Eating Christmas Past

Possum is 6 years 6 months

Bandicoot is 4 years 4 months

Little Princess is 1 year 20 months (22 months)

40 days until Christmas

Remember Christmas in the Olden Days?  I am referring to that time so long ago – last century in fact – when we were kids and growing up.

What was the menu?  I bet you can tell me!

For us it was as follows:

Roast turkey (the only time of the year that we had turkey)

Roast pork (usually cooked on Christmas Eve after the kids had gone to bed.  What an aroma to go to sleep with – as if we weren’t excited enough!)

Ham – Dad would first carve this Christmas morning and fry pieces of it for breakfast with toast.  We had it for lunch, too.

And roast veges.  Lots and lots of roast veges.  (I am blessed.  There are certain characteristics in my Mum’s family.  We have pretty eyes, our noses enter the room 5 minutes before the rest of our face, champagne runs in our veins and, most importantly in this instance, we are genetically predisposed to baking the BEST baked potatoes.  EVER.)

After that there was Christmas pudding, with sixpences in it, served with whipped cream (another legacy of my Mum’s family), ice cream (for those with Dad’s blood) and custard.  No brandy cream.  Actually, we didn’t do brandy.  RUM was the flavour of Christmas.

Mum made the Christmas pudding in November.  Each person in the family stirred it once.  If you weren’t home when the pudding was made, you were allocated a proxy.

For treats there were nuts.  Lots and lots of nuts.  Often at Christmas we would get nuts in their shells, which seemed like so much fun.

We also had rum-balls, which, often, one or more of us had made.

And Christmas cake.  I never liked Christmas cake.  I am still not a fan.  But I love the ritual.  The cake was started in October.  The fruit was chopped and soaked in rum for a week.  (In those days we had to go to specialty shops in the city to buy the fruit, not just grab it in the supermarket.)  The cake was prepared, a design was made on top of the cake with nuts and glace cherries – this was usually my job –, and then it was baked s-l-o-w-l-y.  Once it came out, it was wrapped, tin and all, in layers of brown paper, layers of newspaper and towels.  It needed to cool slowly, too.  Then the ritual began of turning the precious bundle each week, periodically unwrapping it and sprinkling it with more rum and rewrapping.  No wonder we don’t get cakes that taste like that anymore!

I am not sure if we had mince tarts.  We probably did.  I didn’t like them until I was quite grown, so I don’t really remember them (although I suspect we left them out for Santa.)

In later years, my Mum began to make vanile kipferl.  This didn’t start until I was in high-school.  Even so, she would make vast quantities of them one night in October.  There were tins of them everywhere you turned.  Visitors were always served a plateful.

And Uncle Harry (my Mum’s brother) would always bring us a watermelon.  Not just any watermelon.  They were always HUGE!

So that was Christmas.  We knew what we were having.  We knew when things would be prepared.  It was lovely and special and not completely crazy.

These days it seems we are required to reinvent things every year.  We need to have nibbles for this, fandango salads for that.  We have to have seafood and exotic meats – the traditionals are too dull.  Every year the shops are full of magazines and books bursting with “new traditions”, new recipes, things to confuse us and make us feel inadequate with with our roast turkey and fried ham.

Well not for me.

I have made it a goal this year to GATHER NO RECIPES.  It is true, we have some different traditions to my childhood.  For example, our little family likes to have a Christmas picnic on the beach.  However, we worked out a menu that works really well for this a few years ago, so I am sticking to that.

I don’t need more ways to cook a turkey, different ways to cook the veges, another pudding recipe.  I don’t need more stress wondering if the menu is good enough, trying to follow a recipe that I haven’t used before, trying to track down ingredients, the expense of not knowing quantities or whether we will even like it.

I need Christmas.  I need festivity, but I need it to be fun.  It doesn’t need to be all about food anymore than it needs to be all about presents.  There is enough to do without reinventing the wheel (or reinventing the meal) each year.


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