Skeletons in the Pantry, interim recap…and, Hands on the Table, Please

We'll start with a photo: Strasbourgcathedral
This is the street approaching the front of the cathedral in Strasbourg.  One of the larger (there are about a dozen) Christmas markets is in the square surrounding the church.  You can see the first row of Christmas booths.  There are 2 more rows directly behind them, before the church.

It's a rather impressive cathedral.

When we lived in Minnesota we had well water.  To the uninitiated, that meant that when we lost electrical power, as so often happens in the Midwest in winter, we also lost water.  Without electricity the pump didn't work: no pump, no water.

To put it simply, once the electricity was gone we had about 5 quarts of water available to us.  When I was thinking (yeah, right) I would fill containers immediately so we would have water for drinking and cooking.

When I wasn't thinking I would flush the toilet.

All of the available water would be washed away in one swoosh!

It's very hard to not flush a toilet.  It's a reflexive action.  It's pounded into us at an early age and reinforced daily.  I know it seems like a simple thing….it's not.

Neither is keeping your hands on the table at dinner.

I can't count the number of times I heard my mother say to one of us children: "Get your hands/elbows off the table!"

The left hand was meant to be resting on the napkin in your lap except
when needed to cut ONE piece of meat; at which time it could briefly
appear to accomplish said task before being relegated to obscurity once

In France, and most (if not all) of Europe, it is considered extremely bad manners to put your hands in your lap while at table. (Hmmmm….I wonder…no, I won't go there….)

Both hands are to be in plain view, on the table at all times.  Not the elbows, but the hands; from about mid-forearm.

It's hard!

When one is sitting in a lovely restaurant, at a perfectly set table, candles glowing softly, waiters in tuxedos solicitously anticipating our every whim; it's only natural to want to impress with our good behavior.

Instead it's the 'hand dance':
The waiter comes near, the ingrained habits kick in and hands go to the lap.   
I realize what I did and the hands go to the table.
I repeat this little performance 18 million times between aperitif and coffee.
Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

And laugh….in retrospect!

And that's what we're trying to do with Skeletons in the Pantry: Remember and share some of our, um, less than perfect moments….

From Christine, of Christine Cooks, we have the tale of Thanks and Giving, the two turkeys raised for the holidays.  One of them grew to a whopping 37 pounds, and he wasn't the big one.  You might ask how long, and in what, one cooks a turkey that huge.  Christine was asking, and waiting and waiting…

Mimi, of French Kitchen in America, has confessed to something Cheesy, creamy, comforting….and covert.  All I have to say is…I didn't know they made it with cheese!!!!!  I love that stuff!  YUM!!!!!  Oooops!

Tanna, of My Kitchen in Half Cups, that fabulous Daring Baker, reminds us that anything left on the counter when making catch-all foods (like turkey dressing) is fair game.  I'll admit to tossing a few strange things into the soup but….doughnuts?  Well, why not?  How else are new things developed? 

Valerie, of More Than Burnt Toast, has a favorite potato dish that she dare not make herself for communal gatherings (Her contributions must be time-consuming, complicated fare), but, she does happen to have the recipe….and she does happen to make certain that someone always makes it.  Sneaky!

Amy, of Knit Think, has revealed one of my own little secrets: I agree that it must be a Midwestern thing but if it wasn't on the holiday table, someone was in trouble.  Can you say "spray cheese"?  What does one do with 'spray cheese'?  Read and learn!

Have you ever forgotten what food is in which container in the freezer?  Need to have the importance of proper labeling reinforced..the hard way?  How do you feel about fish in your turkey?  Maggie, of Magpie Musing has the answer to all of these questions; some revealed for the very first time!

Nora, of Life's Smörgåsbord, discovered that one does, in fact, use that awful math stuff we learn in school in real life; or at least, one should.  She also learned why one is supposed to measure carefully when baking.  So many lessons in one little Volcano Cake!

Ruth, of Once Upon A Feast, has also found comfort in a box.  For as good of a cook as she is, it's a true skeleton coming out to learn that her family's favorite stuffing, (for HOW many years???) comes not from hours of work but from a, you-know….  (I can't type it twice)

Laurie, meet Nora.  The two of you can discuss the merits of measuring.   The kitchen of Tastes Like Home – Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska must have been getting a little warm that day.  Spoon Sweets are meant to be, well, you know, spooned.  She does get high marks for recovery!

Champaign Taste?  Hmmmm…..  I love Lisa's confessions!  I mean I love them – the food!  I do have to disagree slightly, though.  I prefer fried Spam with Miracle Whip!  Try it, Lisa, then let me know!  We can do side by side, across the pond, taste tests!

That reminds me of one of my own: The first year that I made pumpkin bread from fresh pumpkin in Andorra I had a few things to learn: fresh pumpkin is a lot moister than Libby's; always check a strange oven's temperature with an oven thermometer; and 3,000 feet is considered 'baking at high altitude'.

