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Some Things Just Aren’T Meant To Downsize
by Linda Mondoux
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Linda Mondoux has more than 28 years experience in the word business as a writer and editor, becoming a full-time freelancer in 2007. She has worked for several daily newspapers, most recently with The Ottawa Citizen, where she was a copy editor and a city columnist.

By Linda Mondoux

I know it was irrational, maybe even a little selfish. But I was determined that my extra large, rectangular roasting pan would make the move from our two-storey house to our small — very small — condo.

That I would threaten death to anyone who would try to part me from my pan did come as a surprise, since I am not the sentimental type. Unlike my husband, I had found it liberating to sort through years of things, and then declare three-quarters of them surplus, either ready for charity or the trash heap.

But this pan was different. I needed it. After all, Christmas was coming and I had a job to do. People were counting on me to deliver a family tradition.

Just how small our new condo truly was became apparent soon after the movers, who had filled up every room with boxes of things I thought I had thrown out, finally left. As I tried to cram glasses and cookware into too few — and too narrow — cupboards, I had to admit that saving the roasting pan was pure folly.

Downsizing wasn’t so easy after all.

As I stood there hugging the pan, wondering if maybe the blasted thing might fit under the bed, I couldn’t help but think back to 1980. I was in Timmins, a small city in Northern Ontario, at my first newspaper job. The pay was terrible and I needed two roommates to help pay the exorbitant rent. Our friends consisted of reporters and DJs and cameramen from the newspaper, TV and radio station. We were technically all competing against each other, but shared one thing in common: we were all poor.

It was over a couple of bottles of cheap wine that the idea was hatched: the roommates would throw a Christmas dinner of turkey and stuffing and all the trimmings and we would charge our friends $10 to attend. I still can’t believe everyone agreed. After all, $10 was a lot of money.

I was in charge of the stuffing. Actually, we never called it stuffing at our house— it’s dressing. An old Irish recipe from my grandmother. It’s basically bread and potatoes, with a few ground-up onions, and fortified with enough spices to heat up the house for days after the feasting is long over.

The important thing about this dressing is that it’s meant to be eaten in massive quantities. For example, the average person would scoop about the size of two large grapefruits onto his plate, lather in gravy, eat and repeat. The recipe for a small family calls for 10 pounds of potatoes and three loaves of bread. In our heydey, my mother would make 30 pounds for Christmas dinner. Needless to say, this dressing does not go in the turkey — there’s just too much. It’s shaped into loaves and cooked in foil in the oven.

The other thing about this dressing is that the cooking and mixing require a very large pot. My mother used a big old blue speckled pickling pot. In Timmins, I think the roommates collectively owned a sad-looking frying pan and two small pots suitable for heating a can of soup. That didn’t stop me. I had hungry people paying good money for dinner, dammit; I wasn’t going to let them down.

I was determined to convince my friends to abandon their old ideas of stuffing, eaten in tiny, polite forkfuls, and embrace the Irish dressing that replaced the need for mashed potatoes on the side. It was obvious creative measures would be needed.

My former roommate, Mary-Jane, has the picture to prove just how creative I can get in a pinch. When she came home early from work to find me down on the kitchen floor and all fours, up to my elbows in food, her first question was, “What the hell are you doing?”

“What does it look like?” I snapped. “I’m making garbage bag stuffing.”

Yes, instead of a large pot, which we couldn’t afford, I decided to use a large garbage bag to mash the potatoes (which were cooked in many small batches in our pitiful pot) and mix in the onions, spices and cut-up bread. It was a little tricky, but it worked.

The stuffing was declared delicious by our appreciative guests, who paid handsomely for the pleasure. Don’t tell, but we did manage to make a little profit. After all, they brought their own wine, and potatoes and bread were not expensive to buy. The turkey was a gift from city hall.

I’ve promised to make the dressing this year for the family get-together, which is why I fought to hang on to my gigantic roasting pan. But in my new downsized life, maybe a garbage bag is all I really need.

3 loaves of stale white bread (if only fresh available, leave it sit uncovered for several hours after breaking it into pieces the size of a quarter)
10 pounds of cooking potatoes
3 medium cooking onions or 2 large Spanish onions
2 tsp baking powder
1tsp each of sage, savory, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper (I prefer about 2 tsp of first three spices)
2 eggs, beaten
1 or 2 glasses of wine (optional)

Break up bread, including crusts
Grind onions
Peel and boil potatoes in a super large pot, mash
To the potatoes add: onions, baking powder, eggs, all the spices and mix through, tasting to add more spices if necessary
Add the bread chunks to the potatoes a bit at a time, mix well by hand (make sure potatoes aren’t still boiling hot)
Spray tin foil with cooking spray or rub lightly with butter
Shape dressing into loaves, either two large ones or three medium ones
Refrigerate until ready to cook
Bake at 300 for 45 minutes
Serve with lots of gravy

Note: Wine is for the chef during food preparation

Published: Aug 27,2008 16:14
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