Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas, Santa and Mashed Potatoes

  For those of us who have never been 8,000 miles from home for several years it may seem implausible that Santa bringing mashed potatoes could be the greatest Christmas gift ever...but in fact, Mama Caruso's famous mashed potatoes were the original point of our trip to Cambodia, that and to spend Christmas day with family who was very far from home. So as we were planning to come to Cambodia, we made a decision to recreate as many of our family Christmas traditions and in the process created so many more traditions for several families around the world...all within the confines of three fifty pound suitcases.

From poinsettia plates, aprons and hot pads, gingerbread houses and napkins, to Santa's sleigh bells and Rudolph's red nose and reusable snow in a can we filled the house full of laughter, wonder and family. And, I mean that literally - there was a lot of planning discussion about how many of the 20 or so of Les's family would come to the house for Christmas since the 25th of December was a work and school day just like any other in Cambodia and Christmas is not a holiday celebrated in his host family's home. We were also aware that the food I was cooking would be a great departure from the standard fare, so we planned modestly...which is a huge challenge for me who does not know how to cook small anything. We were also aware of the limitations in supplies, pans, etc - so we bought his host Mom a crock pot and put it under the six inch tall wire Christmas tree on the table. Surprises were in store for us as relatives traveled to visit and children and neighbors showed up round the clock...and to my absolute delight everyone ate the lunch meal I cooked and left the "back-up lunch" of rice and fish in the kitchen untouched. Some of our dinner guests even came back for seconds and there wasn't a leftover to be had - nothing could make me happier! Mama Caruso's internationally famous mashed potato recipe will follow.

Enjoy the pictures, they tell so many stories of a wonderful day...from my table to yours - Merry Christmas.

It looks like Santa has arrived in Kampong Speu.
Christmas in a bag...lots of small non-melting goodies fill out these tissue lined
gift bags - easy to pack and fun to distribute!

Uh looks like Rudolf might have lost something...

It takes a special person to be willing to let strangers take over their kitchen,
but Les's Host Mom was ready to go...complete with red and green mats under the
cutting blocks. Oh, and immediately after dinner I went to the market and bought
a few of those cleaver knives

Peeling and prepping the potatoes, which we found in both
the Phnom Penh and Kampong Speu markets.

Time to get the crockpot open so we can put it straight to use

Getting ready to break into the gingerbread houses for a snack
with coffee...all four of the gingerbread houses made it to Les's house
by being carried by hand on a bike

Children delight everywhere - this is one of Les's cousins.

These gingerbreadhouses are a new experience for many.

The language of cooking and laughter can transcend any spoken
language barriers. 

Cutting the milanesa so that it could be eaten in a more traditional Cambodian style.
This recipe which I will post after I get permission came from Uruguay and was the
best milanesa I have ever cooked.

Well...what do you know? Santa's elves had presents waiting for them too!

Les and Shannon with Les's host mom and dad.

Each family grouping had a gift to open...what fun, we brought a few extra just in case...
and sure enough, they were all distributed.

What is maple syrup?
Making apple crisp in the crockpot next...

One of Santa's elves along the National Highway

Can you see the little lizzard?

The swinging bridge to a riverside resort in Kampong Speu.

Monkeys are everywhere.

Meditating at the feet of the statue.

Strolling down the stairs...

Dinner of tacos brought new guests to the house

Heating the tortillas for tacos.

Hand whipping cream in the heat with a fork...but we got it done!

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