I love time travel stories. The thought of being able to see the world throughout history, throughout our own lives, or throughout the lives of those we love is a very appealing idea. Imagine how we might behave differently if we had the vantage point of true perspective on our side. They say you don’t know what someone else is going through until you’ve walked in their shoes, but time travel would equal things out, giving a real three dimensional perspective on the effects of our actions over time.
When I trace my love of time travel stories, they go back in time from the recent film, About Time, to Doctor Who, to the book, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and of course, Back to the Future. But I think it all started with A Christmas Carol. Like many of us, as a child I’d watch the story play out at Christmastime. But my love for Christmas couldn’t be held to just a few weeks in December. Along with my favorite Christmas album, in the summer I’d run my VHS tapes ragged with replays. A good story is a good story, you know?
With Doctor Who, they say that the first Doctor you were introduced to is the Doctor who will always be your most revered. (Over the years, multiple actors have played the title role.) I wonder if it’s the same for any story in which different actors will be playing the same part.
I was introduced to A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott as Scrooge. To me, he is the quintessential Scrooge. (I also have a deep well of affection for him because he looks kind of like my Grandpa did, but my grandpa wore considerably more rainbow suspenders than Ebenezer.)
Every year, it’s David and my Christmas tradition that we watch multiple versions of A Christmas Carol. This year we watched the Albert Finney version for the first time (after a glowing recommendation from Katrina at Suburban Snow White). We also hit up The Muppet Christmas Carol, which sticks so beautifully to the original story, despite involving a barnyard of puppets as the cast. Plus, the songs are just terrific. And how can you not love Cratchit when he’s played by Kermit the Frog? Impossible. We viewed Mickey’s Christmas Carol, the Black Adder Christmas Carol, and even SNL did a new Christmas Carol sketch, bringing up our total. (I still haven’t seen the version with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge, and that’s on my list for next year.)
There’s something very appealing about the idea that we can all change our lives at any time. We have the power to look in ourselves, see where we’ve gone astray, and to do better. Even Scrooge, who was an old man steeped in bad habits, could alter the course of his life for the better.
Today’s Mashed Potato Ghosts with Seitan Bacon Gravy were made as a send-up to old Scrooge. When Marley showed up at Scrooge’s bedside, Scrooge didn’t believe his own eyes.
Marley asked, “Why do you doubt your senses?”
“Because,” said Scrooge, “a little thing affects them. A light disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”
(Scrooge needn’t have worried. There’s no underdone potato here and certainly no beef.)
These potatoes are on the firm-side to keep their shape. I used a pastry bag to pipe cooled mashed potatoes onto the platter and then smoothed them with a knife. (They are easier to form when cool and can then be warmed in the microwave.) I added capers for eyes and mouths made by forming a hole in the potatoes with a toothpick.
The rosemary and sage-scented seitan bacon gravy uses one of my favorite vegan bacons, Upton’s. I adapted the recipe for Creamy Sage & Pepper Gravy from Vegan Diner by adjusting spices, adding some onions, garlic, browned seitan bacon, and smoked salt.
Dotted with chewy seitan, it is not only marvelous on mashed potatoes (ghost-shaped or otherwise), it would also be the perfect gravy for a biscuit & gravy breakfast. For another idea, this morning I had it over a tofu scramble in a breakfast burrito, and it was three or four levels of delicious.
I hope that this season finds you in good spirits, and that if you celebrate Christmas, all of the guests at your home will be welcome ones. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
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