As we approached Veteran's Day, my paper and pen came out once again, and the lists started to be made. After watching 'The Great British Bake Off', (apparently from one or two years ago,) and the challenge to make three different items from puff pastry, I was inspired. Perhaps I should have taken a leaf from my mother's book, and not chosen to use my friends as guinea pigs, but that never seems to happen! Last weekend, after making vol-au-vent cases, a venture that I had not attempted previously, and marveling at the success, I set to making a batch of Mille Feuille. (Napoleons as they are sometimes known on this side of the pond.) The pastry had been made, frozen and defrosted, so the hard part was done. I rolled the dough as thin as I thought necessary, before putting it into the hot oven. I had decided upon a raspberry confectioners custard for the filling, rather than cream, and this was made as the pastry rose beyond its recommended height! The third item was the (now) famous sausage roll, followed by a fourth, the Eccles cake! (A fruit filled delicacy.) Before making the Coronation Chicken filling for the vol-au-vents, I washed up the stack of dishes that were piled high in the sink. My 'fan-tail' potatoes were already par-boiled, and the asparagus would be put in the microwave at the last minute, and then used to garnished the poached salmon. A simpler main course I could not imagine!
I was not embarrassed by my dinner, and my friends appeared not to be unhappy with their repast!
However, the mess in the kitchen, and the time it took to make things straight, at the weekend, did not cure me from the baking bug that was rapidly overtaking all other crazes. Wednesday was Veteran's Day, and the courthouse was closed, therefore, so was our office. Although Dana was 'in attendance', the rest of the staff had a day away from their desks! After thanking my husband for his military service, I waved him off and set about getting myself ready for my day. I had an appointment with my nail technician at nine and then I was going to drive to Samantha's house. Before I left my own home, I completed my Wednesday tasks, and made a batch of sweet shortcrust pastry. I had planned to spend the whole day concocting, creating and cooking, but had not taken into consideration my manicure and the suggestion that I had apparently made of making the most of our 'day off', by going to all the 'household' shops that we do not make time for on our usual weekend gallivant! My list of confectionery items hoped for was cut short. I placed the dough in the fridge to 'rest', and went on my way.
The drive to Samantha was quite uneventful, and although the day had started off to a cold start, the sun was shining through and the temperature began to rise. We reminisced as to the previous Veteran's Day, when we had to meet her (then) realtor at the mall, so that she could sign some papers to complete the purchase of her (then) new home, and remembered that it was very cold and pouring down with rain! It seemed strange, as it always does, to go out and 'shop' on a day when we should be honouring those who have fought for our freedom, but then in a strange way, the freedom of being able to do that very thing is perhaps an honour in itself. Many of the shops had special offers for our 'heroes' and 'heroines', and because of our 'heroes' and 'heroines', and of course, as always, I became slightly cynical about where their loyalties lay! Veteran's Day sales are no different to Thanksgiving sales, Christmas sales, Halloween sales and 'because there is a 'y' in the day' sales! However, the 'reason for the season' is quite often lost, and we have to rely upon our own conscience!
With Thanksgiving around the corner, and Christmas a few weeks off, the stores were full of pumpkins, turkeys and bright glittery objects. Whole sections were devoted to trees and baubles, with the 'everyday' items (if there is such a thing as everyday, especially when referring back to the 'because there is a 'y' in the day' sale') banished to the far corners of the units. Restocking shelves for the few days a year when 'nothing' is notable, obviously does not take place as often as a cynic like me would like it to! After spending about half an hour deciding whether to buy a dish that was not the right shape, nor size, (because I did not want one shaped like a snowman, nor a squash related vegetable,) I headed to the check out with a small lamp stand and shade! This was not on my list of things to buy, or 'to do', and was certainly not going to be of benefit to me when I awoke my dough from its nap! In fact, after the purchase I was unsure as to why I had succumbed to the fancy items, which were to adorn the spare room!
We walked along the sparsely populated shopping strip, and walked in and out of several stores. Dana had called to say that he was leaving the office and returning home, and wondered what I had on my itinerary, so that he could plan his afternoon accordingly. "I suppose I shall just go home, put my feet up and eat chocolate eclairs", he said to me in a jovial manner. Although the 'chocolate eclairs' are merely hypothetical in his idealistic view of 'nothing to do', they are the very thing that I had planned to make on my day off! Another inspiring episode of the 'Great British Bake off' had featured the choux buns, and they were on the 'list'. Instead of losing myself in the creation of making delicious desserts, I was getting lost in forests of artificial fauna and flora!
