In order to understand the magnitude of what I am about to tell you, you have to know a little bit about what I consume in a normal day. For breakfast, some tea, maybe some toast and an apple. For lunch, some leftovers, or if I find myself unprepared and at work, a cookie. For dinner, a normal-sized, fairly healthy meal consisting of some protein, some greens, some vegetables, and some grains. A cocktail. And maybe a glass of wine. But this last Sunday, as is so often the case when visiting my in-laws – whom I love dearly despite the fact that I often have food nightmares when spending time with them, so plentiful is their table – I partook in yet another day of extreme holiday indulging.
And so it was that I was wide awake most of Sunday night, too tired to get up and go for a walk – which would have eventually slowed my racing heart – and too anxiety-ridden (see, racing heart) to be able to fall asleep.
It all started, as it often does, with breakfast. Though it was here that I made my only show of restraint, forgoing a double espresso – knowing that it would only increase said racing heart – and instead, sticking to a relatively easy going cup of Earl Grey tea. In retrospect, breakfast was not particularly excessive, but this was only due to the fact that we had a luncheon scheduled for just after noon. We had toast with cheese and jam, and then spent an hour or so strolling along the Rideau canal – this being Ottawa on a surprisingly warm April day.
I knew I was in for some trouble when our lunch hosts, seniors both, offered to start us off with a stiff Bloody Mary. With the exception of a particularly exuberant night in New Orleans in 2009, I have managed to stay this side of a hang-over for much, if not all, of the last decade. There have been a few times when I have come close to waking up with the tell-tale headache and craving for onion rings, and strangely enough, most of them have occurred after nights of what seemed like fairly innocent imbibing with folks over 60. From what I have observed, most of the baby boomers that I know, retired or otherwise, like to get their party on from time to time, and with their seemingly bottomless liquor cabinets and high-quality quaffs, it is pretty hard not to join in on the fun.
By the time we sat down to lunch, I was warm and relaxed. Lunch was simple, and not meant to be excessive despite its four courses. We started with some classic deviled eggs whose yolks had been mixed with just a little curry powder and mayonnaise. And I have to say, these might be the perfect accompaniment to the Bloody Mary. The cold orange-juice infused borscht was accompanied by white wine, as was the main course of pickled asparagus, smoked salmon, and baked ham with Dijon. Our gracious host made sure to keep our wine glasses full, and by the time we finished our desserts – gingerbread with blackberries and an impeccable home-made lemon sorbet – I had lost track of how many ounces had been consumed. Not surprisingly, the afternoon was spent napping and since it continued to be lovely, a second walk whose latent function was to ready the body for the next meal. For it was Easter, and one can’t really celebrate Easter without consuming a leg of lamb.
If my mother-in-law weren’t such an amazing cook, it would be easier to resist temptation, but alas, this is not the case. But first, there were cocktails.
When it comes to cocktails, my latest obsession is a martini of sorts made from vodka, fresh ginger, fresh lemon and maple syrup. It’s that easy, really. You just squeeze some lemon, grate some ginger, pour in some vodka and a hint of maple syrup, and then strain it into a glass. If you want to get fancy, you add a lemon twist, and it is often nice to soften the blow with an ice cube or two. It might be the perfect drink because in terms of calories, it’s not that far from the skinny bitch – vodka and soda – and contains not one but two very healthy ingredients: lemon and ginger.
So cocktails were drunk. And then came the lamb. Though this will come as little surprise to fans of the controversial fish, pretty much everything tastes better with a little anchovy added to the mix. The lamb was simply roasted, but it was rubbed and stuffed with enough garlic, rosemary and anchovy paste to imbue the entire thing with an amazing savoriness. The green beans were fairly benign, but the scalloped potatoes with cheese and cream were both hard to resist and hard to defend – especially the second helping.
Luckily, the meal came to a close with only a few ginger chocolates and some fresh fruit, and though I was trying desperately to talk myself into just saying no, I could not quite bring myself to do so when the single-malt, a much-longed-for but rarely-in-the-budget treat, presented itself at my side. That we only eat and drink like this on those relatively rare occasions when we are all together as a family means that our bodies have plenty of time to recover between visits, which is a good thing – as a gal can only handle so many sleepless nights.