After consuming a meal of leftovers–cabbage rolls from the freezer, a couple pieces of winter greens gratin and freezer-burned corn–the Beast and I managed to pull ourselves up from the floor in front of the coffee table up onto the couch to finish watching Last of the Mohicans on Blu-ray, a Christmas present from the Beast to me. It’s director Michael Mann’s definitive cut, and there are subtle differences, which someone who knows the theatrical version intimately, like me, would be able to point out, which I did. I know the script so well that I will say lines of dialogue out loud before the actors do, a habit which I deplore in others.
The Beast didn’t seem to mind. He did, however, show concern when my eyes rolled back in my head like a shark before feeding on its prey when Daniel Day Lewis says things like, “I’m looking at you, miss,” to Madeleine Stowe, and he tears off her bodice with a metaphorical glare that must’ve penetrated her soul.
“So you’re telling me if I said that to you, we could go upstairs right now,” the Beast asked. “
“No,” I said.
“Let me try. Let’s go up stairs.”
“It’s different. You’re not wearing chaps and it’s not 1757 and we’re not on the frontier and I am not the daughter of a general who’s never known forbidden love.”
“You know, if you let me grow my hair like Daniel Day Lewis’s, it would look the same as his.”
“It’s just different.”
“I’m looking at you, miss.” The Beast said this in a low-pitched voice, which was decidedly more nasal and childlike than Daniel Day Lewis’s deep and heroic one.
“Pour me some more wine, would you?”
At the end of the film, and after consuming close to a bottle of red wine, I was taken aback when I was certain that the last line of this definitive cut had been changed.
“They changed the ending!” I wailed, as my feet shot up into the air–the most exercise I’ve done in the last 72 hours. ”I’m certain of it! Hit rewind!”
That’s when I saw the fire in the Beast’s eyes.
“What the fuck are you doing, you spaz? Look!”
I had hit his red-wine filled glass, not once, but twice, in a fury of spasms. The first point of contact between Reidel and my cashmere-striped sock, sent the contents of the Beast’s glass all over one of our new Pottery Barn throw pillow covers. The second collision sent giant polka-dots of juice all over the Beast’s $800 Brioni Italian sweater.
“This is fucking Brioni!”
“What was that last line? Did Michael Mann change it? Why would he change that fucking line? Was I asleep?” I asked all of these questions as I removed the Pottery Barn sham, which at $38.99 (on sale from $60) made it one of the most expensive bits of home decor in our home, and gathered up the cashmere cardigan, which the Beast purchased second-hand for $30, into the kitchen.
“What were you thinking? You did this last week too.” But then it was coffee, and our couch is dark brown, so I just blotted the stain with paper towel and warm water.
“I’m sorry! Look, it’s coming right out. It’ll be fine. Everything is going to be fine.”
It’s been a trying three days, more so for the Beast, who, like the other poor souls who work in retail, only had two days off over the holidays: the 25th and the 26th. I was lucky enough to be off work since the 21st. That’s the day I started my Christmas baking. I kept it simple this year: snickerdoodles, gingerbread cookies (the first time I’ve made them from scratch and not those Pillsbury tubes) and that grape cake I’ve written about before.
I also had the luxury of making some meals for the Beast and me to eat at home in the days leading up to the storm that is the holidays. There was one in particular that the Beast declared to be the best I’d ever made. It was inspired by my friend Giovanna, who’d recently grilled salmon, dressed only in olive oil and Maldon salt, at a dinner party that changed me. So, before the deck was covered in snow, I grilled us two pieces of salmon, and made a winter greens gratin from my latest issue of Bon Appetit (skip the blanching step: it’s not necessary.) I paired this with a warm potato salad dressed lightly in olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and shallots.
And on Christmas Eve day, I prepared Christmas dinner that we would take to my mom’s place, in London the next day. I made two pork tourtières and another new recipe from Bon Appetit, a cardamon-almond Norwegian tart, and a breakfast strada for Boxing Day.
On Christmas Eve, we headed to the Beast’s parents’ house for Christmas no. 1. Actually, it was Christmas no. 2, seeing as we hosted a dinner, which included a cheese spread and 48 cabbage rolls back on Dec. 8 with my dad, step-mom, brother and his wife, at our place. The Beast took great pride in the gift that he got his older brother in the Secret Santa draw: a vintage Dior tie, Ralph Lauren socks and a tie clip. This was accompanied by a Style Guide, meant to be a joke–although I’m still not sure I get it–which featured photos I had to take of the Beast. Because my mom wanted to see them, I’ve decided to include them below. (Some of them have been slightly altered.)
I am not the first to say that Christmastime has the potential to bring out the worst in our characters. The Beast and I talked about this during the drive back from my mom’s to Toronto on Boxing Day, just hours before the wine-spilling fiasco on the couch. “It’s because you’re comfortable enough around family to let them see your worst self,” he reasoned. We discussed our mutually poor behaviour: After a superb turkey dinner on the 24th at the Beast’s childhood home, surrounded by his mom, dad and three brothers, he spent most of the evening in his suit, sulking and drinking too much scotch and beer, while I behaved, I’d like to think, rather well. I didn’t even make one joke about the bowl of what appeared to be 150 Christmas-themed cheese knives that the Beast’s mother had put out.
And at my mom’s, the roles were reversed: he spread the Christmas cheer while I turned into some sort of bossy army sergeant, unwilling to let anyone else wash a dish or remove a plate or make a decision about anything. I think I was trying to create a sense of order in my mom’s world, which has suddenly been thrown upside-down on account of her partner now being wheelchair-bound and her, on account of having Lupus, being physically unable to meet all the requirements of caring for him. But she’s doing the best she can, which is plenty by most standards. Still, instead of warmth and compassion, I decided to express my concern by coldly bossing everybody around. I could barely stand to look at them in their eyes. And there was an unreasonable lump in my throat the entire visit.
Both the red wine stains were successfully removed. However, my lips are still stained a purply crimson. And I haven’t yet had a chance to confirm whether or not the definitive director’s cut of Last of the Mohicans includes a changed ending.
The ending was the best part. I don’t know if I can bare a new one.