Last week I saw that viral video of WestJet playing Santa Clause to a couple hundred of their travelers. Here it is, in case you haven’t seen it:
Now, my first thought was, naturally, “What the hell?” I don’t associate the airline industry with the Spirit of Generosity, to anyone but the 10 people traveling in First Class, anyway. But then I considered the probable cash outlays involved here, and compared those to the cost of a major, and incredibly successful, advertising campaign with unbelievably deep market penetration, and realized that playing Santa is probably the less expensive option once all the bills are paid. And, of course, it’s a massive investment in branding, a subject we discuss a lot in my classes.
After I settled this question, I went on to my second thought which was “So, nu, what would I have asked Santa for?”
And that is the one that is giving me all the trouble. I can’t think of anything that I both really want and that is possible to obtain. Here’s the stuff I really want.
I really want there to be a manufacturer of women’s athletic and technical gear that realizes that female athletes don’t come only in sizes “Tiny” and “Small”. Being really active does not make you thin unless you have the right genes for it, and I don’t. I was 9 lbs and 22 inches long at birth. And my mother didn’t have gestational diabetes, I just have Huge Person Genes. I was an enormous infant, up over the 95th percentile for everything to do with size, and not much has changed since then. I’ve written elsewhere about the absurdity of garment sizing in this industry. All of the manufacturers run “small” and most of them run “super small”. C’mon. A size 12 or 14 is not an XL. Heck, I don’t even care what it says on the label…I don’t have ego on that, I’d be willing to wear a bloody XXXXL ski jacket, if they’d make one. But they don’t. They just don’t. So I get stuck wearing men’s ski gear, and to get it big enough in the butt, I get it super huge in the waist. If I get it big enough in the shoulders, it has no waist at all.
So, Santa, what I want this year is a correctly sized and fitting shaped ski jacket, in red or black, I’m easy. It should be a system jacket so that I can just wear it as a shell, or put the liner in. It needs to have pit zips and a two-way zipper on the front. I want a pair of matching ski pants, the kind with some insulation, but not so much insulation it looks like I’m wearing a diaper. I like pants with a mid rise, and be sure there’s an elastic waist because I’m a different shape sitting down than I am standing up. I’d love it if all this stuff had a tag with a size that didn’t make me feel like the Jolly Green Giant fallen to earth, but what’s most important is that it has to fit properly, perform, and be cute. I’m tired of the lifties calling me “sir”.
All of this goes double for boots. Boot manufacturers think a 15″ round calf is “extra wide”. If you’re 10 years old, maybe. Or have genetically super-thin calves. I want cute tall boots that aren’t made for Twiggy. I want to be able to tuck my jeans into my boots like the women in the New York Times’ style section do. Santa, I want a pair of tall Solstice winter boots from Smartpak that fit. They should be a Euro size 41, and be built for a 17″ calf so that I will be able to fit my jeans in. This will be a special order, because the regular boot is barely wide enough for me to get my leg in without even wearing a sock.
My clothes constantly get little oily spots when they go through the wash. This is because we wash all our clothes on cold, to avoid making them shrink and stuff. I use a detergent made for washing stuff at low temperatures, but it’s not very good at it, since it leaves these detergent spots on the cottons. I have tried all the stuff with cleaning the machine, we’ve tried a bunch of different detergents, but none of them work very well. So, Santa, I want a lifetime supply of a real cold-water washing detergent, something that will not leave spots on my clothes.
None of this stuff is available from stores. Here are the other things on my Christmas Wish List that you can’t buy:
Santa, I would like my horse to get sound and stay that way for a long time, until he dies. I would really like it if would stop getting Mystery Injuries.
I would like a particle cannon mounted in the grill of my car so I can vaporize drivers who cut in front of me with 6 inches to spare at 70 miles per hour. Might as well get one mounted on the back, so I can vaporize drivers who ride so close behind me that I can’t see the grill of their car, too.
I would like my cat to stop ambushing me with his claws out when I go up the stairs.
I would like LL Bean to bring back their “Favorite Jeans”. The real ones, with the nice thick denim and some stretch in it, that fit exactly like the old ones they made. The replacement product is different in ways that make me crazy. The edge on the waistband is sharp, and they don’t fit the same. This is the only pair of jeans I ever found that really fit perfectly and I want them back.
I’d like a self-cleaning, self-maintaining, self-property-tax-paying ocean-front property on the Maine midcoast.
Santa, please make it start snowing a lot, soon, and no sleet or rain or ice until mid-April.
