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Happy-Gourmand

Christmas memories

There is a fondness for retro styling this holiday season as everyone seems to embrace the festive spirit, perhaps because we are enjoying a chance to remember simpler times.

Working with that theme, I have a few choice memories to share this week.

I have enjoyed keeping alive the traditions from my heritage on both sides of my family. Christmas baking has always been a varied event, with Icelandic vinarterta and Christmas cake side by side.

Neither is simple to make, but a wealth of good ingredients and a bit of perseverance always pays off.

When I was young, my mom’s favourite thing was Christmas pudding. It is a bit like the cake of the season (scroll down for last week’s column to see more details about Christmas cake). We made it on Stir Up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent, in accordance with tradition. 

I loved the details: having a special day for this task, making sure every family member had a part in the preparations, and, of course, the stirring. Each person is to take a turn stirring the pudding (from East to West, representing the voyage of the Three Wise Men). As they stir, they make a wish for the coming year.

But my strongest memory of puddings…  

  • the year my mom tried to light it aflame for presenting at dessert time. She didn’t know you need to light the brandy in a pan and pour it over the pudding – she thought you could light a soaked pudding. We slept well that Christmas night. 
  • the year my dog Tigger managed to grab the cooling pudding off the counter and eat almost a third of it. We came home from a Christmas party to find her extra zoomy (I should have known, with a name like that.) 

This year, I am making pudding, but most years now I bake a Dundee cake. Here's the recipe.

It’s a much simpler effort if you want an easy way out with a tasty treat to show for your work, and isn’t uniquely for Christmas, either.

I remember mincemeat as a traditional treat, too. My mom made mincemeat tarts, or sometimes we would just have it warm over vanilla ice cream. Once, when I was young, I was asked to go to the store to get the jar of mincemeat. 

I was thrilled to have such a significant task and made sure to double-check the change I got at the store. But on the way home, the jar slipped out of the bag and broke on the sidewalk. I was afraid to go home empty handed. When I finally dawdled through the door, my mom was mad that I had taken so long (translation: worried sick that something had happened to me). 

Thankfully, I can say that incident had no lasting traumatic effect. I still love mincemeat, and my mom and I chat happily every week. I bet she will chuckle when she reads this.

My last memory to share is not food-related, but it is at the heart of Christmas spirit. It is about the tree.

Our family cherished the Christmas tree. One of my earliest tasks helping my dad was putting the lights on the tree. They were the old incandescent bulbs, each one with a clip for the branch. Each light needed a reflector on it. It took us most of a day to light the entire tree.

My mom would lovingly unwrap the ornaments from their tissue (some in the stuff mandarin oranges used to come in). Every ornament was hung with much care and consideration. Finally, the tinsel was applied, a few strands at a time.

The crowning touch was the topper, which for a few years was a folded paper circle with glitter that I made at elementary school. 

One year, we had a tree decorating party, inviting lots of friends to help. It was wonderful to see everyone, but the family agreed after that we were tree snobs; we couldn’t have people just place things haphazardly on our cherished tree.

The tree at Rabbit Hollow will go up this weekend. My decorating helpers will be virtual, but we will share the song we always have that embodies the spirit of the holidays for me: “Alfie the Christmas tree.”

I share it here for you, with wishes that you and your loved ones can share memories this year, be they old or new, regardless of where we are.



More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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