Here & there: Reindeer games – and dinner

Stock image, St. George News

FEATURE — Mrs. Borgatello was the wiry and feisty mom of four who lived on the top of my first childhood street. Her house represented the end of the earth as far as my preschool old self was concerned.

The Johnson’s two-story blue house, surrounded by a sundry of sweet honeysuckles, anchored the other edge of my limited childhood map. But Mrs. Borgatello’s was the more alluring destination. Not only because her daughter was my older sister’s favorite playmate, but also because Mrs. Borgatello was Italian.

She made pasta from scratch and julienned green beans in a way my own mother did not. She clapped passionately when we performed our original musical, “Mothers Just Don’t Understand.”

She gesticulated and yell-talked almost every time she spoke. And the crazy part was she wasn’t even mad.

Except when she caught her daughter, my sister and me singing the slightly scandalous clapping game, “Miss Susie Had a Steamboat.” Mrs. Borgatello didn’t necessarily object to Miss Susie, but most definitely objected to her steamboat and its hell going.

And she had zero tolerance when Miss Susie and her boyfriend were kissing in the D-A-R-K, D-A-R-K, dark, dark, dark!

It wasn’t just that Mrs. Borgatello was Italian. She was a Catholic, for heaven’s sake. Catholics didn’t sing about those kinds of things — and she was fairly certain neither should two little Mormon girls.

Although we were forbidden from singing about Miss Susie in Mrs. Borgatello’s house, we did it anyway. The risk of being caught added to the joy of the game.

I felt the same illicitness the first time I heard “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Cute little reindeer killing sweet little grandmas? How irreverent! How naughty! How fun!

That probably explains why, even into March, my fifth-grade friends and I were still huddled out on the field at recess singing hushed verses of the song.

My two youngest boys felt something of the same when they perused the menu of a quaint restaurant kitty corner from the Helsinki Cathedral in Finland and saw the most unusual offering: reindeer.

Along with glow-fried salmon, an assortment of Finnish fish and Särä, a delicious braised lamb and root vegetable dish, there was reindeer. A lot of reindeer.

Topside roast of reindeer fawn. Reindeer porcini sausage. Cold-smoked reindeer roast. Hot-smoked reindeer liver.

Cute little reindeer who do nothing more than help Santa with his sleigh. Sweet little reindeer who play their reindeer games. Understanding little reindeer who eventually see Rudolf for his true and valuable self. Who would eat creatures like that?

My boys, apparently.

And not because Finns tout reindeer as one of the healthiest foods you can put on your plate. Or because it is high in B-12 and omega-3s. They probably didn’t even eat it because it felt very Finnish (although it totally did).

I think they ate it for the same reason I sang the “Miss Susie” song and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” They ate the reindeer because it felt a little irreverent, a little naughty.

And, also, it was delicious.

Let’s just hope Santa doesn’t get wind of it!

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Carpe Diem December 9, 2018 at 7:47 am

    Yup. But around here most folks have to settle for the little brown reindeer they call Mule Deer. Still, yum!

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