Those are all the things I can think of that I really want, and none of it can be obtained at a shop. The only thing I could think of to ask Santa for is maybe an iPad, because it might be nice to have a new techie toy, or that pair of ski goggles Greg showed me with the heads-up display of speed and direction inside the lens. Those would be REALLY cool. In fact, that’s what I want, Santa. The super tweaked out techie ski goggles. Whew, that’s a relief, to know what to ask for when a random service provider gives me a single wish.
Now, on to things that most people would say they don’t want. Or, a specific thing: a fruitcake. I made Nigella Lawson’s “Easy-Action Christmas Cake” last night, and what an experience. It was pretty easy. I had to stick around the house to babysit it for a few hours while it was baking, but that was no hardship at all, since after about a half-hour in the oven, it started sending out An Aroma. In my minds’ eye, I’m seeing those little wavy streaks that indicate “smell” in a cartoon, raying out from the oven, filling the house, and basically all living creatures within a quarter mile chasing their noses into my kitchen. The house smelled like a Hallmark Special. It smelled like Christmas Morning at Bob Cratchitt’s house, after Scrooge has his epiphany. It smelled like every single Good Holiday Thing that Yankee Candle mixologists have ever put into a jar. It smelled like a groaning board and a clean kitchen and sharp appetites from making snowmen in the yard and going sledding. It smelled like sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night to try to catch Santa coming. It smelled like heaven.
Here’s my take on Nigella’s recipe.
Homemade Heavenly Fruitcake
dried mission figs, pitted dates, dried cranberries, and dried tart cherries to equal 6 cups. Do not chop the fruit.
1.5 sticks butter
1.5 cups dark brown sugar. Not light brown, but dark. You want the damp, gleaming stuff that has crystals big enough to see with the naked eye.
3/4 cup unsweetened chestnut puree. I make this every year when the chestnuts come in, and freeze it in ice-cube trays for later use.
1/2 cup dark spiced rum. I used black spiced rum from a bottle with a picture of the kraken on it. Captain Morgan’s would probably also work.
juice and zest of a huge navel orange
zest of a lemon
3 large eggs
1 2/3 C flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t cinnamon
short 1/2 t ground cloves
1/2 t nutmeg
Put the fruits in a kettle, add the sticks of butter, the sugar, the chestnut puree, the rum, the orange juice, and zests of orange and lemon. Stir it all about and put the heat on medium. Give it a stir every so often as the butter melts. Once the butter has melted totally, and the whole thing is simmering, leave it to cook like that for 10 minutes, stirring every so often. Then turn the heat off and let it sit in the pot for a half-hour. Break the bigger fruit (dates and figs) up a little bit with the back of a spoon while it’s cooling. Preheat the oven to 300.
Get a 3 quart casserole dish. I used a Le Creuset braiser, which worked great. Take a couple of sheets of parchment paper and push them down into the casserole to line it. They will pop back up, but you can get them to stay if you put a large jar in the middle to keep them down. Make sure your sheets of parchment paper are long enough that they stick up past the edge of the pot by a few inches.
Beat the eggs with a fork in a bowl. Mix the dry ingredients in a different bowl. After the fruit has been cooling for a half-hour, add the dry ingredients and eggs, and stir it all up until everything is well mixed together. Then transfer it from the kettle to the parchment-lined pot. Flatten out the top a little with a spatula, and put into your preheated oven, uncovered, and bake it for 2 hours. Kick back and enjoy the way the house smells as it’s cooking. Yankee Candle should be so lucky.
When the two hours is up, take the pot out of the oven and put it on a rack, or if you have a gas range, just put it over one of the burners. Important thing is that air circulate all around the pot. Take a skewer, or a meat thermometer, and poke some holes all over the top, and then pour another quarter-cup of the rum over to soak into the cake. Then leave it alone until it is totally cool. Once it’s cool, put a plate over the top of your casserole and flip the lot over. The cake will fall right out of the pan, and you will be able to peel the paper right off it.
Theoretically, at this point, you melt some apricot jam over low heat on the stove in a small saucepan until it melts, and then you paint the fruitcake with that, stick on some of those glacee fruits or some nuts, and slick another layer of melted jam over the top. At my house, what happened is that I started to get the jam, but I was entirely overwhelmed by the fragrance rays shooting off my cake as it sat on the plate, and I had to eat a slice right away. It tasted every bit as good as it smelled. I wrapped it up in some parchment paper and aluminum foil, to preserve it, but mostly to make it kind of a hassle for me to get another slice, because I’m afraid I will overcome and eat the whole thing right now. It’s that good.
Serves: 1. Or 100, if you are very, very generous.