Christmas Food Memories

Memories of childhood determine whether the holiday feast includes Swedish gravlax or Norwegian baked cod, Mediterranean roast goat or stuffed whale skin (if you grew up in Greenland).  I mention these traditions because so many families are now celebrating the season by stepping into a restaurant for at least part of the festivities. How then will we create a nostalgic holiday for families that symbolically hold hands from one generation to the next?

We always had roast goose for Christmas dinner.  My mother, a woman of tradition if ever there was one, followed the custom hallowed by English cooks from time immemorial.  No sooner was the goose committed to the oven than the Brussels sprouts were set to cooking and so too were the chipolatas.  Chipolatas, in case these are foreign to you, are very small pork sausages — the backbone of the British Empire, some say.  They, (the sausages,) are hardly bigger than an index finger.  Five minutes is about as much time as it would take you to cook them.  My mother fried them, gently, for an hour or two and then left them to “keep warm” on top of the stove, where they continued to burn slowly until the goose was well and truly cooked.  How I yearn now for those mashed potatoes, lumpy gravy and gooseberry relish.

Tradition says that plum pudding is the symbol of an English Christmas.  The round pudding represents the good and abundant earth.  The holly berries symbolize the blood of Christ.  The flames of brandy are the flames of hell that are rapidly burned away as goodness triumphs over all. (Or, at least that is what is supposed to.)

Some families still make their own plum pudding, remembering to stir it clockwise, as the earth moves on its axis, for this will bring good luck and a wish may be granted. And even more good fortune will come to the diner who finds in the pudding a coin of the realm, a ring or a charm.  The notion is that a coin will bring a year of wealth, a ring forecasts a wedding in the future and a thimble predicts a happy life, though a solitary one as a spinster. There are worse things…

Now as we so vividly remember Scrooge ’tis the time to sin…and repent…preferably simultaneously.