Yesterday was, of course, Christmas Eve, and we made the holiday family rounds. My in-laws had their traditional formal dinner–not as formal as in years past, but with the same decades-old menu, featuring roast beef.
I grew up in a very large family–hot dogs were more our style. But several times on a Sunday, my mom would make a roast. I am not sure how she did it, only that it was well-done, there was some kind of tomato sauce involved, and we kids all made liberal use of the ketchup. I was, therefore, totally unprepared for my first Guinn Christmas when, after a day-long flurry of cooking and preparation, my mother-in-law’s roast was, um, decidedly not well-done, and even cold inside. What was even weirder was that no one said anything about it. In fact, they all praised it enthusiastically. I had to assume that they were just being nice. I ate around the pink parts. There was no ketchup.*
After a few more years of this, I was perplexed. “I don’t think Janet understands timing,” I told my mother. Which was strange, as she was definitely able to ice sugar cookies with consummate skill. We were more of a “toss some sprinkles on it” family. It wasn’t until Brett and I had been married for over ten years that I realized that roast beef was supposed to be like that.
At least in some households.
So yesterday, we had rare roast beef, mashed potatoes with lots of butter, rolls, trifle, cranberry sauce, beans, floating island, and a table of desserts–crescents, cherry balls, sugar cookies, bishop’s bread. There was a kids’ table, but the youngest kid is now fourteen–plus, they were all mine. The three oldest grandchildren are now married with their own children and their own holiday plans, which didn’t allow for Christmas Eve travel. One of the three brothers was missing–he’ll come up later. We’re all a little grayer. Everything seemed smaller, and faded. I must confess, when the kids were young, I didn’t always like trying to balance holiday expectations, and accommodating other family traditions when I wanted to establish my own. I may have complained…less than quietly…to my husband and my mother. But I was being a bad sport. In the thick of things, I didn’t see this day coming. I thought about how hard it was to keep three toddlers happy in a crowded house, how much I wished I were home, or with my own, less conservative, more laid-back family, and how ridiculous and un-kid-friendly rare roast beef was. it never occurred to me that one day–maybe not this year, but very soon–it would be the last time.
So, here’s to roast beef, a Christmas staple–along with goose, and turkey–of the Victorian table as well as today’s. Here’s one way Mrs. Hudson might have prepared it for Holmes and Watson. Just one thing is missing.
Obviously, today’s question involves beef in the Canon. I am thinking of one particular instance, which always fascinates me a little. For one thing, it is described as a “rude meal,” which makes me think that Conan Doyle–or Watson–was accustomed to much more formality when it came to food. And for another, it makes me worry a bit about food poisoning at 221B. How long, exactly, had this dish been sitting out? So, today’s question is–
What did Holmes take with him “on the trail” in The Beryl Coronet, and what did he bring back?
As always, send your answer in via blog comment or FB message–don’t leave your answer on the FB page itself. The winning entry will receive–
[The winner for Day 1 will be announced shortly! Stay tuned!]
*Fun fact: One day, at my MIL’s, the kids had burgers and asked for ketchup. There was a bottle in the fridge with a use-by date of 2013. It was 2017.