it, and bake them off later. And I always keep an eye out for interesting (read: cheap) containers. That way, I have a few on hand, and the scramble to assemble a gift is a little less chaotic.
Also a good gift, a note promising to deliver their favorite dish on demand. Your gift doesn’t get lost with all the other food gifts, and you’re off the hook until the note is redeemed. You save time and money. Just make sure you’re prepared to make good on your note. And finally the most important gift-giving advice you will ever get: Never, ever, under any circumstance, give as a present, a piece of exercise equipment! It is neither thoughtful, nor funny.
To the fans and friends of the Whisk:
Happy holidays to you all. I wish for you much peace and happiness. Let’s all make 2011 a chipotle-free year!
Thank you for your time and attention, The Mother of the Whisk.