As some of you may have noticed, there was no update last week, because I decided to sit under a blanket all weekend with MST3K on the TV, hot tea in my hand, and my dog in my lap. Time well spent. I nearly gave this week’s upload a miss too, because it was our Thanksgiving. The Smith Family has a long tradition of doing whatever it takes to have a less stressful holiday, and we noticed a long time ago that just postponing it for a more convenient day or time makes a world of difference. Hence last Thursday’s MST3K marathon with Dobby. On Black Friday, my father decided he wanted to go to town and ‘just look’ at laptops. It was pretty late in the day and we figured the doorbusters were all gone and the mobs had moved on, so we dropped him off and went to the grocery store, where we bought a 25lb turkey for a little over six bucks.
Boy, you know you’re an old fart when you flex on the price of turkey.
After picking up my father (and his new laptop…his new 70″ TV and his new surround-sound system), we went home to begin our leisurely preparations for the Smith Family Thanksgiving. This included another Smith Family tradition: The Pink Stuff. This is basically an ambrosia fruit salad, although I loyally maintain it’s the best ambrosia in the world, and quite a few of our friends agree and have asked for the recipe, unaware that there is no ‘recipe’.
But there is now. Yes, friends, I wrote down the process of Pink Stuff’s creation and I will share it here with you, because I always leave blogging for the last minute and now that I’m all stuffed with food, my brain does not want to come up with anything interesting to talk about in this post.
Understand that in all the years the Smiths have made Pink Stuff, we have never used a recipe, nor have we made the same Pink Stuff twice. Come to think of it, there might be a connection there…but whatever. Only by experimenting will you find the true form of the Pink Stuff you seek. There will be successes. There will be tasty failures. There will be fifty shades of pink in-between. So don’t sweat the sweet stuff. The fun comes from making it with your family. That way, even if you don’t manage to make Pink Stuff, you’ll still have the memories.
Okay, enough cheese! On with the recipe!
First, the fruits. Be aware that fruits with high acid contents are going to make it more difficult when it comes time to set the stuff. Not impossible! But definitely more difficult. So if you want to make things easier on yourself, avoid those fruits, especially oranges and pineapple.
This year’s Pink Stuff started with:
Three large bananas, sliced into wheels.
Seedless grapes, sliced in half (yes, grapes are pretty acidic, but we have always used them and always will. Note that our Pink Stuff doesn’t always set up either. Again, there might be a connection, but if soupy Stuff is the price we pay for that grapey goodness, so be it).
Maraschino cherries, sliced in half (reserve juice, if any)
One can of pears in syrup, drained (reserve syrup) and cut into bite-size chunks
One can of peaches in syrup, drained (reserve syrup) and cut into bite-size chunks
Could we have used fresh pears and peaches instead of canned? Sure, but it’s off-season and it was hard to find fruit that tasted good, and we already had the cans, plus it gave us the gift of syrup, so what the hell.
We put all the chunked fruit into a bowl and set it aside in the fridge. Then we eyeballed our reserved syrup/fruit juice and decided we had about a pint. We wanted about a quart, so we poured an entire bottle of grenadine into the bowl and stirred it up. Now, if you’re not totally sold on the Pink Stuff idea, here is where you can just add a bottle of vodka, turn on The Hobbit trilogy and drink the disappointment away.
Just kidding, kids. Always watch the Hobbit movies responsibly. By which I mean, don’t watch them. At all.
But let’s pretend you’d rather have Pink Stuff. Give your mixed syrup/fruit juice a taste. If it’s too sweet, you can cut that sweetness with a splash of juice. If it’s not sweet enough, don’t doctor the juice, but do add sugar later to the whipped cream. Either way, these are good things to know now. We decided our juice was just right. Time to thicken it.
Get out your box of unflavored gelatin and listen to Dad mutter uncharitably about why it’s in envelopes instead of in a can that he can measure out with a spoon. Then listen to his engaging lecture on “Cooking Is Chemistry”. Learn how to neutralize acids. Become distracted. Compare Bloodborne and Dark Souls. Become nostalgic about graphics from games when you were a kid. Feel old. Remember you are making Pink Stuff. Feel happy. If you were paying attention to Dad’s lecture, you know what to do. If not, surreptitiously read the instructions on the box of gelatin and learn that, generally speaking, you want one envelope of gelatin to every cup of liquid. Eyeball your reserved liquids and get four envelopes. Dip a large coffee cup into the liquid and dissolve your four envelopes of gelatin into it, stirring to hopefully prevent any lumps from forming, because once cooked, those lumps will be like little tasteless chunks of rubber.
Heat up the gelatin mixture. You CAN do this on the stove, sure you can. We used a microwave, because you can do that too. Either way you do it, you need to watch that stuff like a hawk. It will first bubble, then foam, then suddenly explode all over into a huge mess that is so impossible to clean up that once we just bought a new microwave. There were other reasons, of course…but that was definitely the last pink straw. Anyway, watch it close and when it is JUST beginning to boil, pull that puppy and pour it into the rest of your juice, stirring to mix (we strained ours through a fine sieve to remove the lumps that we couldn’t prevent), and then IMMEDIATELY wash the cup you boiled it in, because that stuff will turn into a pink rubbery skin so fast, you have no idea. With the liquid all gel-ified, it’s time to put that bad boy into the fridge, where it will set as it chills.
This is where it gets a little fussy, because you don’t want it to set up ALL the way. What you want to see is the gelatin mixture just beginning to stick to the sides of the bowl, but if you wiggle the bowl back and forth, the contents in the middle slosh around freely. If you drag a spoon through it, it will coat the spoon thickly and leave a ‘trail’, but not chunks. Basically, you want it to set up to a point right before you’d call it ‘set.’ This took us about two and a half hours, but your mileage may vary, so check on it every half hour or so.
