Christmas with Uncle George
All the ingredients come together for a wacky
Christmas with Uncle George.
My Uncle George was the closest thing I had to a grandfather. People thought him eccentric. He didn't care what they thought.
Uncle George's favorite culinary ingredient was rum. The Christmas chapter of his cookbook was rum-based. It was also very short:
• Christmas eggnog with rum;
• Christmas fruitcake with rum;
• Christmas Eve lobster cooked with a little rum.
His recipe for eggnog was not complex. Go to the store and buy eggnog and add rum. Don't put any spices on top "because they get in your mouth."
No one really likes fruitcake. Uncle George knew this. My dad refused to believe it.
My dad had an advertising specialty company – key chains, calendars, plastic things to scrape snow off your windshield and fruitcakes to give away at Christmas. Dad got a heck of a wholesale price on those fruitcakes, so all of our relatives got fruitcakes at Christmas. We were Irish Catholics. My grandmother had a dozen children and about forty grandchildren. That's a lot of fruitcakes.
George would gather up all the fruitcakes dad sent to the relatives. He would open and unwrap them and then he would pour rum into the tins so the cake was completely submerged.
After letting the cakes sit for a couple of days he turned the tins upside down and strained the rum into jars. He called this his Christmas rum.
Uncle George then delivered all the fruitcakes back to the relatives as his Christmas gifts. Everyone welcomed him in from the cold, shared a little nip of his Christmas rum from the jars, and thought the cakes vastly improved. The world was a better place.
Uncle George did most of his best work and all of his fruitcakes out in a shed he called his office. One year he topped off the cakes with 151 proof rum instead of his regular navy dark. He went out to check on the cakes, lit a cigar, and blew himself out of the shed.
The cakes were a little smoky that year. Everyone hailed it as a great innovation.
Christmas Eve lobster
Every male in my family cooks lobsters on Christmas Eve in memory of Uncle George.
His recipe for cooking lobster was almost straight out of the Irish cookbook.
"Take everything that walks, flies, or swims across the face of the earth and boil the living bejeezuz out of it."
George added rum to the process. He maintained that if you poured a little rum on the back of the lobster's head and rubbed it in there then the lobster would be relaxed when you plunged the poor thing into the boiling water and the meat wouldn't tighten up.
He never looked you in the eye when he told you this.
What happened of course was that Uncle George had a little rum for the lobster, a little rum for Uncle George, a little rum in the water, a little rum for Uncle George… you get the Idea.
On Christmas Eve I will be boiling lobsters in the back yard.
Uncle George will be looking down and toasting me with a little of his Christmas rum, and I will miss him.