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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cooking/Baking (not recipes) (10/16/08)

TITLE: Duck A L'orange?
By Robyn Burke


Setting the mood: Choose a simple but elegant menu. A beautifully set table can be created with artistic place cards, Christmas themed serving dishes and an impressive holly infused evergreen center piece. Plan for Christmas music to be playing softly in the background.

The writer pauses and takes another sip of her tea. A smile curls her lips. As she continues to pen instructions, the memory of a Christmas past teases her.

They were house sitting for friends and the residence, well outfitted with fine china and a state of the art kitchen, was not familiar. Nor was cooking or setting a perfect table for the young bride. It would be her first Christmas as a wife. Her older sister and husband were in town for the holidays and she so wanted to impress them.

Using made to order handcrafted invitations would add a distinctive flair to this event.

The handmade invitation with the promise of a special home cooked meal was all the more unique because it would feature something none of them had ever eaten.

Duck a L‘orange. So exotic! The duck, a plump memory from last summer, had been waiting in the freezer for just the right occasion. The recipe, pulled from the cookbook found in the state of the art kitchen, sounded slightly tricky but oh so lovely. Fruited Jell-O, mashed potatoes and rolls would round out the meal followed by German chocolate cake! Yum!

Everything about the decorations for the celebration should be festive. Silver & red make a striking combination. Choose candles in matching colors and use the theme throughout the house. Mulled hot cider can add a special spice to the air but you will also want a bottle of chilled wine on hand.

There were candles that night, she recalls, although she couldn’t find candle sticks and had fallen back on the little room fresheners she borrowed from the bathroom. Sparkling cider replaced wine, for at 19, she still could not legally buy alcohol. She hadn’t thought to send her husband.

Proper preparation is important so that you will be able to focus your attention on your guests.

She had labored over the duck, allowing for a slow defrost. The skewers needed for the neck skin challenged her but she got innovative with large safety pins. Unfortunately, she was so intent on glazing the duck as often as she could, that the potatoes were overlooked and by the time she rescued them, they were a soupy mess. They were hard to drain without losing the whole pot so she added instant potato flakes she found in the pantry, along with lots of butter and a splash of milk. It still looked like potato soup but there wasn’t time to cook a new batch. At least the rolls, the brown and serve variety would be-- oh no! From the corner of her eye she saw flames and rushed to the stove just in time to pull out a burning paper bag. So much for the rolls.

The cake, however, was perfect. Thick frosting hid the slight indentation in the center. “Thank you Betty Crocker” she murmured. Only 10 minutes till their guests were due to arrive. She pulled off the stained apron and brushed the wrinkles out of her red silky blouse.

Consider serving your dinner family style, rather than serving plates individually from the kitchen, if the group is fairly large sized. Allow enough food for serving seconds.

The writer chuckles as she mulls over that last line.

For the duck had appeared impressively plump when dressed in its feathers. Now as her husband gallantly set about carving, it seemed mighty lean. Skinny. Bony. As golden as it looked and as heavenly as it smelled, it wasn’t anything now but skin and bones.

A half set jell-o muddled together with soupy potatoes, as the foursome pretended to eat orange scented meat.

Allow time for the meal to settle; serve dessert in the living room with coffee or a dessert wine.

The mortified young bride gave up and pushed her plate away. “Dessert anyone?”

Eager nods of assent sent her scurrying to the kitchen for the cake.

The writer lays down her pen. The “Dummies Guide to Holiday Entertaining” is nearly finished. And there is a fresh chocolate cake in the kitchen calling her name.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Lisa Keck10/23/08
Talk about learning from one's mistakes. What a clever story as the writer shares with confidence how to entertain yet the whole time recalls that first Christmas. Very well written.
Anita van der Elst10/23/08
I am laughing & crying at the same time. This story is a skillfully arranged feast for my heart and soul. Love the ironic title of the writer's book.;-)
Joshua Janoski10/28/08
Talk about learning from your own experiences. It's nice that she was able to take her own disastrous meal and turn it around so that she could help others make the perfect meal. The title of the book she wrote was great too!

Thank you for sharing this. It was a joy to read. very well written.