musingsNotebook

Grease Babies

meringue mushrooms

I’m In Québec for a ski camp with two of my boys. We look practical – double layers, thick masks, dark colours, extra sandwiches.

Before we left for Quebec I had brunch with my friend Vicki at a local café. As we tucked into roasted parmesan fries and drippy eggs, Christmas tunes crooning in the background, I asked Vicki what she’s learned from years of hosting at Christmas. “Make it special,” she said. “Starve your children for weeks before, then feed them food they rarely get to eat. Dress up. Make an effort. If not, it just feels like any other gathering.”

It’s true. There’s a reason why Buche de Noël is for Noël; a cake rolled into a log is fussy. The meringue mushrooms I make to adorn the log are even fussier. But they’re special.

I made a batch last week before setting off for Québec. I followed the meringue mushroom youtube video I’ve been following for a few years now, chosen because the cook reminded me of my junior high home economics teacher whom we affectionately called Count Spatula. I knew this woman would guide me through the process with the right balance of warmth and bossiness. This time I could hear her telling me to make them before I left for Quebec. They last. You’ll thank yourself.

I received word this morning that Vicki’s annual Christmas party has been cancelled. The message read-

Well, so much for that idea. Omicron got here before you did – so it is, with heavy hearts and a freezer full of grease babies, we’re cancelling our Christmas party. 

A freezer full of grease babies? My freezer houses that forest of mushrooms, a pillow of cranberries, a melange of cookies from our exchange earlier in the month, meat from our friend Stephanie’s farm (and of course random icy blocks I’m too scared to thaw). Could it use grease babies too? Are they special?

Google says grease babies involve, among other things, ‘fornication with a pizza.’ This didn’t sound right; Vicki is funny, a writer with wit, but still, something was amiss.

A quick text clarified things:

“Habitués know that ‘grease babies’ are the reason to get to the party early. They’re an hors d’oeuvre my mother served at all her cocktail parties from the late 50’s on. She, I assure you, did not call them grease babies. None of us can remember what name she had for them, but she was right in her oft repeated line, ‘Men love them.’ … In an acknowledgement to one of my books, I thanked all my friends and promised them ‘grease babies at Christmas.’ The Italian translator emailed me to ask if that meant ‘sex with young men?’ Moderately better than sex with pizza. Merry Christmas!”

The recipe for Grease Babies goes something like this: begin with white bread, crusts cut off. Add a teaspoon of undiluted Campbell’s Mushroom Soup to each slice and spread edge to edge. Roll slice and wrap with bacon. Bake until crispy but still gooey on the inside. They’re gone in seconds.

Because I’m in Québec where life feels fancier, (one woman, with grey curls peeking from beneath a black helmet, ripped past me with a Burberry scarf looped around her neck) I considered making a trip into town to buy the necessary provisions. The boys would love the umami greasiness, après ski. But then I remembered I must starve them.

Special can’t come everyday.