“Gargamel to Jokey. Come in, Jokey.”
“Jokey Smurf here. Go ahead, Gargamel.”
“There is Charlie all over the place. I repeat: There is Charlie all over the place.”
“What do you want me to do? Head north on Rossmore?”
“Yes so we can pick you up before Muirfield. Can you copy?”
“Hurry! Over and out.”
This is how my parents picked me up from school one year the last Friday before winter break. It was 1997. Ally McBeal was all the rage. Everyone smelled of CK One or Thierry Mugler’s Angel and car phones were the size of small laptops. When I rang my parents from school it was via the pay phone in the hall for which we had a Sprint pin so I never required quarters. The conversation above was thanks to the Motorola walkie talkies we had.
My family always went away someplace snowy for Christmas. We would leave the moment school let out. This is why my parents were anxious to pick me up as soon as possible. 15 hours in the car is a long time. Add a moody teenager and a Maltese who gets carsick and that’s a really long time, like the Magi’s trip down the Silk Road to Bethlehem long.
How did we pass the hours? Eddie Floyd, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Dead President’s soundtrack, slurpees, Red Vines, Cool Ranch Doritos, Algerian pop music, I spy with my little eye, Mariah Carey’s Christmas album, beef jerky from Chevron, turkey jerky from Chalet Gourmet, The Rolling Stones, Vegas!, Madonna’s Immaculate Collection, Dire Straits, Dwight Yoakam, The Judds Christmas album, Blur, Elvis, The Home Alone Soundtrack, Paul Simon’s Graceland, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on CD, sandwiches from Greenblatt’s, Evian, Gatorade, Fish Lake, pit stop, pee stop, stretch your legs, walk the dog, In-N-Out, Grand Junction, Aspen.
Aspen is beautiful no matter the time of year, but I love it most covered with snow. It was a weird place though in that we would drive 900+ miles to escape Los Angeles only to be surrounded by all the same people we’d usually see back in Los Angeles. All that had changed was the scenery. Not that I’m complaining.
I loved going to Aspen. I loved how on the first night, my dad would give my mother and I new flannel pajamas. I loved that their ice skating rink had a women’s hockey team called the Mother Puckers and that not only did I start landing my first axel jumps there, but I also mastered a mean sit-spin with the help of a coach called Lisa. I loved dog sledding and lunch at Krabloonik. I loved that the Christmas tree we got in Aspen was different from the one we got in Los Angeles. There we’d always get a sad little Charlie Brown tree, one that was small and lopsided and missing lots of pine needles. The tree no other family would have chosen, that’s the one we chose. We’d take it home and decorate it with strings of cranberries, popcorn balls, cookies, and millefiori beads my mother helped me make with a craft kit from Klutz. And for the next two weeks, we’d tell it it was the most beautiful tree in the world.
There was a producer my father worked with who invited us to his house near Snowmass. He had reindeer and kept it decorated like Christmas year round. The thing I remember most about this house was the endless supply of Williams Sonoma peppermint bark.
Williams Sonoma was the gold standard for kitchen shops in America when I was a child and their peppermint bark was the ultimate Christmas candy. It still is. Essentially, it’s a thin layer of minty chocolate topped with a thin layer of white chocolate and on top of that are crushed peppermints. There are lots of copycat recipes. Here is mine.
One taste and I feel like I’m young and back in Aspen at Christmastime again. Waiting with my dog in the backseat of the car to pick up my dad from the base of Ajax. Mama belting out “Beautiful star of Bethlehem” with Wynnona and Naomi in the driver’s seat. Her pointer finger raised telling me to shush a minute until she’s finished singing. Little do I know that years later Mama’s version of this song is all I’ll want hear once December rolls around.
400 grams of good chocolate (I mix 250g Lindt milk with 150g Valrhona dark)
5-10 Oreos, pulverized (I remove the white creamy filling first)
200 g white chocolate
5 mini candy canes, smashed
Line a jelly roll pan with foil then non-stick baking paper.
Sprinkle cookie crumbs all over the paper.
Heat the milk and dark chocolate in a double boiler until melted.
Stir 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract into the chocolate. Taste it. If you want the mint stronger, add a drop more. Be careful not to add too much.
Pour the chocolate over the Oreo crumbs. Smooth the surface with a spatula.
Allow the chocolate to cool for 30 minutes.
Now heat the white chocolate in the double boiler until it is smooth.
Pour the white chocolate on top of the dark chocolate. Smooth the surface before sprinkling smashed candy canes over the top.
I know. It looks like Christmas elves are about to go on a bender.
Cool completely. I allow mine to rest overnight.
Slice into pieces and store in a tin to serve at a later date or enjoy straight away.
Peppermint bark cross section.
I store mine in a tin then keep it in the refrigerator.