Despite my previous carry-on about Christmas, I did in fact enjoy it very much. We spent it as we almost always do, with each other and family (by phone) in the morning, and very dear friends in the afternoon and evening, plus my son phoning from China and a call to my birth mother. Bill and Donna were so kind and helpful that I never felt overwhelmed and all the food worked out well.
I have to make a list the day before with times set out, to make sure I don't forget things, especially after I've had a few glasses of wine. One year I completely forgot that the pudding has to be steamed for at least another two hours on Christmas Day, and we ended up eating it at 10 o'clock at night. Harvey was not amused - he loves his pudding (though he doesn't care much about Christmas cake, and I never make one).
I use the Rich Christmas Pudding recipe from an old edition of the Edmonds Cookery Book (it doesn't appear in the newer ones). The proper time to eat it is straight after the Queen's Message (watched, I must admit, in a somewhat irreverent spirit - we still have the book of Royal photos to which we used to add scurrilous new captions every year, until there was no room left).
It's always the last course in a long slow dinner which this year began at 2 pm with a sort of deconstructed 1950s version of antipasta, using my mother's little coloured plastic sword toothpicks, and moved gently on through beef fillet and salads, cheese, light fruit dessert, and little goodies (mainly for the benefit of droppers-in, of whom we had two this year, though one had already had two meals and understandably didn't want to eat anything else at all).
The pudding had its sprig of holly in the top, picked from the shrubbery by the church up the road during the Afternoon Holly Walk - a much more sedate version of what used to be known as the Drunken Holly Expedition. It was successfully flamed and came with home-made brandy sauce (not, this year, the incredibly alcoholic version I sometimes accidentally produced in the past, when I misjudged the brandy slosh required). And it tasted pretty good, though I did think it was slightly drier than usual, maybe because I didn't make it early enough, or steamed it a bit too long... That's one of the most interesting, if often dismaying, things about cooking - you can never guarantee exactly how things are going to turn out, there are too many variables.
But it didn't matter. The main thing was that everyone had a Very Good Day.
For Harvey's take on our Christmas, see http://stoatspring.blogspot.com
Peter Vangioni, owner-operator of Kowhai Press, Christchurch, has printed text and images by Michael Morley, experimental musician and visual artist, in th...
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