Finally, after freeing ourselves from yet another fir tree jungle, where jingle bells rock, snowmen are given names, and everyone appears to be asleep and dreaming of a white yuletide, we headed back to the car. Perhaps it was because I was aware of the loss of free time, or perhaps it was just because the pavement was uneven, I lost my footing and felt myself fly like the sleigh that is pulled by the red nosed buck, into the air, and then land, not lightly on my feet, but firstly on my hip, then shoulder and finally the side of my arm. This was certainly not the picture I had when Dana suggested I take some time to myself and 'put my feet up'. The next thing I remember was being asked by my daughter if I was okay. I looked up at her, from my resting place, (less comfortable than the resting place of my dough, despite that being somewhat colder,) and saying, quite honestly, "No!" I was unsure as to my condition, and lay on the ground for a few seconds, ascertaining the damage. A car stopped, and a very kind, older gentleman, also asked if I was okay. Samantha attempted to convince him that I was, but he would not leave until she had helped me to my feet, and he could see that I was able to stand. I thanked him for his concern, and he appeared to be satisfied with my coherent response, and drove away. It was not until I sat down in the passenger seat of my daughter's car, did I realise the full impact of the fall, and had to maneuver myself to keep from sitting on what would no doubt become a very bruised upper leg!
By the time I returned home, I was quite 'Baked off!', and the dream of attempting to bring my husband's hypothetical idea of 'nothing to do' into reality, became a nightmare! Chocolate eclairs would have to remain within his imagination, for the time being! I did, however, have some thoroughly rested dough in my fridge! In fact, it had not only relaxed for a few hours, it had been in a deep sleep! It was in a state of comatose! Unable to kneed it into any shape, let alone roll it into a thin square, I left it sitting on the counter, in the hope that it would wake from hibernation before we had to leave to meet Samantha and Edward for dinner! My son-in-law had recently received a very well earned promotion, and we had promised to take him out to celebrate. Veterans' Day seemed to be a good day to do so.
After a couple of hours, my dough began to revive and I was able to manipulate it into a ball, and then shape it accordingly. I did not feel any consequences from the fall in my upper body, and was able to roll the pastry, cut it into the desired shapes, and cook it before filling it with a frangipane mixture. Once cooked, and cooled, (all before our dinner date,) I covered the tarts with icing and topped them off with a cherry! Mr Kipling look out! My 'cherry bakewells' were quite the sight! I presented Dana with one of the batch from the finished product, and he thought it to be rather delightful! I did not mention that this was a poor substitute for the chocolate eclairs that I had planned to make, but I do not think he would have been disappointed should I have mentioned the this was a replacement.
Inspiration at a slightly lower level, I felt satisfied that I had managed to achieve at least one of my culinary goals on my 'day off', and I returned to work on Thursday (after a very pleasant celebratory dinner with the kids, Wednesday night) with a tin full of cherry bakewells. The fact that they did not remain in the tin for very long, and were all eaten within a matter of hours, was a great testimony to the recipe, and the cook! Although I could not sit down properly, there appeared to be no other ill effects from the
unscheduled 'trip' I had taken the previous day! My day was made complete, on Thursday, when I had to put some things away in my spare room, and was able to light the area with my new lamp!
The kitchen has been scheduled for another round of baking in a couple of weeks, but until then, it remains 'the place to cook dinner', and very little else! The next 'holiday' has already been overtaken by the following one, and the tree decorators in Austin have started to display their talent (and wares in some cases) upon those growing wild (trees that is) along the highways and bi-ways. Where there is flora, there are baubles! I am sure that when I do put my husband's ideal 'nothing to do' dream into reality, there will be something to report. Until then, I shall say, as always, (and not just once a year,) thank you to all the Veterans, current service men and women, and all those who keep us safe both here, and in my native country of England and the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and for that matter, around the world. I am grateful. They will not grow old as we grow old! We will remember them, and never will they be merely ...... another story!