Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas Art & A New Christmas Dinner Menu

NOTE: Only one issue will be posted each week for the next two weeks because of the Christmas and New Years holidays. ABOVE: Bing Crosby sings White Christmas, from the movie "Holiday Inn".  (Clip is quite long, consider listening to the audio while you go on through this issue, turning off the volume of other videos.)
TRUE STORY: At one time, I was the Corporate Art Director for Holiday Inns, International. A little-known fact is, "Holiday Inn" was written, as a joke, in the project title space of the architectural plans for the first inn by architect Eddie Bluestein, because he enjoyed the movie. Kimmons Wilson, the founder of the hotel chain, liked it and decided "Holiday Inns" would be the name of his hotel chain.

Haddon "Sunny" Sundblom (1899 - 1976) is the Swedish / American artist best known for the painted images of Santa Claus for The Coca-Cola Company. The artist turned to the description in Clement Moore's poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas" for inspiration. Sundblom created the modern image of Santa, not as a little elf, but as the welcoming, friendly and pleasantly plump human that we all love. Over 33 years, Sundblom completed 40 paintings of Santa, not at the north poll,  but in his studio at the Westward Look Resort in the hot Arizona desert. The children in the heavy flannel PJs were Lani and Sancy Nason, daughters of the owners of the Westward Look Resort. Over the years, Santa was Lew Prentiss (a Chicago model), "Hap" Arnold (a Tucson radio personality) and Sundblom's own face. Today these original Santa paintings are housed at the "World of Coca-Cola Museum" in Atlanta. The Tucson resort has some reproductions of Sundblom's Santas and the Nason children on their walls. Below a TV ad with Sundblom's Coca-Cola Santa.
ARTS = Literature
Clement Moore was the son of patriots Benjamin Moore and Charity Clarke, one of the wealthiest families in New York City. They owned all of the land in Manhattan now known as Chelsea (as in the Chelsea Contemporary Arts District, NYC). On Christmas Eve, 1822, Clement Moore wrote a poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas" for his children. He read it to them that very night before they went to bed. It was published a year later in a newspaper, then even later in a collection of Clement Moore's poems illustrated by Thomas Nast.

Thomas Nast's etching of St. Nicholas for Harpers Weekly

Twas the night before Christmas
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. 
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap.
When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his courses they came,
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:
"Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
so up to the house-top the courses they flew,
with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head and was turning around,
down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes--how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,  
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night! 

Until February, 2011
The American Illustrator's Gallery, located at 18 East 77th Street near Madison Ave., Suite 1A, New York, New York 10075 USA (T 212-744-5190) specializes in selling original paintings by American Illustrators. The current exhibition, "Happy Holidays America", is a collection of Christmas and holiday paintings by JC Leyendecker  (1874-1951), George Hughes (1907-1990), Jessie Wilcox Smith (1863-1935), Roy Spreter (1899-1967), John Falter (1910-1982) and others. 

Something NEW
for Christmas Dinner!
  • Heart of Palm & Pickled Beet Salad
  • Carved Roast Ducklings
  • Served with Steamed Green Beans and Garlic Couscous
  • Apple Vanilla Snow with Macaroons

Salad - Heart of Palm & Pickled Beet 
This is easy and beautiful. Buy whole Hearts of Palm and Pickled Beets and some arugula at the store. On a salad plate place some arugula, arrange one whole tube of palm and some pickled beets. Pour a small amount of beet liquid over the salad to add a red base and drizzle a vinaigrette dressing over. Lightly salt and pepper. Will hold up for 15 minutes before serving. serves 4 (original recipe)


  • 1 jar heart of palm
  • 1 jar picked beets
  • small bunch of arugula
  • vinaigrette dressing, salt & pepper

Carved Roast Ducklings 
Remove giblets and neck from ducklings. Rub cavities of each duckling with 1/2 t. salt, 1/8 t.pepper and 1 1/2 t. tarragon; stuff each with half the celery, carrots and apples. Close the cavities with skewers. Place ducklings, breast side up on rack in a shallow roasting pan, pour some white wine to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake, covered tightly in foil, at 375 for 1 hour. Remove foil and bake an additional 1 - 1 1/2 hours until the drumsticks and thighs move easily when wiggled. If not browned after 2nd hour, turn oven up to 500 for 10 min or until brown. Remove rack and let ducklings cool to the touch, then remove and discard stuffing. Strain pan drippings, reserving 1/2 cup and set aside. SAUCE Saute onions and orange in butter until tender, stir in reserved stock, marmalade, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. Finish by stirring in rum. Carve and serve with sauce on the side. Serves 4. (from White Pillars Restaurant Biloxi / 1984 Southern Living Annual Recipes)


  • 2 (4 1/2 lb) dressed ducklings
  • 1t. salt
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 1 t. dried whole tarragon
  • 2 stalks celery, cut in 2" pieces
  • 2 carrots, scraped and cut in 2" pieces
  • 2 apples, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 orange, seeded and coarsely ground
  • 1 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup rum
Garlic Couscous 
Place the couscous in a bowl and pour in the boiling stock. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to stand for 5 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed. Heat the butter in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 3 minutes or until the garlic is soft but not brown. Add the couscous to the pan and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Serves 4 (Adapted from Marie Claire Flavours)


  • 1 1/2 cups couscous
  • 2 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 oz butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme

Steamed Fresh Green Beans
Wash and trim fresh green beans and steam until bright green and tender.

Dessert - Apple and Vanilla Snow with Macaroons
Place apple juice, lime juice, water and vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Allow to stand 5 minutes. Add sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove vanilla bean. Pour liquid into a casserole dish and freeze for 2 hours. Using the tines of a sturdy fork, scrape / whisk and return to the freezer. Keep stirring every hour until the snow is light and scoopable. Serve in small chilled bowls. Serves 6 (Adapted from Marie Claire Flavours)


  • 4 cups apple juice
  • 1/4th cup lime juice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 cup sugar

To create patisserie-perfect macaroons use very finely ground almond flour. To remove the larger pieces, sift the flour before using. 
1. For a light meringue cookie, sift the almond flour when prepping ingredients. Beat the egg whites, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl just until medium peaks form. A medium peak is pert but bows slightly (if meringue is overbeaten, the cookie will dome slightly and form undesirable cracks on top).
2. Add the egg white mixture to the sifted flour mixture; fold to incorporate evenly (batter will be very soft).
3. Using a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip, pipe batter in 1 1/4-inch rounds, spacing 1 inch apart on parchment lined cookie sheetsLet rest on sheets at room temperature 20 minutes. Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 375°F. Bake cookies 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake cookies until puffed and golden on top, about 10 minutes, reversing sheets after 5 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets on rack. Carefully peel cookies from parchment. Do Ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup (lightly packed) sifted almond flour, or 3/4 cup sifted almond flour and 1/4 cup sifted hazelnut flour (sifted, then measured; any coarse particles reserved for another use)
  • 1/2 cup (scant) egg whites (from about 3 large eggs)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Adapted from Bon Appetit's: French Macaroons with Burnt Caramel Filling

Have a Very Merry Christmas!

Until later,
© ARTS&FOOD,(ARTSnFOOD.blogspot.com) All rights reserved, © Copyright Jack A. Atkinson  2010 Under All International, Digital, Intellectual Property and Copyright Laws. Images © Copyright individual Creators, Lenders or Fabricators.

1 comment:

  1. Your blog is so much fun, thanks for all the vids, stories and recipes!