My REAL Christmas Angel
by Warren A. Shepherd
Children are born believing in magic. The very nature of life is a miracle to them, every new experience casting a rapturous spell of mystery and wonder. Christmas is the epitome of that sweet, innocent outlook — every good intention, every ounce of goodwill and cheer, all the excitement of sharing gifts with treasured loved ones — it all manifests in one beautiful time of year.
I have very fond memories of my childhood Christmases. I’d be lying if I said that a great number of them didn’t revolve around me lying under the tree, eagerly scrutinizing each wrapped present, trying to guess the contents or better yet, hoping the recipient was me! But even at that early age, I knew that the true meaning of the season was not in tangible gifts, but rather in the values epitomized by my very own Christmas angel, the reason for every heartfelt moment, every magic memory — my mum.
We lost Mum earlier this year as she finally succumbed to the double threat of cancer and dementia, and it’s been hard plodding on in a world without that guiding light, that quiet, subtle core of strength and inspiration. For sure, this Christmas is going be a very different one, but I’m comforted by the warm memories of her sacrifices, her love and protection, and her generous spirit.
So how can I pay tribute to the person who’s meant so much to me all my life and always will? Well, through food, of course!
Let’s get one thing straight, my mum was not a great cook, but she did try. My mind still boggles when I think of the variety of meals she used to prepare for us. (In later years she sadly seemed to devolve into surviving on frozen, processed meals for the majority of her sustenance.) But one thing she always took pride in was her Christmas feast. Turkey was a specialty of hers, wrapping the bird in a layer of bacon was a magical wonder to my young eyes – and taste buds! But what really set her meal apart was her Potato Croquettes. They weren’t fancy, and they sometimes weren’t pretty, but they always were a comfort, hitting all the right notes of flavour and indulgence.
So, what do you need to prepare this tasty treat? It’s pretty simple.
Of course, you start with the mashed potatoes. Let them cool so they’re easier to work with. As I said earlier, you’re going to laugh at this next bit, but true to Mum’s simple, prefab proclivities, she always used instant mashed potatoes. And you know what, they work best — something about already having a binding agent that negates the need to add flour which might make them a bit claggy. (I’ve tried to replicate this dish with real mashed potatoes and no flour, and they’ve always fallen apart.) For extra zing, she’d use the garlic and herb flavoured mash.
Feel free to use your real mashed potato mix, add what every herbs you desire, but remember to add some flour for binding.
Add a beaten egg, also for binding. You don’t want the end result too wet as they need to hold their shape. You be the judge. (I can’t do everything for you.)
Mum always used to shape the croquettes into flattened capsule shapes about 2” by 3”. (Don’t ask me where she came up with that design.) You can make whatever shape catches your fancy, but this is the form that will always remind me of her.
I know some recipes suggest rolling the croquettes in flour and then egg and then the breadcrumbs, but Mum would never have been so cheffy. She went straight for the breadcrumbs, plain and simple. (Feel free to experiment with your own family to weed out the food snobs.)
And then fry away, flipping as necessary to achieve ultimate golden crispy magic.
And that’s it! Guests will be amazed, but if they’re not, you’ll know who not to invite for next year. In the end, it doesn’t matter if your food is perfect, or is restaurant quality, or is even edible. It matters that it was prepared with love, for those you love.
I’m happy to have been able to share only a sliver of what my mum means to me. So, as we all sit around the dining table this Christmas season, take the time to appreciate those in your family/friend circle. We build our lives on the experiences and memories shared with others. Tell them how you feel while you still can, before they’re no longer in your life, and hopefully you can make some new memories with your loved ones this year that will last a lifetime. However you celebrate, enjoy this special time to the fullest and, above all, Merry Christmas!
If you’d like to know more about Warren A. Shepherd, SCI-FI Author: Saving the galaxy one word at a time, head over to my website: www.warrenashepherd.com or better yet, pick up a copy of “Sex, Bugs & UFOs” to be taken on a an exciting adventure that whips you across the galaxy and then some. With themes of isolation, friendship, found family and, of course, vengeance, it’s an exciting adventure written for anyone who’s ever felt that their true destiny lies amongst the stars.