When you have achieved the desired consistency, pour your fruit into the gelatin and stir to coat all the fruit, then put it back in the fridge while you whip the cream. Can you just use Cool Whip or some other kind of premade whipped topping? No. Why not? Because Dad said so and that’s good enough for me. Get out your hand mixer and whip the cream. We used a quart of cream. We probably didn’t have to use that much, and God knows our arteries begged us not to, but what are we going to do with three-quarters of a cup of cream? We’d never use it. We try to eat healthy in this house.
We also lie a lot in this house, in between bites of delicious unhealthy food.
So we just dumped it all in there and whipped it up, adding a good dollop of vanilla extract halfway through the whip, and then another dollop, because Dad accused me of being stingy with the vanilla and just to prove I never stinged on the vanilla in my damn life, I put yet another dollop in there, plus a splash. We had the vanillaingest whipped cream you ever met. Beat that cream until it cries, or at least until it forms stiff peaks, but don’t let it become ‘mashed potatoes’ consistency. Fold the cream into the gelatin-fruit and stir just enough to achieve an even pink color. Add half a bag of mini marshmallows if you want (we wanted), and stir just enough to mix them in. Return the Pink Stuff to the fridge and let it finish setting. Probably only takes half an hour or so, but we left it two hours to watch TV. Garnish the top of your Pink Stuff with maraschino cherries or the prettiest strawberries or whatever you like. I was going to cover the entire top with cherries, but I’d been snacking on them during much of the process, so when we got to the garnishing stage, I only had enough to do kind of a starburst or an asterisk? I dunno. Nobody cares about garnishes.
Bear in mind that this made a monstrous amount of Pink Stuff. Like, we started with a big bowl, moved up to a bigger bowl, and ended up in a five-gallon canning pot. Pink Stuff for days!
Followed by the other Smith Family Tradition, the New Year’s Get Fit Resolution
And oh, before I slip all the way into a food coma, yes, I do have a new chapter of my FNAF fanfiction, Everything Is All Right, Part IV: New Faces, Old Bones, uploaded to fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org, so if you’re reading along with those, click your preferred link and check it out. If you still aren’t decided whether or not you want to invest your time reading five MASSIVE books about an abandoned pizza parlor inhabited by animal-shaped robots with a very dark past and one young woman who is determined to uncover it, then perhaps this snippet will encourage you to give it a try! …or chase you off for good.
* * *
She drove up Coldslip Mountain to the castle of her childhood. The front door was unlocked. The air inside was muggy and stank of old sour food, old sour sweat, and old sour dreams. When she turned on the light, she saw a mess, as it was always a mess, no matter how much she cleaned. She shut the light off and climbed the stairs in the dark. When she reached the second floor, she turned and there was Plushtrap, sitting on his chair under the window at the far end of the hall, next to the attic stairs.
They looked at each other for a long time in silence.
“Who are you?” Ana asked.
Plushtrap heard, but did not answer. Dingy stuffing bled through the tears in his satin skin. His glass eyes gleamed. His metal teeth grinned.
“Come here,” said Ana.
Plushtrap mockingly did not move.
“Come here,” she said again, beckoning. “It’s okay. You can live here, I don’t care. You don’t have to hide it. Just…come here. We’ll watch a movie. I’ll let you pick. You can sleep in my room with me, if you want. You don’t have to be alone, just…stop trying to scare me. I’m not scared. I’m not scared, I’m…tired. I’m too tired for this. Come here.”
Plushtrap did nothing. Elsewhere in the house, boards creaked, drafts whispered, pipes knocked, but Plushtrap lied and did nothing.
Ana turned away and went to David’s room. She sat on his little-boy bed with the superhero sheets and Foxy’s sword hanging from the post of the headboard and looked at the toys strewn across the floor. For the first time, she thought about cleaning it and the thought was surprisingly painless. David was alive. Faust had told her so, and she hadn’t thought he’d lied, but she hadn’t really believed it. Now she did. Now she had to. David had been taken away after all, not by his father, Erik Metzger, who’d been dead by then anyway, but by CPS, who had found him a father who presumably didn’t kill people and a mother who didn’t take naked pictures of her son for the father’s private enjoyment. He’d grown up somewhere far away. He’d maybe gotten married, maybe had kids, maybe forgot all about Ana and maybe not, but wherever he was, he was alive.
Aunt Easter might be alive out there somewhere too, and maybe she’d even gotten some rehab and some self-respect and had made herself at least a shadow of the person Ana had once thought she was. Maybe not. But at least she wasn’t a question mark anymore, whatever else she was. And Ana was never going to find her crumpled and forgotten behind one of the boxes in the basement, not here and not at Freddy’s.
She thought she would sit awake all night, thinking about that, but what else was there to think about, really? It was over. There were no more mysteries left to solve. Ana lay down on David’s musty sheets and slept, and it was a good sleep, restful and dreamless and so deep, she never heard the door creak open.
The man in the purple uniform stood for a short while in the doorway of this forbidden place, watching her, but it was late and he was tired, too. He crept over to the bed, bent and pressed a Mama-kiss on Ana’s cheek, shyly whispering, “I love you.”
Ana, still sleeping, stirred and mumbled, “Love you too. G’night.”
The man smiled and kissed her again, a Daddy-kiss, right on the lips. Ana rolled over (grimacing without waking at the taste of his breath) and the man in the purple uniform left her and went yawning downstairs and through the clock to his own bed, taking Plushtrap with him.