I made Pumpkin bread to take to a friend's New Year's Eve house party. The party was the usual eclectic mix:  4 different languages, ages ranging from 2 – 70 and people coming and going, spending the night or not, for 3 days.

At some point, some one cut into the pumpkin bread.  I wasn't present.  It disappeared rapidly, or so I'm told, and everyone loved it!  They all wanted the recipe, especially the part about how I got the gooey, sweet pudding inside the cake.  Apparently, only the outer half of the bread was actually, uh, baked!

And the last thing I needed to learn?  Insert a toothpick into the center and if it comes out clean…  Yeah, yeah, don't we all know that one!?!

You still have 2 weeks to share your own Skeleton from the Pantry.

I'll do a complete recap on Dec. 29th.  I just wanted to share the ones that have been posted so far!

It doesn't have to be holiday related, photos not necessary (or, in most cases, possible).  Just take a stroll down that old memory lane and remember what life was like when, as Lisa put it, we weren't eating organic-free-range-pesticide-free perfect-for-the-camera everything…
Although her Bologna Mac looks damn good!

18 thoughts on “Skeletons in the Pantry, interim recap…and, Hands on the Table, Please”

  1. Katie you mean I already did it and I didn’t know it! Wow, I can relax now just in time for Christmas!
    This is a really great post. I’ve seen Christine’s BIG turkey post and really enjoyed it. But many others now will be good reads. You are a gem. Thanks much for this one.

  2. What a hoot! Many of my own favorites in these listings, especially Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Now I like the Easy Mac version.
    This also inspired a blogless friend of mine to tell me her dirty secret: she loves the canned cranberry sauce, the jellied kind that slurps its way out of the can. Guess what I’m giving her for Christmas this year.

  3. I’ve done the “hand dance in France” too, but I didn’t realize that keeping your hand in your lap was considered rude until someone told me. I can’t imagine how many waiters I’ve offended…

  4. Beautiful Christmas market photos. I went to the one in Toulouse and it somehow doesn’t cut it. I’m in cooking blog hibernation…still thinking about what to do with CQ…you seem to be doing a great job with yours!
    I got my Seasoned Eatings package! What fun…

  5. So much fun!
    I’m with you on the hands on the table. Plus forks are on the other side. Very confusing to an 8 year old. I’ve got table manners that are probably the worst of both worlds.

  6. Tanna, yes, you were one of the first – you did mean for it to be a part?!?!?
    Amy, canned cranberry sauce – the kind that retains the shape of the can and you slice? Yeah, that was on our table….
    Lydia, sometimes it’s just hard to be good…so many little things to trip me up! 😉
    Betty, Strasbourg was really amazing. I loved the city and wish we could have spent more time. Glad you got your package – mine was waiting for me, too!
    Lynn, it can be very confusing for adults, too. I find myself watching how other people eat all the time trying to sort it all out!

  7. What a great roundup of stories. Sorry i missed the event. I’m never going to be able to eat out in Europe again without being completely angst ridden (or getting the giggles when I repeat your 18 million times dance)

  8. Oh! I still have to write about my skeleton…
    I love the cathedral picture. When I was in Europe this summer, I oooh’d and ahhh’d at the architecture. Stunning. I do wish, however, I had thought of the do’s and don’ts before going. Lord know how many I offended. Yikes!

  9. Hi Katie,
    Beautiful and succulent post with all these links!!!
    I remember being at my school dinning room and having my hands on the table. It was a big issue to leave them on the lap. Also we had to pay attention to elbows… they were very rigid with those rules. Nowadays, it’s still hard for me to keep hands on the table!!

  10. Great idea, fabulous post!
    I could probably find more skeletons…
    BTW, somehow I find it easier to eat with hands on the table. I have always felt awkward eating the American way…

  11. Oops – sorry to all the French waiters that I have offended! But where are you meant to put your hands when they are serving you?? Surely on the table just gets in everyone’s way??
    And how funny – I took one look at that pic before I read the post and thought “Strasbourg”. We were there on a family holiday in 1989 and the memory has stuck. As I recall it’s also lopsided with only one tower instead of two?? I adore Christmas markets – nothing better than walking around one sipping gluhwein 🙂

  12. Christine, oh good, more secrets from the pantry….
    African Vanielje, you haven’t missed it yet, there’s still time….come on, share! And think of me when you do the hand dance and giggle!
    Chris, when I think back on the years…I shudder… But we have all survived. I remember the first time I used the term ‘fanny pack’. Let me just say – don’t EVER say that…EVER, EVER!!!!
    Kevin, it is, very…
    Nuriam it’s hard to remember what to do which way from country to country!
    You’re welcome, Magpie
    Mimi, you are French at heart (but then you knew that, didn’t you)
    Cooksister, I haven’t a clue – just rest them on the table and lean back? Or sit on them? It’s not symetrical, like so many, you’re right…now I want to go back and take a closer look.

  13. I am apparently oblivious to proper manners overseas. Doh!
    This was a great read–definitely looking forward to more of these.

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