You all know, by now, that I’m a big fan of Christmas food! And I’ve always been the same! My Mum and Dad used to buy all the food for Christmas in one big shop and store it in the dining room. So, there’d always be this great big mound of tempting food sat there, taunting me, for a few weeks before Christmas every year. Yep…you’ve probably guessed it…one year I was just too excited and literally couldn’t help myself and so popped open a pack of Pringles, some cheese biscuits, the stollen cake…all my favourite things…..much to my Mum’s horror….I tell you, my Christmas food favourites have never tasted as good as they did that night when I sat there, all alone, eating them in secret!
We’re not, have never been, big alcohol drinkers in my family but my Gran used to love a glass of sherry (or two). We’d walk over to her house, across the fields separating the two villages, and arrive rosy cheeked and ‘bringing the cold in’ (as she would say). She’d always greet us with mince pies, a fried egg on toast (it sounds simple but my Grans fried eggs on toast? World-class, I tell you!) and a glass of sherry. It wouldn’t just be any glass, though, it’d be the Biggest Serving of sherry in the Biggest Glass she had…we’d sit there, in my Gran and Grandad’s house, all of us chatting, laughing, enjoying each other, the chatter warming our hearts, the sherry warming our ‘cockles’ (as my Gran would say). I’ve tried sherry in Spain, in Jerez, and I tell you, none of the ones I tried there tasted anywhere near as nice as my Gran’s sherry on the days we walked over the fields to her house and sat, all the family together, talking, laughing, watching the night draw in over the fields and, if we were lucky, watching the snow come down, great big flakes silently cloaking the land. [I miss you, Gran and Grandad].
Another ‘drink related’ story that always comes to mind when I think of Christmas is me being allowed to have a snowball when I was little. A snowball is a cocktail containing Advocaat, lemonade and a swish of lime juice, all topped with a cherry skewed on a cocktail stick and placed across the top of the glass. It’s delicious: sweet but not too sweet, light and, well, Christmassy. Anyway, all the adults would be slurping away at their snowballs and my Grandad would always call me to one side and give me a glass he’d made especially for me. I used to feel so special that I was allowed to have a grown up drink (it was always one of the highlights of my day!)….[obviously, looking back, it must have had the tiniest, tiniest amount of Advocaat in it – just to give it it’s distinctive yellow colour]….
More food memories? I could go on and on…but I’ll leave you with one of my favourites….my beloved Dad in the kitchen, concocting all sorts of new – and delicious – foods for all the special dinners over Christmas and New Year….he was Jamie Oliver before Jamie Oliver was cooking…a little bit of this, a little bit of that…everything he touched turned to food gold. He had such a knack of combining flavours and making cooking – and food – seem so vital. I used to stand, enchanted, watching him (for as long as I could, because he’d always rope me in to help – something I accepted without hesitation!). He’d come alive in front of the stove, his face beaming as he tried his food, giving me instructions as to what to bring him and why the flavours were good together….I learnt so much from him in those super special moments. So much about love and dedication and care and attention to detail. [I miss you, Dad, I miss you so, so much. Will be thinking of you, all day, as I make Christmas meals for the littles this year, whilst I tell them all about you as they sit facing me, watching me, eyes wide open as they hear tales of their wonderful Grandad, a special, special, man who gave away all the love and joy he had every single day he lived].
[Sorry if this post is a bit melancholy in parts: my Gran died 6 years ago on the 6th and my Dad 15 years ago on the 8th (when I wrote this): I always get nostalgic around this time of year]