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Ladies and Gentlemen (and the rest of you too, of course), start your engines!
I’ve handicapped myself (because whatever privilege the English enjoy, cooking isn’t it, as many of you have kindly reminded me over the years), and I’ve given myself a head start. Because I need one. So far, I’m three Christmas puddings (should do this Christmas and the next two) and a fruitcake in.
The pudds are this recipe. It’s not one I’ve tried before, but I thought I’d give it a whirl.
And the cake is Mary Berry’s Fruitcake. My batter must have been a little more liquid than it should have been (probably overly large eggs — thanks, girls!)
because some of the almonds that were supposed to decorate the top have sunk in. The house (after a 4.5-hour bake) smells glorious, though. Now, to let it cool and sprinkle on even more booze. (My only adaptations to the original were to use bourbon instead of brandy and to “invent” my own mixed spice out of what I had on the shelves. Note to self: Is “mixed spice,” as an end product, a peculiarly British thing? It’s in the puddings too.)
Let’s not limit this thread just to baking. I’ve still got a couple of pounds of bangers (specially made for me by the local butcher), and I’ll be indulging at some point in Toad in the Hole With Onion Gravy. Sublime. (Get English bangers, if you possibly can; it’s just not the same with Bob Evans or Jimmy Dean.)
Yesterday, when I was at the butcher’s (where I am known far and wide as “Banger Woman,” for reasons that might not be obvious to those who don’t cherish a secret regard for English “hoht kwizeene,” but which — in that context — make eminent sense), they had calves’ liver on offer. I snaffled a couple of packages. The lovely (young) man gave them to me for free, merely because I was one of the very few takers! (My sense of self and of the ridiculous is AJ Squared Away, and I’m certain that’s all there was to it. LOL.) I shall try (when all my company has left me, and I am on my own) my mother’s recipe for liver and onions and revel in a childhood delight. I will report back after the fact. Need to make sure I can get it right first. In the meantime, drool away — there’s lots of bacon involved!
And in about 90 minutes, an enormous pot roast should be done and ready for consumption. I’ll test it for supper tonight, to make sure it’s not poisonous. While I greatly enjoy cooking the holiday meal (the centerpiece of which, for our small celebration this year, will be a turkey breast with cranberry stuffing from the aforementioned local farm butcher), I really don’t like struggling to find things to eat when company shows up unexpectedly, or when those of us who are here want to veg out (see what I did there) and pick at food. So I like to have plenty on hand.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ll ponder some of our family culinary traditions in all directions: British, Polish, French, German, Scottish, and — newly added — Indian (East). Could anything possibly be more delightful?
You should expect, at some point, that my late mother-in-law’s holly cookies will make an appearance:
(If you’re making these more than a day or so in advance, store them in an airtight tin. Also, understand that you are using more green food coloring than you imagine is possible. Your fingers will be green. Your bowls and utensils will be green. And if you cheat and try one, it will be like that ink the feds use to identify bank criminals. Your teeth will be green. Your tongue will be green. Make a wrong move, and your clothes will be green. The fact that you cheated will be undeniable. Just so you know.)
Yeah, most of the time, I’m by myself (so I think, “My God, what am I going to do with all this food????”). But I’ll have company for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, and something tells me that this year’s iteration of all of those is going to be the best ever! Perhaps I’ll not even have to wait till the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve for a Hollywood handsome or even just a rather ordinary-looking stranger to first-foot into my house and bring me luck! (Experience over several decades has informed me it’s probably best not to count on such a thing, anyway.)
And even if I spend the holidays as an old hag, alone here with my dogs, cats, sheep, bunnies, and chickens, dreaming of days gone by or what might have been 🤯, I’ll be content. And I know I’ll have enough fruitcake to survive any privations and supply-chain issues that come my way. Laugh if you dare. Pretty sure I’ll have the last one.
What are you cooking/baking for the holidays this year? And please, will you share your stories and your favorite recipes?Published in